The sand is draining from the hourglass and the flying monkeys are on their way. A sensible holiday shopper realizes it might be time to panic. Just a bit. Perhaps you spent this weekend (with the very best of intentions) perusing the malls and holiday markets? Perhaps, like me, you awoke slightly exhausted, a bit dehydrated and with a mild pit in your stomach thinking something along the lines of; “I didn’t really buy that dancing troll dressed as Santa, did I?” Before you indulge in a refreshing bout of robust self flagellation, let’s consider reassigning the blame.
The dancing troll is not (entirely) your fault. You were probably tired, overheated and improperly fed. In that weakened state you had trudged through the maize of malls and markets with layouts and repetitive merchandise like Escher drawings. At every turn you were face to face with that same sequined scarf, knit cap, knock-off Van Cleef & Arpels necklace. After an hour or so, you could be easily convinced that those items are really all there is. In your already weakened state, your hopes dulled and dashed by the stunning lack of retail creativity, you found yourself in line, clutching your troll as if it were the bronze medal.
If you don’t want to spend the next few weeks feeling you are settling (and why in the world would anyone ever want to “settle” let alone during such a festive time) I offer you some tips:
- Prepare. Sit down with a nice cup of tea and a notepad (virtual or paper) and write a list. Do not venture out (in December) thinking you will be magically inspired. You may, but that’s not a plan, it’s luck.
- Stay away from “Holiday Markets” unless they are specifically artist or craftspeople organized. Often they are just outdoor malls, which will waste your time and deplete your stamina.
- Authentic artist/craftspeople markets, antique stores and real vintage flea markets are a veritable pot of gold. Unique, lovely and often reasonably priced items are just waiting for a good home.
- Museum, library and arts organizations often have gift shops. Venture carefully, and preferably with a membership card, as often items can be pricey. However, you really can find some very special items, and support a favorite institution.
- Memberships and/or tickets to these institutions can also make lovely gifts. Do make sure the recipient is a fan and lives in proximity, otherwise you may fall into that “I’m giving to my favorite charity in your name” trap.
- Food and Drink should always be considered. A carefully chosen bottle of wine or spirits can be very thoughtful. Perhaps a bottle of the wine your friends are still talking about which they had in Napa? Maybe a lovely bottle of sherry to go with those vintage glasses you picked up for your sister at the flea market? Chocolate lovers make the best gift recipients, don’t they? There is no shortage of artisanal selections out there. Strangely, the same can be said for salamis.
- Music. Anyone who can hear, enjoys listening to music. Steer clear of any genre which conjures associated attire (country western, heavy metal) and stick to classics if you are not entirely certain of someone’s preference.
- Books (electronic or paper) make splendid gifts. You may want to stay out of the chain stores however, as their displays may lead you to the literary equivalent of a dancing troll.
Remember to bring a snack, stop and sit periodically, and don’t bring a shopping companion. There are too many distractions as it is. So have another cup of tea, and go find the troll receipt. And remember, like most things in life, with gift giving; “I suppose this will do” shouldn’t be the goal. Happy Holidays!
* and presents by the tree – I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1943)