Editorial: Christmas methods, madness, and magic

You can't avoid it - or at least avoid thinking about it - any longer.

December is here, and that means Christmas is only just over three weeks away, and that means - among other things - buying gifts.

Some will be feeling quite smug, having somehow defied the law of Christmas shopping inertia to have the gift- buying all wrapped up.

Perhaps the uber-organised started 364 days ahead with a foray to the Boxing Day sales.

But they are likely to be the types who finished their homework early, or get their tax returns in on time.

For the rest of us, it's time to turn work-weary minds towards the big questions: Can I get away with giving her/him another chemist/hardware store voucher? Will the kids think an apple and an orange in their Santa stockings is sort of retro cool? Will an animated ecard do just as well as the folding type?

The answers, inevitably, will be no.

One option is to take the higher ground and go ethical. An extreme ethical stance might be not to give presents at all - sidestepping the carbon footprint of all those products and all that wrapping.

Less radical are the array of ethical gifts on aid organisation websites that can range from $5 for school pencils to $1425 to help provide clean water to a whole community.

In between there is everything from chickens, goats and cows to a bicycle for a midwife - all delivered to the needy across the world at the click of a mouse.

Experiences, such as driving a racing car or a facial, are also becoming increasingly popular as gifts, and again easily found online.

The internet has provided vastly more options, and can also save money.

It also avoids those blood pressure-raising searches for a shopping centre park, the chaos of a crowded store with the strains of Snoopy's Christmas and carol music, the tinsel, fairy lights, crying children on Santa's knee, and the desperation of others searching for inspiration.

At least we have not, and hopefully never will, reach the lows of the United States-style shopping frenzy, particularly on the day after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday.

Shoppers have threatened others with guns in arguments over parking spots, queue jumping and bargain hunting.

Going online takes all the fuss out of the equation but it also has a downside.

It means you have to be quite prompt with your buy, or risk the ignominy of saying: "Your present is in the mail."

Which almost brings the disorganised among us back to square one.

A Canterbury academic's research this week found that gift-giving is a cause of stress for many, and sometimes seen as something that has to be endured.

That's undoubtedly true, but there is another theory that may explain why some of us leave it so late. Despite the last-minute panic and the extra spending to cover a lack of good planning, there are also snatches of that elusive Christmas spirit to be had among last-minute buyers.

It may just be that beyond the rampant commercialism of Christmas shopping it's still nice to be buying something for others, and necessity breeds invention.

It could be a smile shared with strangers on the last late shopping night, or finding yourself humming along to the chorus of Snoopy's Christmas.

The Nelson Mail