Well, here it is the holiday season, and I’ve been working hard to get my shopping done a couple weeks before Christmas so I can maybe sit and breathe and just enjoy the actual holiday. With four kids and a bunch of interests and projects, I’m always busy, so the holidays can really turbo-charge my busy-ness. I’ve found myself going to bed at 9:00 at night several times because my days have worn me out so thoroughly.
Even though the selecting and buying/preparation of gifts can be exhausting, particularly when it’s so many all at once, I still find myself reflecting on how much fun it is to find just the right ones. It’s so satisfying to know someone well enough to match them with a cool present that will make him or her smile. Even better is if that gift becomes something they talk about for months or years to come.
I was thinking about the year I sent a pregnant friend a box of Omaha steaks. We’d been talking about how she was at that point of the pregnancy where she was just wanting meat. I’d been there myself, so I knew that right around the midway point, I always wanted steak. Meat, meat, meat. I guess that is also when the baby’s brain is really growing, so it probably needs lots of protein. So I craved steak. I thought it would just be fun to ship her a box of meat. Sure enough, even her family remembered it for ages. One sister told me some years later that she thought it was a great idea. And how often does someone get a box of meat in the mail?
My dad was generally very enthusiastic about the gifts I got him. He got into a smoothie groove one year, so I sent him a personal smoothie maker. He loved it. When he died and I had to clear out his apartment, his freezer was still stocked with smoothie ingredients: sherbet and yogurt and frozen fruit. I brought the little smoothie maker home and now use it myself. It makes me smile to think about Dad and his smoothies. Another time, I got him a peanut butter maker. I happened to run across it in a kitchen store, and knowing Dad’s dedication to natural peanut butter, I snatched that right up and gave it to him for Father’s Day. He ran that thing ragged, making a lot more peanut butter than that gadget was probably designed for. Over the course of a few years, he got great mileage out of it until it died. We were both very sad I couldn’t find another one by that point.
One young friend who enjoyed my fresh waffles received a waffle iron for a wedding gift, along with my recipes for waffles. He tells me now that he and his wife are now famous for making waffles for young missionaries they have over for dinner, just as we fed him when he was a missionary for our church. It’s really satisfying to know that a tradition we started now has carried over into another family.
Of course, it’s also a nice thing to give people gifts that aren’t necessarily things, but services. If someone never has time to cook, make them some homemade meals that freeze easily and can be popped in the oven. I am a fan of baking homemade bread or cookies because a lot of people don’t bake anymore. I just invest in a lot of flour, sugar, and butter. Or if a friend is particularly busy (or pregnant), give a gift of a month of maid service. Just be sure to remind them not to feel compelled to clean their house before the maid comes over.
I’ve kept a file on my computer with a list of all the Christmas gifts I’ve given family members over the years. It lets me ensure I don’t repeat years, and it just helps me keep track of what ideas I’ve come up with in the past and even can help spark new ideas. The Word document I’m using now has gifts all the way back to 2002. This year, I think I’ve come up with some really neat, personalized gifts, some of which I’ve made myself, but I can’t yet write what they are because my recipients might read this!
I just love gift-giving occasions. Christmas can be overwhelming with the sheer number of items and people to shop for, so I particularly enjoy birthdays and other celebrations like weddings or baby showers. (Now that my girls are getting big, it’s really fun to buy tiny little clothes and other items for someone else’s babies.)
Yep, giving can be lots more fun than receiving. (But it is nice to get a really great gift sometimes, too, particularly from my husband.)