On longing

Posted in Style
by Isabelle O'Carroll on 27 December, 2016

Why this year's Christmas tree isn't overflowing with presents.

I’ve always loved Christmas, more than anyone in my family. Even as a child I’d be thinking about tree decorations, table centrepieces and of course, presents. Ticking pages in the Argos toy catalogue, or writing long, cross-referenced lists. As an adult I still get overexcited, playing Christmas music in September and planning the food shopping on a colour-coded spreadsheet. A few weeks ago when my mum and my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas (we like to ruin the mystery) I couldn’t think of a single thing I wanted. Sure, I want big things, intangible things, feelings, goals, dreams realised, habits changed – but presents? No thank you. I’ve apparently turned into my dad, because my Christmas list can fit on a postage stamp. There’s no question my father has passed on his disregard for acquiring possessions, but it’s only half inheritance. I’m a terrible pack rat and as much as I don’t really acquire new things, I find it terribly hard to let go. It’s something that I’ve tempered over the years, but I’m still blessed/cursed with a fit to burst wardrobe that could last me a decade. It’s heartening to hear that I’m not the only one to take a minimal approach to purchases, for instance fashion features editor Marta Represa, who we interviewed recently only buys 3-4 pieces every season. If anything, I’d like someone to come round and take things away. Looking at trinkets and fun novelty clothing, I don’t see something that incites desire, I’m just picturing the bag for life filled for the charity shop trip.

Increasingly, I’m also feeling that actually, I don’t really need anything. Global news really puts things into perspective and makes me realise how much I have, it’s hard to get all geared up for conspicuous consumption. My brainspace is currently occupied with thoughts of the reproductive rights of female friends in the US, children in war zones and people who live just a few miles from my house going hungry. This Christmas I decided to put my money where my thoughts were and donated to a few charities and as a family we made a collective donation to local food bank. We all hold in our minds the image of the tree overflowing with presents, but I can usually predict a strong urge for possessions when I’m feeling bored or unhappy. Studies conducted a few years ago show that an increase in materialism – which isn’t income dependant but centres around the importance of material goods – correlates with feelings of loneliness and detachment. These findings chime with something my dad has always instilled in us, the feeling that if you don’t need anything then you’re truly free. This Christmas, the tree wasn’t filled with presents, but as we get ready to start a new year, I took that as a sign of happiness and of letting go.

Christmas might be over, but you can still share festive goodwill and donate money:

Act, the Syria campaign

Red Cros donate to Syria

Unicef donate to Yemen famine

Refuge, donate to female victims of domestic violence


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