Christmas Gift-Giving Guide
The Ashland Beacon
In the midst of the bright lights and hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we sometimes find ourselves lost over what to give to those we care about. Morning news broadcasts offer ideas for every budget; online ads pop up with direct links to last-minute finds; wives drop not-so-subtle hints in order to try to help their husbands. But, most of us would agree that one-size-fits-all gifts aren’t the kind we most like to receive.
While we’d all say time with our family or the presence (not presents) of friends matters most, if we’re completely honest, most of us do also love to receive gifts. Meaningful ones. But, therein lies the problem. Gift-giving can be flat out difficult. How does one go about giving a gift that’s truly appreciated and valued, not tossed to the donate pile? Perhaps some targeted thinking might help.
Are there inside jokes or mutual experiences you share with the person you’re trying to buy for? If so, those might be a good source for a gift idea. A beach-themed ornament with the location and date of a trip you shared together…a picture of you and the recipient with the longitude and latitude of the place you shared your starter home...a Chinese take-out box containing a gift card to their favorite restaurant along with a meet-me-there-anytime note…a new pair of sunglasses to replace the ones your sister always whines about you losing back when you were sixteen. The important thing to note is what emotions do you want to bring up--a sense of gratitude for the time you’ve spent together, comfort that comes from sharing moments with someone, a reminder of how important this person is to you? Personalized gifts based on experiences you’ve shared can range from practical to sentimental but always result in an emotional reaction--a reminder of some connection you shared.
Another consideration could be their physical features or identifying tendencies. Does the person you need a gift for have any sort of identifying features like blue eyes, wildly curly hair, constantly cold hands, or an old injury that causes them pain? Is there a gift embedded in those characteristics? Maybe a make-up palette they’d never buy themselves that highlights blue eyes or a hair care kit made for curly locks that includes a Wet Brush and bedazzled headband. How about a trendy belt bag that doubles as a hand warmer for their upcoming trip to New York City. You might give a self-care kit that includes a salon massage certificate, a set of lotions for home, and a heat-activated wrap for when old injuries flare up? Closely examining a person’s physical features could provide the inspiration for a perfect gift.
Photo gifts are also a crowd favorite. Gifting pictures to someone can provide them a way to relive memories they’ve shared already. Busy mom of two, Amy Tackett, suggests making gifts a keepsake. “The last three years, I made photo books for my kids…to highlight all their special moments for that year. The kids really appreciate them, and I think they’re the best gifts ever.” One of my own all-time favorite gifts is a picture gift from my husband and kids. They know I love to create so ordered a custom paint-by-number canvas of my favorite picture of Olivia and Ethan at the beach. Not only did I enjoy painting it, but it’s been hanging on the wall ever since, providing us all the pleasure of recalling that trip. Another favorite photo gift we’ve received over the years has been in the form of family photo sessions. Many photographers offer gift certificates that can be creatively presented in a picture frame to fill once the photos have been taken. The end result of picture gifts is always something to treasure!
If photo gifts don’t quite work, but a keepsake gift is up your alley, perhaps consider linking the gift to an experience or event. If your recipient attended a memorable concert or performance, a shirt, print, or piece of memorabilia might be appreciated. If the experience you’d like to memorialize was a trip, bring a piece of that experience into their daily life. An afghan, pillow, or piece of art could highlight the place they love. Gifting future experiences is another way to provide loved ones with new memories. You could purchase tickets to a show you know they’d enjoy or pay for a night away at a not-too-distant cabin. Melissa Prater, busy mom of two and lover of all things social, says: “I love the gift of time with people. An experience with the ones you love” is a great way to provide new memories for everyone to cherish.
Though some claim that gift cards are an impersonal gift, even those can be presented in a personal manner. Get a small item to go with a gift card that illustrates your connection; for example, an ornament shaped like a microwave for the co-worker down the hall who uses yours everyday. Add a pack of your friend’s favorite pens or lunch cakes to the gift card for their favorite restaurant. Put your sister’s favorite candy bars in a cute zipper pouch along with the gift card to her favorite store. Get gift cards to Broadway Books and The Mill and invite a friend you’ve not seen in too long to an afternoon outing. There are lots of ways that even “just” a gift card can feel personal and meaningful.
The key to any gift is something we’ve been taught from the time we were little: it’s the thought that counts. Choosing just the right gift says you know the person you’re giving to; it says you see them; you appreciate them; you value their presence in your life. Whatever giving you do this holiday season--whether big or small--see it as an opportunity to send a message, not just a present. Start your shopping with the question: What do I want my gift to say? Saying the right thing is much more important than buying the right thing.