Dog with present

Time for a festive Pre-NUPP?

It’s St Andrew’s Day – in my calendar, the last bastion against the full attack of the festive season. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a sucker for Christmas…the lights, the preparations, the decorations, the growing sense of excitement. I could quite happily do Christmas all year round.

But this year, like many, I’m looking at my Christmas plans with not-quite-back-to-full-economic-recovery tinted glasses. And as I’m making my list and checking it twice, I have become very aware of the ‘duty’ presents I buy because I feel I should, not because I particularly want to. How many have you got on your list?

Money Saving Expert and financial guru, Martin Lewis, points out that every Christmas we needlessly spend millions on gifts that are shoved unused into the back of cupboards, when we would be much better giving a card, or a big hug, or meeting up for a coffee, or a trip to the cinema or doing something meaningful with the actual person. (And if you can’t face the thought of that, why are you buying a present?)

In 2008 he launched the Pre-NUPP – the No Unnecessary Present Pact – to take the stigma out of NOT giving unnecessary gifts just for the sake of it. The Pre-NUPP isn’t anti-Christmas – giving meaningful gifts between family and friends is a lovely tradition and long may it continue. But buying impersonal, mass produced presents for a checklist of friends and acquaintances isn’t.

Because it can be embarrassing to broach the subject yourself (after all, you may have been doing this for years), he’s developed a Pre-NUPP tool to get you started. Check out his Pre-NUPP website and send emails to your friends to say ‘I won’t buy a gift, if you won’t’ – or better still suggest ‘let’s meet up for a coffee instead’. If you’re not comfortable going all the way and giving up buying altogether, go for the NUPP-lite option, where you limit your gifts to £5 or £10 and some thought.

And if none of this seems very green, think again. All those over-commercialised, duty presents clock up a heavy toll in resources used, sweat-shop labour abused, packaging and transportation required and other unnecessary planetary impacts.

But more than that, when you answer Mary Oliver’s question: ‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ do you really want to be saying ‘work for a couple of months in 2014 to pay for the fluffy hamster toy, the singing fish and the motion sensitive flower that plays guitar, and the rest of the endless tat of stocking filler presents I bought in Christmas 2013 because I felt I had to’?

Our post credit crunch Christmases give us the chance, not to experience deprivation and lack, but to reconnect to the authentic spirit of the season – to open our hearts and minds not to objects and material things, but to love and relationships. Used wisely, these years of tightening belts could lead us to a very positive reinvention of the festive season.

May yours be merry and bright!

blog by Jane Gray

first printed as the Green Scene Column in the Annandale Series newspaper