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Dec 4

The universal voucher syndrome

Posted on Thursday, December 4, 2008 in Family, Philosophy, Something to think about, Strange and Unusual

I have a tacky little porcelain teddybear at home.  It was given to me on my eighth birthday by my friend Paula, bought with carefully saved pocket money and presented with glee.  It has no function, no purpose, other than the fact that even though I haven’t seen Paula since 1992 I still think of her every single time that little tacky bear catches my eye.  I wonder what’s she’s doing now..?

I have a Christmas book, given to me by my late Granny.  It is full of Hans Christian Anderson stories and Henry David Thoreau poetry, and is decorated with hand-drawn snowflakes, printed in ornate calligraphy.  It’s beautiful, but didn’t cost the earth, and the best thing about it is that even though it’s been in my home for over twenty years, it still smells of Granny’s house.

My point is, that people are shamefully spoiled these days.  I keep hearing the same old gripe about Christmas presents – ‘sure you always end up getting something you don’t want!’ – sounds like what you want is a good kick up the Jacksie, mate.

My point is that no matter what you get as a gift, a part of that person is in it.  They thought about you while they were buying it and when the giver shuffles off this mortal coil, you can be damn sure you’ll be grateful of the memorandum, no matter how cheap and tacky it is.


(image source)


I painfully witnessed a sad scene yesterday between my friend and her mother;

Friend – Howye Ma, happy birthday!  Here’s a 100 quid for you to spend on yourself.

Ma – Ah no, that’s too much to give, sure you need that money yourself!

Friend – Ok then, let’s call it a combined birthday and Christmas present.  How’s that?

(Ma takes the two fifty-bob notes into her left hand and thanks her daughter, then begins to shuffle around in her handbag.  She produces three twenty-bob notes and passes it over.)

Ma – Here y’are now.  There’s sixty euros for you to buy something nice for the kids for Christmas.

Friend – Ahh thanks Mammy, I’ll put it towards the Xbox!  That’s great.

Ma – Oh and here… I’ve that forty euros you loaned me last month.  (She hands over two more twenty bob notes.)


I couldn’t help but notice that it would’ve been easier to just hand back over the two fifty euro notes in her left hand that she’d just been given, but maybe it was the juju preventing her from doing that.  I had a fierce row with my buddy afterwards about the fact that money is just money… just because somebody handed it to you, doesn’t make it special.  She disagreed vehemently and told me that this money is special, to be put aside to spend on something nice.

I’m sorry, but isn’t that bullshit?  She hands over 100 euros, she gets 100 euros back.  She spends 100 euros on something for herself, therefore she’s 100 euros worse off than she was before. 

It was her own money she spent!!!  How is that a present from Mammy?

The way I see it, is that the above conversation roughly translates as: “Sorry I can’t afford the time it takes to think of a genuinely nice present for you but I know I have to give you something.  Here.  Take 100 euros and fuck off.  (It’s like a voucher, only a uninversal voucher that you can spend in any shop in Europe.  Aren’t I thoughtful?)”

My friend assures me that everybody is doing this these days, but hers is the only family I’ve ever seen doing it with such style!  Is she right? 

Am I just being an anal freak?  Where’s the Christmas spirit?  I could do with a shot about now.

Bring on the comments

  1. I’d be more impressed by someone making something. My granny used to knit up a storm before chrimbo. This is another symptoom of the rushed off our feet obsessed with filthy lucre world we live in now, and it depresses me. You are spot on, it is the thought that counts, and that should be the truth, not just a rather sad sort of apology. Take the time to think. Take the time to spend time. Take the time to have a bit of craic. Feck it, we might all have more time to spare over the next while.

  2. Symptom.

    Symptom. Not Symptoom.

  3. susan says:

    I feel the same way, which caused a bad scene on my birthday this year. If my husband had spent half-an-hour with the kids making paper-plate art for my birthday, that would have been WONDERFUL.

    It’s absolutely the thought and time that matter, not the money, and cash says “I couldn’t be bothered choosing something for you so here do it yourself”. Oh oh OH now I feel so looooved, with my fifty euros. I think I’ll get me half a tank of diesel, and every time I smell it I’ll think of YOU dear.

    Great post K8! I’m not wearing that jacket, however.

  4. The wifey is one of 3 kids, whenever it’s one of theirs or parent’s birthdays, all the rest of the family give them a gift of €50.

    So everyone hands out 200 in birthday card filling in any given year, and receives it back.

  5. Baino says:

    SOOOOO with you. I hate vouchers as well. I’d rather have a $5 well thought out gift like a Fridge magnet or a coffee mug than money or a voucher. This Christmas is by far the cheapest ever for me and I’ve managed to cover everyone with a gift under $30. Even Clare who has specifically asked for money (combined b’day and Chrissy pressie) has a little something under the tree!

  6. Quickroute says:

    Well I have to go against the grain here – Our family got collectively fed up of getting socks, jocks, cd’s, and crap so we made a pact – fu(k the pressies – spend the money on yerself because YOU know exactly what you want – From me to me with love – still going strong!

  7. K8 says:

    Thriftcriminal; I think we need to wait for the snobbery to die down a bit. I can’t imagine my niece and nephew being amused by anything woolen that doesn’t require at least 6 C batteries.

    Susan; Cash is so cold – sure that’s why we have Christmas, for the whole ‘giving’ thing, isn’t it?! The whole thing’s just getting silly now. Speaking of silly, I reckon that cardi is quite fetching, but not as nice as the one when you follow the link. Mmmm trendy…

    Xbox4nappyrash; That’s hilarious!! Who needs surprises?

    Baino; I’m thinking slippers made from sanitary towels are the way to go gift-wise this year. Quite fetching and handy for floor cleaning!

    Quickroute; But what about the suspense? What about seeing the happy head on a present opener? What about tearing Christmassy wrapping paper and leaving drifts of it all over the house on Christmas day? What about the secret rattling of an unopened gift?!?! What about the… oh, never mind. I give up.

  8. Lorna says:

    YES! I so agree. If you’re giving cash, give it to a charity in someone’s name – at least then it’s a shared and thought out gift and everyone benefits. We buy my inlaws seasons tix to the theatre every year (for 4) which means we will make the effort to see them at least 4-5 times per year. We’ve decided that for my increasingly picky nephews, this year we’re going to sign them up with a account with a set amount of money that – once it’s paid back, has to go to another recipient. The gift that keeps on giving:) Love your post and well said! I could top that sweater pic but will resist…

  9. I spent all of the day with my nanna. I put up her Christmas tree, lights, ornaments, and the like. I helped her put up all the other decorations. That’s my present to her along with a family tree book that I laboured over for days.

    The rest of the lot will be getting a poem by moi on a handcrafted card. :)

    I think something personal is a hell of a lot better than something bought on a whim.

  10. Holemaster says:

    Eh, right, there goes my plan of getting a mothercare voucher for a Christening tomorrow.

    So I guess I’m going to have to get up early and head into town and pick out baby clothes. Now this would have been very easy up to three months when I was “friendly” with the owner of a children’s clothes shop. But we’re not talking now which is a pity because her shop is probably the best one in town.

  11. Warrior says:

    Weeeelllllllllll now, my lover got a bizare present the other day. I couldn’t believe it when she opened it. basically it was a pig moulded from lcd light string, with blue lights………It was a birthday present from a friend of hers. I laughed with incredulity when she opened it and asked was she serious, what was she thinking, do you like it?
    She replied……I love it because my friend liked it enough to give it to me….
    I thought that was brilliant. so piggy got accepted…….sort of..what a cack present but still you get the point.

    As for the rest of the lazy bastards who won’t give presents…..shame on you bah humbuggers

  12. K8 says:

    Lorna; Excellent idea – it’s a lovely buzz getting presents like that. Nothing says ‘I love you’ like a goat :)

    Jefferson; Right on. Post us up a picture of the cards, willya? I’m dying to see what you’ve made up.

    Holemaster; No no mothercare vouchers are goood! Mind you 10 packets of nappies and a bottle of bubbly are better ;)

    Warrior; That sounds lovely!!! Laughingboy would get a serious kick out of that piggy! I love sparkly cack, me!

  13. Holemaster says:

    Like a fool I went to Milk and Cookies (partly out of spite because they are her arch rivals) and was served by the owner with his baby hanging out of him and his wife and their small daughter. Cute and all that but total hippy mayhem.

  14. Alonso says:

    Thanks for the ideas, giving cash says nothing about your feelings, it should really be the thought that counts.
    I am going to buy the wife a nice goat this Christmas

  15. K8 says:

    Holemaster; Watchit. I’m a hippy. A very totally far out one too I might add.

    Alonso; Welcome!! If only my other-half could be so supportive! ;) If I give him anything less than an Xbox game there would be grave words. Opposites attract, it’s a good thing. Expensive, but good.

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