At this time of year, when I’m faced with the task of finding creative and thoughtful gifts for many friends and family members, I often find myself feeling a bit daunted. I’ve been buying presents each Christmas for many of these wonderful people for my entire life, and sometimes I feel like my originality tank is running on empty. It’s so tempting to go and buy 30 Tim Horton’s gift cards and call it a day. But that’s really no fun at all, is it? So over the years, I’ve cobbled together a little list of themes that helps me get the gift-giving ideas flowing:
Do you quickly dismiss the most obvious gift choices the way I often do? “Hey, I’m an original! I can do better than just some pair of slippers, right?” But the Classics earned their moniker for a reason. Almost everyone in these parts loves and needs a pair of warm pyjamas, a good book to read, a toque, and yes, slippers. My favourite pair, which I’ve now bought a second time after wearing the first pair into the ground, are these ones from Soft Moc. Available online, they come in three different colours, and at the time of posting, appear to be 50% off. So think twice before giving up on the timeless classics is all I’m saying.
When it comes to gift-giving, the look of stunned surprise is the holy grail of reactions. It’s not easy to achieve, but I love the feeling of knowing I got it just right. One year, for my husband, who at the time, was an avid World of Warcraft player, I got him some stock in the company that developed the game. We were flat broke at the time, and so what I actually got for my money amounted to about one-quarter of one share; the service fees for setting up the investment account cost more than the value of the gift. But it’s the thought that counts, right? First, I got a puzzled look from him when he opened the envelope, but after I explained what I’d done he was floored.
Often times, our loved ones have hobbies that we don’t share, and we frankly know nothing about. I wouldn’t know where to begin, for example, choosing the right gadget or component for my Dad’s hobby of building and flying model airplanes. But for his 60th birthday, my mother asked a local artist to paint one of his planes soaring through the sky. So if you can’t think what they need to further their pastime, think about choosing something that is a reflection of it instead. I like to think it says, “I have no clue what it is you do, but I want you to know I know you love it.” As a side note, if you have a loved one afflicted by a World of Warcraft obsession, here’s an Etsy supplier who will crochet a custom WOW character. Now that’s love.
What were your favourite presents over the years? Is there a 2013 alternative? I’ll never forget the Christmas morning I tore into my bright yellow Sony Walkman. I suppose for the 2013 teenager it’s the i-something-or-other. Remember how long you begged for that United Colors of Benetton rugby shirt? You can still find them on Ebay, or you could go for its ubiquitous 2013 cousin, the Gap hoodie. You could also give some thought to authentically retro items if they fit the bill for the people in your life: vintage sports memorabilia, teak kitchen items or maybe even a lava lamp for the brooding tween.
Think Live Action
I’m convinced that for every person, there is a set of tickets to match. When Christmas has long-passed, some kids might like a mid-winter pick-me-up to go see the Wiggles/Raffi/Disney on Ice, etc. For the adults in the 613, Sens or 67s tickets might be just the thing, or possibly a chamber music concert, a night of stand-up comedy at Yuk Yuk’s, a band playing at the Black Sheep Inn in Wakefield, a speaking engagement at one of the universities, NAC Orchestra tickets, a pass to a Great Canadian Theatre Company performance, or Ottawa Comic Con. You get the idea.
Think Acts of Service
One of the most considerate, personal, and not to mention budget-conscious, gifts you can give is an act of service. For family members of a certain age, who seem to have everything they need, except for a trip to Hawaii, which may not be within your means to provide, offering to do something for them might be really appreciated. Preparing some freezable meals for the mother that works full-time and spends evenings at the rink would be a welcome treat. Offer up a suburban Costco run for your friend who lives downtown and doesn’t have a car. Provide some relief to that person who is caring for a house-bound loved one and offer to sit with them for an evening. I know even my own children would be glad to have a 5-pack of coupons from me offering dedicated imaginary dinosaur play time, fort-building or ball hockey. (I acknowledge that for some kids, that sort of gift might have to be couched between a new Nintendo DS and a skateboard.)
My final gift-giving theme recommendation is to consider a gift that appeals to the individual’s heart strings: think sappy. One year, my husband and I decided to scan the hundreds of individual slides both sets of our parents had from the 70s. They had just been collecting dust in a box, and couldn’t even be viewed like a photo album. It’s also way easier these days than it used to be to have a family photo turned into a piece of art. Maybe you can find note cards by a local artist from your husband’s hometown and frame them for his office. Did your in-laws immigrate to Canada some years ago? Perhaps you can order some imported treats from home for them (my mother still curses the closing of Marks & Spencer in Canada). If you have the time, make a scrapbook of your best friend’s children, because let’s face it, after the first child, properly-completed baby books often fall by the wayside. Children are also really good at creating tear-jerker gifts (think hand-print reindeer, self-portraits and home-baked Smarties cookies), so get them involved.
Good luck finding just the right gifts this holiday season!
Now go and check out these other fabulous Ottawa-based blogs for more gift-giving ideas!
Check back on December 9 for Week 2 of the 613 Holiday Special – We’ll be posting about all holiday decorating!