Fife campaigner calls to give ‘gift of time’ in bid to cut the commercialism of Christmas

Anya Hart Dyke wants people to focus less on the commercial aspects of Christmas.
Anya Hart Dyke wants people to focus less on the commercial aspects of Christmas.
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A Fife campaigner has launched a drive to curb the growing materialistic nature of Christmas.

Anya Hart Dyke has taken to the streets of Scotland to urge parents to cut back on commercialism during the festive season and instead give their children the gift of “time and experiences”.

The mother-of-two is dressing up as a Christmas present over the next few weekends to speak to shoppers across Fife, Perth, Dundee and Edinburgh – in a bid to encourage them to swap expensive presents for gifts such as going fairy door hunting in the woods or teaching their child yoga.

Ms Hart Dyke, whose book, Our Throwaway Society, is due to be published this month, said: “The way we currently celebrate Christmas comes with an environmental cost as well as a social one – some research suggests that materialistic children are more prone to anxiety, depression and selfish behaviours.

“I am promoting ‘less stuff, less waste, better memories’ this Christmas, to try and normalise giving meaningful experiences to children as gifts and to challenge the rampant consumerism that is promoted at Christmas. We need to teach children to value friends and family for the fun you can have with them – and what you can learn from them – not what they can afford to buy for us.”

She added: “Most parents bemoan their homes heaving with under-played with toys as well as the cost of toys but not giving presents to children is the least socially-acceptable ethical choice at Christmas.”

She suggested giving children presents of specific activities they can do with parents and friends – and giving the “gift of time”. She said that she hoped her children – five year old Mairi and two-year-old Patrick – would grow up understanding her philosophy.

Ms Hart Dyke, who lives in Blebo Craigs, outside St Andrews, said: “You can give the gift of time to your own child this Christmas and sit down with your child to come up with gift of time presents for other children in your life – nieces, nephews, godchildren.

“The challenging part is that my daughter is now five and is starting to request thing that she sees at her friends’ houses as presents. It is about trying to get the conversation going and at this stage to make them realise that Christmas is about more than presents and can be about family and spending time together.”

Last year, retailers tried to cut down on waste over the festive period by axing plastic packaging. John Lewis and Waitrose said that from this Christmas, they will only sell crackers made with toys made from recyclable materials.