A Progressive Christmas, just like your granny’s

by .

I love Sainsbury’s camcorder Christmas ad but it was them that broke me. At the end of summer, I had a panic attack in front of their wall of children’s party bag plastic tat, winded by the pointless waste and environmental insanity. I phoned a friend, ‘What do you do with party bags?’. ‘Chuck em, ideally before they open them and scatter glittery crap through my house’.

The experience changed me: after a lifetime of exuberant, guiltless consumerism I can’t look at disposable rubbish in the same way. So I resolved to buy nothing this Christmas unless it’s second-hand, crafted or consumable. It was a brilliant idea… In September.

It started well at Greenwich market with a Georgian teacup and saucer candle for my mother-in-law. A delicate reworked silver necklace for my mother. A home-made jumper with a appliqued sausage dog for my niece. Carefully selected Oxfam books for all the aunts and uncles. iTunes vouchers for the big cousins. For our kids: second hand toys, books and a used balance bike. Initial success made me euphoric.

But just like when you lose weight and are suddenly appalled at the junk everyone else eats, from this new standpoint Christmas is as distorted as a Smirnoff ad. Hare and the Bear merchandise selling out while food banks are empty, £120 turkeys in short supply but old folk are going to die of fuel poverty, the self-storage industry booming while we have 80,000 kids in bedsits. What hell are we doing, ignoring life to charge around buying more and more stuff that is neither useful or beautiful that we’ll hurl into a hole in the ground or a yellow box we pay a £100 a month to lease.

Back to the project, the problem is the men. My husband has strewn the John Lewis Winter Wonders technology catalogue around the house and is licking his lips over TVs the size of Islington. My brother-in-law is muttering about a keyboard for his iPad. Neither of our fathers is going to be impressed by a second-hand shirt: can you craft a sock? For all my horror at our dystopian madness, I still can’t bring myself do an Alan Rickman.
So [nine] days. Four men. Suggestions delivered by pigeon if you please.

Christine Armstrong is a Founding Member of Jericho Chambers.

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