Christmas – I love it. I love the music, the dark cold nights in the pub with friends, driving for hours to be with family, too much food, way too much drink. It also feels to me like throughout December people are nicer to each other.
The Christmas spirit definitely exists – Christmas parties, funny jumpers and strategically hung mistletoe all play a part in cheering us up and making us think a little bit more about how we treat our fellow men and women.
However – (there had to be a but!) my feelings towards giving and receiving of gifts is mixed. Somewhere along the way gift giving has become a bit crass and tacky.
Before Andy and I began trying to make a living from our smallholding we were as guilty as anyone. We bought horrendous amounts of gifts for friends, friends of friends, close family, distant family, work mates we liked, work colleagues we didn’t, the postman and even our pets. We had no reason to do it – it was just part of Christmas.
So once we moved and the purse strings became tighter we made a rule – If we can’t afford to buy someone a gift, we don’t.
For us now Christmas is simpler, It’s about sharing our lives with the people we love. We make (almost) all of our gifts and have a real sense of satisfaction when sharing them with our loved ones.
Having learnt a lot about keeping poultry we’re raising turkeys to give to our parents.
We’ve kept our bees happy – so we’ve got honey to give.
The Polytunnel has given us some great produce to turn into gifts like spiced courgette chutney.
Our favourites, the pigs, mean we’ve got homemade sausages and pork chops to delight our friends
Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon is the best way to start your Christmas Day. (We can’t provide the salmon this year – but onwards and upwards!)
A lot of people have given up their time to help us over the last three years so we’ll be giving out vouchers for a free weekend in the holiday cottage.
Using the herbs from around the smallholding, these simple oils make great gifts.
The gifts we’re giving this year are specific to our situation and place – not everyone has the space to raise turkeys! But you could use home grown herbs to make flavoured oils, or use some of your homegrown veg to make chutneys.
It’s about experiences – everyone has received something they don’t want for Christmas. Something stuffed in a drawer that never sees the light of day. But what if you give them a new taste that changes the way they see food – or take them somewhere they’ve never been.
The best gift I’ve ever been given is a photocopy of a friend’s favourite recipe. It sounds simple but when I cooked the meal a few months after Christmas (spiced potato cakes with halloumi and pineapple relish – in case you’re wondering!!)) it felt like eating it was the second part of the gift -like my friend had chosen that recipe because they love it and thought I would too. Really special.
So this year think outside the (money) box. If you give your parents a voucher for a day’s help in the garden, or your sister a promise to help her decorate her lounge or your best friend a note to say you’ll be over in the spring to help them plant up their new flower beds (We’re giving a lot of people that one this year!!) I guarantee you’ll have a healthier wallet in January and lots of things and experiences to look forward to in 2015. Win, win.
So have a great time everyone – be merry, be safe and be present savvy!
See you in the new year x
By Adam Willcox