It’s a little-known fact that Secret Santa was invented in the late-16th century by the devil himself. Well, maybe that’s not entirely true, but Secret Santa is universally acknowledged as a pretty torturous experience for everyone involved. While Team Nixon did a sterling job of raiding the charity shops of Penzance this year, it got me thinking that there must be better ways to show your colleagues that you care than buying them unnecessary stuff. Enter Do The Green Thing’s office Secret Santa list. All the gifts are thoughtful but non-physical, ranging from a month of memes to a keyboard shortcut tutorial or a desk swap — perfect for saying ‘I quite like working with you’ without adding to post-Christmas landfill. Now, who’s volunteering to do my January timesheets?
This year, I have a gift for your mind to ensure your 2020 is stress-free and filled with lots of Zen-like calm and tranquillity. Workresponsibly.org is a site entirely devoted to perfecting your work-life balance using books, inspiring talks and helper apps to master everything from focus to stress and anxiety. Merry Christmas, mind, and a very happy New Year.
I recently came across a blog post that talked about the history of making a snowman at Christmas, which I found really interesting as it’s not something I’d really given much thought to before. Apparently, it was commonplace in the Middle Ages for artists to sculpt unique snowmen around town so that passers-by could admire their artistic designs as they wandered the streets. Snow was seen as a free art supply dropped from the sky and for young – and often penniless – artists, this was an opportunity to express themselves and practice their sculpting skills.
The snowman can also be traced back to the late 1400s, when a teenage Michelangelo was commissioned by the ruler of France to sculpt a snowman in his mansion!
We’ll probably never know the definitive history of the snowman, but I love the idea of nature being used as a way of expressing our artistic sides.
On a recent walk into work, I spotted a small crocheted star with a label attached to it by safety pin. This crochet gift was made for you and randomly placed right here. To wish you a joyous Christmas and a wonderfully happy New Year. It’s easy to feel cynical about the epic commercialism of Christmas (I mean, KFC’s Christmas advert; really?!), but this was a great reminder of how the season can also bring out the best in us. I love it when generous people use their creativity to bring a moment of joy to someone they don’t know. Some people paint stones (like this church in Essex), some do crazy things with paper, and some crochet stars. It’s a brilliant example of the festive spirit at work. Thank you, Random Acts of Crochet Kindness.
Over the past decade, Black Friday has been a staple of the Christmas shopper’s calendar, with brands offering discounts and deals to entice consumers to part with their cash. This year, it’s felt like something is shifting, with lots of brands ditching the concept altogether. Instead, adopting the alternative ‘Green Friday’, or donating a percentage of sales have become commonplace. While Black Friday does boost turnover for companies, it also hits profits and does feel at odds with some of the bigger issues that are gaining traction with audiences, such as excessive consumerism and how this impacts on the planet and climate change, as well as the rise in trying to shop local and with independent retailers. This opinion piece in Marketing Week sums it up quite nicely, and it will be interesting to see if – and how – it evolves in future years.
For me, Christmas is all about being snuggled on the sofa in front of a classic film. This latest advert from Sky is a fabulous twist on the original ET movie, and the concept was overseen by Stephen Spielberg to ensure it stayed true to the original.
For me, this has it all. Nostalgia, family, togetherness – and I won’t lie, it made me shed a little tear!
Neal Agarwal makes really fun stuff. His latest project, The Deep Sea, helps to teach us about the sea and the life that lies beyond the shallows. Given that our oceans are becoming increasingly fragile places for wildlife, I think this is an interesting and timely reminder of how important they are and how we need to do more to protect the creatures that live there.
Neal’s portfolio is jam-packed with entertaining pieces and well worth a look if you have time to spare/spend/waste.
Crackers: an essential component of Christmas, but very often a let-down. It's a lovely tradition to have them at the Christmas dinner, but once the cracker’s snapped, the contents are usually a disappointment; an ancient joke, a crown that doesn’t fit your head, and a little plastic toy that someone will probably stand on later with their bare feet. I’m sure if you asked most people on Boxing Day to tell you what was inside their Christmas Day cracker, they wouldn’t remember.
This year, I’m one of many people choosing to make their own crackers to put on the table. It’s a chance to be creative, include gifts that people will want to keep, and vaguely amuse everyone with your own terrible jokes instead of someone else’s. And best of all, no pointless pieces of plastic that will ultimately end up in landfill. If you don’t have time to make them yourself, there are companies and charities making plastic-free crackers, so it's easier than ever to avoid the wasteful alternative.
I was interested to see Deliveroo’s first ever Christmas campaign, in which midwives are placed centre stage as “everyday heroes”. With the message that the brand is ‘proud to be the second-best delivery service in the UK’, the video promotes Deliveroo’s festive fundraising for University College London Hospital. Its aim is to donate at least £100,000 to UCLH, while also highlighting the tireless work of midwives. It’s a lovely gesture, and a clever approach.
The news throughout 2019 has been depressing at best, so it’s nice to focus on some of the most uplifting news stories from the year. Here are some of the highlights, offered courtesy of Future Crunch.
- New surveys revealed that the population of humpback whales in the South Atlantic region now numbers 24,900 — almost 93% of their population size before they were hunted to the brink of extinction.
- In Kenya, poaching rates have dropped by 85% among rhinos and 78% among elephants in the last five years. In South Africa, the number of rhinos killed by poachers fell by 25% – the fifth annual decrease in a row – and in Mozambique, one of Africa’s largest wildlife reserves went an entire year without losing a single elephant.
- Algeria and Argentina officially eliminated malaria this year, and the World Health Organisation has said that in the last eight years, malaria infections in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam have dropped by 76%, and deaths fell by 95%.
- Senegal became the first African country to begin providing free treatment for women with breast or cervical cancer (the leading cause of cancer deaths).
With the constant political bombardment in the media, I've found it a little harder than usual to get into the Christmas spirit this year. But now that the elections are over, I’ve found the news to be slightly more bearable and uplifting. I’ve been following the story of Terrance on BBC One’s morning news.
Terrance has spent the last 20 years alone at Christmas, and when he mentioned that he didn't have a Christmas tree, some local students brought one to his home and sang him a carol. I was touched by Terrance’s story, and it really got me thinking about the vulnerable people in our community. We should all be more aware of those in need, and in particular those that live on our doorstep, who we could actively be helping. This story reminded me why I love Christmas so much – it’s a wonderful holiday that brings people together and reminds us all to help those less fortunate than ourselves.