Guest writer Abigail Tuddenham shares how she and her family avoid over-consumption and instead choose secondhand gifts during the festive season.
Christmas holds some special traditions, and one that my kids and I enjoy is shopping for secondhand gifts. Every year, my three kids (ages 10, 13 and 16) buy charity shop Christmas presents for family members. It’s a custom we started a few years back, and these are the presents I most look forward to opening on Christmas day. I know that I might receive brand new things from other family members, but the anticipation at the unknown offerings chosen for me is special. Anyone with the funds can go into a high street shop and purchase a brand new gift, identical to thousands across the country. It takes cunning and ingenuity to ferret through assorted treasures in charity shops – in different shapes, sizes and colours – and unearth treasures. I wonder sometimes about the history of a secondhand ring or brooch: how many people have loved this and passed it on? Where did it begin (and where might it end up)?
We plan in advance where to go, and what we might look for in charity shops. My 10-year old is keen on football kits, and last year his big brother found him a Lionel Messi football shirt in a charity shop. I love big, bold, colourful jewellery and accessories. Dad is always the hardest to buy for, and often the person left once we have ticked everyone else off the list (books can be a good bet). At some point our 16-year old was given a comedy gift of a ‘Best Grandad in the World’ tankard, and so every year this continues as he will be given a pair of Grandad socks or similar. It’s one of those odd quirks that we now take for granted – until someone asks about it and we wonder how it became normal!
Once we get to the charity shops, the kids each start looking for items – often checking back with me: will he like this? is this ok? what is Dad’s shoe size? The fun comes with them all trying to secretly buy each other items in the same shop, and hide them from each other. I frequently have to usher one or two outside while purchases are being made! Then there are the huddles: what did you get for him? who do you still need to buy for? shall we go back and buy that jigsaw? At some point – often when we have ransacked all the charity shops and managed to buy preloved for everyone – we will find a local café for refreshments, and collapse with our various bags of treasure. By this point, the Christmas lights are usually on and we head home in the dark to peel off price labels and wrap our festive offerings.
There are over 11,000 charity shops in the UK, and you can find them mapped here. By buying from charity shops you will not only be giving a unique present, but contributing to charity at the same time. That’s some warm Christmas glow!
My top tip is to treat charity shopping for presents as a big adventure, especially if you are going with kids. It may not be as quick and straightforward as going into a high street chain and buying brand new – but that’s the joy and fun of it all! Trawling through preloved items, Christmas jumpers and retro clothing. The fun is in the finding, and the treasure is in the hunt.
The game is afoot! I can’t wait to see what I can add to my preloved collection this year.