Many Norwegians were expected to find alternative gifts under their Christmas trees this year. Fully 30 percent are opting to exchange “used” gifts, for environmental reasons, while others want to support charitable organizations or give and receive the gift of time together instead of material objects.
Traditions die hard in Norway, where things like changing the Christmas Eve menu would be unthinkable in many households. In a country where rising affluence has left many with all they need, though, some of the most popular gifts now are shared experiences in the form of concert, film or theater tickets, travel, dinners out, or special weekends at the gift-givers’ holiday homes.
One couple in Skedsmo, northeast of Oslo, decided to drop all gifts for each other and their children in return for taking the immediate family to the US for the holidays. They put the money they figured they’d spend on gifts, food and drink towards travel, and reaped unforgettable memories and family togetherness instead. “If we stayed home and the kids got new mobile phones, for example, we’d all probably sit for ourselves staring at screens, watching series or films or whatever,” family father Andreas Johnsen told newspaper Aftenposten. By traveling together they spend “real quality time together,” he reasoned.
Others are finding used ski equipment online for their children, instead of buying new, or exchanging some of their own cherished things with others. That can help save the household budget and the environment at the same time.
Some familes with economies strained by heavy mortage debt have agreed to drop gifts altogether and just enjoy each others’ company over good food and drink, or by taking local excursions. Others invite friends and families for afternoons or evenings out.
“It doesn’t have to cost a lot,” Silje Sandmæl, consumer economist at Norway’s biggest bank DNB, told Aftenposten. “A walk in the woods that ends at a lodge where you can eat soup or share coffee and pastries can be enough. It’s become trendy to give each other their time instead of things.” Donations made to charitable or humanitarian organizations in the names of friends have also caught on.
A recent survey conducted by research firm Respons for DNB showed that of those who did want something for Christmas, 43 percent asked for books while 42 percent wanted “experiences” like trips or entertainment. The rest wanted sports equipment. Fully 32 percent wanted a “gift-free Christmas,” while 83 percent responded that the most important thing on Christmas Eve was a good dinner.