I have a confession: I bought almost no Christmas presents this year.
Don’t get me wrong, my Sikh ass loves this glitzy Christian holiday, so I gave people gifts, and good ones at that. I gave my sister some cute earrings, my childhood friend a dope scented candle, and my boyfriend’s mom’s boyfriend a copy of a photo book. But I didn’t actually purchase any of those things. I regifted them.
Re-gifting is widely considered distasteful. It’s assumed that a secondhand present means less than a new one, and that if a gift isn’t newly purchased, it didn’t require deep consideration to pick out. But I’m here to say that’s dumb. We give gifts to bring our loved ones joy, not show off our spending abilities (usually, at least). And there’s no reason a previously loved thing can’t make someone happy while also easing the burden that overproduction puts on the planet.
It’s not like I was passing on gifts that sucked. The earrings I got as a present from my homegirl last year, and I loved them so I kept them around, but I don’t have my ears pierced and probably never will. The scented candle was gifted to me, too, but I’m not into its powdery scent. And the photo book was mine, and I loved it, but I don’t need it anymore, so I’m passing it on to someone else who can appreciate it.
Passing on unwanted or already-loved gifts is also a more sustainable option. At the very least, it’s a hell of a lot better than keeping unnecessary junk in our apartments until we finally decide to part ways and toss it in the trash, sending it to a landfill or a garbage incinerator where it’s destined to contribute to toxic and planet-warming pollution.
Re-gifting—or any other personal choices regarding Christmas presents for that matter—will not fundamentally address the political problems that have led to our global crises of waste and overproduction. In our global economy, stuff—clothes, candles, whatever—are made not to fill a particular amount of need, but to garner the greatest profit, and passing on a few stray products won’t change that whole system. The big problem isn’t presents, it’s the profit motive, baby.
But given the choice, I’d rather not just throw something away if I know someone else might want it. I also donate my gently used items, but it’s nice to make someone you like smile, too.
For what it’s worth, I’m not only cool with giving previously presented presents, but also with receiving them. Some of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten—jewelry, pottery, a table, a guitar pedal—were things that the giver had already used.
Most people who celebrate Christmas have surely opened their presents by now. But you can keep the holiday spirit going by continuing to pass things on. Give away that mug your mom gave you that you don’t need because your cupboard is too cluttered, or that sweater that doesn’t fit you. Hell, give away the stuff that does suit you, too, once you’re done with it. Not to be all Marie Kondo, but are you really going to read that book again, or keep wearing that dress in the back of your closet that you’re sick of? Give it to a friend who you know will enjoy it, and who may also be cool enough to let you borrow it for a night when we can all safely go out in groups again. You’ll clear some space in your home, and you’ll save some space in the garbage stream. And you might make someone feel good, too.