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- Diane

Christmas gifts that show you care

Christmas gifts that show you care

Wrapping not necessarily needed

Wrapping not necessarily needed

I don’t know if it’s something about getting older (oh, I really do hope not) but I’m increasingly finding the materialistic aspect of Christmas harder to swallow.

Whilst not wanting to come over all bah humbug about the festive season, which I absolutely love, as any of you who followed my here-I-am-making-my-house-look-like-a-Christmas-grotto posts on Facebook and Instagram last weekend will know, I can’t help feeling there’s something uncomfortably unnecessary about plying the people I love with a mountain of stuff to go with all the other stuff they already have. Not to mention the amount of waste in the form of packaging, wrapping paper etc. that generates, almost all of which ends up in landfill sites (see the last para below to find out what to do to avoid that).

I’m not for a moment advocating giving up the present-exchanging aspect of Christmas. I’m not the Grinch for heavens sake! But I do think there are ways - lots of them - to give gifts the recipients will love and use, that can be joyfully unexpected and/or beneficial.

Did you know, for example, you can buy a pass that gives the holder free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic sites across the UK, as well as 50% off major exhibitions? The National Art Pass costs £67 for an individual (and, by the way, £99 for a couple, because really, it’d be much more fun for them not to go alone!) There are cheaper cards for the under 26s, and a family card too. Check out the details on the Art Fund website.

The marvellous National Trust also does gift cards which can be redeemed at most National Trust shops, including their online shop, restaurants and for either general admission to their sites or towards membership. They can also be used for National Trust holiday cottage telephone bookings and when staying at the three Historic House Hotels - Hartwell House, Bodysgallen Hall and Middlethorpe Hall.

If you know your loved one would really benefit from some self-care time, whether that’s a massage or manicure, a pilates or fitness session, some acupuncture or reflexology, or a whole day at a spa, it’s worth having a look at the Spa Finder gift voucher . The vouchers can be used at 1000 locations in the UK and over 22,000 worldwide (so they could use it when they go on holiday), and they start at £25. The excellent website has lots of useful information and suggestions, and you can search it by location or experience, or look for inspiration from their blogs and guides.

As a wildly enthusiastic graduate from the fabulous calligraphy workshop I did earlier this year, I would equally enthusiastically recommend giving the gift of a new skill (or the chance to upgrade a current one). Craft Courses is a website that offers exactly what its name suggests - the chance to take part in thousands of creative workshops across the UK. Perhaps your recipient fancies having a go at blacksmithing or willow weaving, bee keeping or spinning (the yarn kind, not the cycling sort). The choice of possible courses is huge and I defy anyone not to find something that appeals or intrigues them. Gift vouchers start at £25.

Maybe cooking is your loved one’s biggest love, in which case there are courses galore to choose from, so you can search by food type, location, duration, budget, chef…..you get the drift.

If you’re not sure exactly what you’re after, and want inspiration or ideas, try one of the generalist sites like buyagift which has literally thousands of experiences on offer. And there are the classics like Red Letter Days. They both do gift vouchers.

Then there are the presents that benefit people other than the recipient. I’m talking, of course, about charity gifts. Again, there are literally thousands of charities that offer gifting opportunities, and again Google is your friend in finding the cause that best fits your purpose. With all the terrible stories about the suffering of refugees around the world, my choice (no pun intended) this year is Choose Love, which allows you to buy practical and vitally needed items like tents, nappies and clothing for refugees. If you want an actual gift to accompany the virtual one, they also have Choose Love t-shirts designed by Katherine Hamnett to help broadcast the message of the charity, and of course the money you pay for those goes towards their work for refugees around the world.

I do appreciate that giving someone a voucher, however beautifully presented, might not be quite the same as an intriguing, wrapped three-dimensional gift, so how about at least making that wrapping something recyclable? Have a look here for a guide to what can and can’t be recycled. A few years ago, I swapped paper for the beautiful bags I’d collected from shops over the course of the year and even though present inside wasn’t from that shop, they looked just as appealing. And everyone gave me the bags back afterwards, so I could use them again. Result!

And if you’re one of those people who bought and wrapped all your presents days/weeks/months (delete as appropriate) ago, consider all this my gift to you for Christmas next year!

What have your most successful non-product presents been?

Other posts you’ll enjoy

Looking forward to the future

Clever ways to cut back on plastic

Cheery ways to tackle stress (not that I’m saying Christmas is ever stressful in any way obviously)

Games for your family to enjoy this Christmas

Games for your family to enjoy this Christmas

A really good read - Pachinko

A really good read - Pachinko