When it comes to gift giving around Christmas, there are some wonderful old traditions that always ensure success. Most people have at least one baked good they make during the holidays, one that can be multiplied for any number of gift recipients and that appeals to almost everyone they know, and even the people on their list they hardly know at all. The rule about offering self help gifts, like personal training sessions or a gift certificate for a makeover is pretty basic: Just don’t, unless the recipient has made it very, very clear that it would be welcomed.
Often, one size really does fit almost all. A case or two of bubbly purchased at the beginning of the season can provide hostess gifts through January. There are times, though, when the rules don’t apply and an impersonal offering just won’t do. The giver doesn’t know where to begin the search for the perfect gift, one that will be received with joy and appreciation, maybe even a little surprise. Everyone wants to be asked, “How did you know?”
For those who do not possess that special knack for choosing the perfect present, asking these four simple questions can lead to creative gift giving for any budget, with results sure to please anyone, even those people who seem to have it all.
1. What’s new in the recipient’s life? Does she have a new job? Have the newlyweds just moved into their first home? Maybe he just rescued a pup from the local shelter. Acknowledging a change in someone’s life is warm and personal, showing the gift giver is paying attention and is excited about sharing the recipient’s joy. Even happy changes can add stress, so a gift that helps ease the transition is thoughtful. That new dog owner might love an embroidered collar or an offer for pet sitting. A stylish carrying case for business cards or a cookbook with quick and easy dinner dishes could be the perfect thing for the recent college graduate with her first job. A new homeowner? How about an empty tool box and a list of repair people?
2. What interests does the giver share with the recipient? These can be the most personal gifts of all –—- acknowledging a shared passion. A fledgling author could offer a friend from a writing workshop a beautiful blank journal. A league tennis player might be thrilled to receive a new racket cover from her doubles partner, monogrammed if that’s her thing. A set of season tickets to a favorite local theater or dance company makes a wonderful, extravagant gift, one the giver may even be asked to share, though they shouldn’t expect it. This kind of gift portends a warm friendship for years to come.
3. Where does the recipient shop around town? Many businesses really know their customers, by taste, size and need. If a holiday shopper can pinpoint a favorite shop, he can call ahead or just stop by and ask: “I’m looking for the perfect gift for my niece. I think you know her. Penelope Castles? Can you help me choose something she would love?” Shop employees will be happy to help. The more information they have, including price, theme and any other details, the better. Shopping locally is invaluable to the busy shopper, since many local spots will choose the gift, wrap it and often even deliver.
4. What inspires the question, “Where did you get that?” Some of the greatest gifts are small but totally original, and Columbia’s shops have plenty of them. Handmade jewelry, often produced locally, is one of a kind and available for every budget. A quirky kitchen tool, a new board game people love to play, a funky vintage bag found in a resale shop: Any of those items could be the perfect, unexpected gift. Think of the things no one knows they need or want until they have them. They may be hard to recall in the moment, so keeping a list throughout the year can be a big help when the time comes to start shopping for the holidays. These days, most smart phones make it simple to record a quick note almost anywhere.
Asking those four questions before hitting the shops should get the creative gift giving juices flowing, But what about the person who really does have everything? A charitable donation in someone’s name, with his interests in mind, is always a gracious gift, and one that can be purchased at the last minute – perfect for procrastinators who want to give from the heart. Happy shopping and Merry Christmas!