October 24, 2014

What to stick under the Christmas tree

By Jessie Tobias
Staff Writer
Posted 12/8/11

The Christmas shopping season is upon us, and I’m sure many people are stuck in the same quandary I am: what gifts to buy for people.

There are always some who aren’t shy about telling people what they want every year. My young cousin, Liz, is especially enthusiastic. She is 6 years old, and her list is six pages long. On it are three beagle puppies, and she has already picked out names: Wanda, Cosmo, and Poof.

Thankfully Liz has provided enough alternative gift choices for her parents and Santa, because I don’t know how well jolly old St. Nick’s sleigh would hold up against the machinations of three beagle puppies. And just think of the poor old man’s eardrums on his 24-hour flight around the world. He’d probably make a point of stopping in Newport, where Liz lives, first.

While my cousin probably won’t wake up to the belling of hounds Christmas morning, Santa will come through in the end with gifts she’ll love. (He always does. He’s Santa.) However, Santa has a whole nation of elves living in the North Pole helping him pick out gifts. I have to rely on what people tell me, and it’s not easy.

My family started drawing names for our big family Christmas celebration a few years ago in an attempt to save everyone a little money over the holiday season. Everyone buys gifts for the kids, but the adults draw names and buy a single gift. We have a $50 target price to even everything out, and so far the system has worked great (although there is always a bit of swapping on the down low when we draw names.)

The hardship comes in when you draw the name of someone who doesn’t know what they want; or, someone who doesn’t want anything.

So, what to do? I’ve heard people say that gift certificates are impersonal, and I tend to agree... when people give me alternate ideas. Often they’re actually asking for gift cards, and I can understand why. It lets you pick something you’re actually going to use, instead of getting something that, while well-intentioned, is going to sit on a shelf for a year before you bite the bullet and put it in the Goodwill box.

I still don’t like buying gift cards, though. It makes me feel like I don’t know someone well enough to find a gift they’ll really love. But when faced with someone who isn’t forthcoming about Christmas gift ideas, and with Christmas morning fast approaching, I think I’m going to have to crack.

I’m still going to try and put a personal spin on the gift. Instead of just buying a Wal-Mart gift card, I’m thinking $50 to a restaurant. I know how nice it can be to go out for dinner once in a while. And giving someone the means to do so without splurging on a nice evening out seems like a nice Christmas gift to me.

I hope the recipient feels the same!

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