Reclaiming meaning in a sea of presents

Reclaiming meaning in a sea of presents
December 17, 2016 Abigail Giblin


We can head towards Christmas feeling lost in a sea of consumerism and confusion over what to buy our dearest. A lot of families are choosing to kris kringle with more thought and time going into one present, instead of many. It’s not that gift giving isn’t enjoyable but as the pressure mounts, the joy diminishes. Ironically, the true meaning of Christmas gets mobbed by stress and spending money.

Kids birthday parties can also reflect this excess sentiment as year upon year, a plethora of hastily bought presents march through your door. Primary school kids attend on average 10-15 parties per year which adds up in cost and stuff.




Emilia, an 8 year old animal lover and budding activist from the Central Coast, NSW, is leading the way in reclaiming the meaning of gift giving. She has chosen to forgo presents at her parties and instead donates most of the money that parents would have spent on her present, to a cause she is passionate about.

“If you can go out and buy a take away coffee, you are rich enough to support those in need”.

This is the philosophy of mum Andrea, who grew up in East Germany under a socialist regime with “very little”. Andrea noticed over the first years of Emilia’s parties how often gifts were quickly discarded and barely played with. As she filled up the wheelie bin with all the packaging post party, Andrea got thinking about alternatives. When the idea of collecting money for her birthday present was put to Emilia, she was easily convinced.

On the invitation, they said no presents but there would be two boxes, one for a present of Emilia’s choice and one for a charity of her choice, and there was no pressure to give if you didn’t want to.




Andrea says she wore her “party pooper t-shirt with pride”. In the end, Emilia had enough to spend on a treasured Furby that she’s wanted for 2 years now, and over $100 to donate to local RSPCA shelter. Emilia enjoyed delivering the money to the shelter and shared the story with all her friends.

“She keeps telling her friends how happy the people there are about her sharing her money. The first time we went one of the volunteers in the office cried because she was so touched by the gesture. Emilia still talks about that. She also gets mail with animal rescue stories in it now. For her, it is because of her donations that these are happy ending stories”.

I see this as a case of joining the dots for our children showing them a tangible example of how to feel empowered through direct action of giving.

Is our fear that kids will feel like they miss out if they don’t recieve a pile of presents, preventing us from teaching our children an enriching life lesson? This is a question I wrestle with. When you’re a kid it seems so simple.

“I feel happy that I save all the animals”. Emilia.




Images thanks to Andrea Buschner.

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