Go Elf Yourself.

“Christmas is a time when everybody wants his past forgotten and his present remembered.” –Phyllis Diller
Earlier this week, I went to the post office to mail gifts to family members whom, sadly, we will not see over the holidays. And as I stood in line with all the other grumpies, it occurred to me that I was spending at least four times the amount of time waiting to mail these gifts than I did actually purchasing and wrapping them. Because Christmas shopping is getting ridiculously easy. Too easy.

Back in the day, like way back in 1997, I would spend hours, days, months figuring out just the right gift to gift people. I would find a perfect gift for someone in April, buy it, and look forward to surprising them eight months later. On some odd level, Christmas shopping started the day after Christmas, for the next year. I was always mindful, always thinking ahead, always contemplating how I could surprise someone with that unexpected gift.

But not anymore.

Now, we draw names. Which, let’s be honest, does have its perks. Because, thanks to the name drawing, Christmas has become exceedingly smaller. And less expensive. And easy. In fact, it’s embarrassingly easy. There are so few presents to purchase, I feel like I’m done before I’ve even started. We’ve gone from buying sleighloads of gifts to buying one. One. And there’s no need to even be thinking about two. Because extra gifts are not met with gratitude, but with condemnation. It’s ugly. And it’s really not worth the overachievement. So you only do your assigned one. One.

Also with this system, you don’t know who your selected one might be until sometime around Thanksgiving. Which means, you really can’t even begin thinking about presents until you know for whom you may purchase a present. So if I see the very perfect gift for my sister-in-law, well, no point in buying it because odds are 8 to 1 that I’m not getting her name.

But here’s the real kicker. Today, there is no real reason to even think about what to give someone. Because they tell you.

Brilliant marketing minds have made our lives so much easier with the personalized wish list Christmas registries. They’re like grown-up letters to Santa sent directly to your email address with specific pricing and click-to-order-now-now-now options. Without getting into too much detail (because family members who are right in the middle of the secret name drawing game read the Queso), I’ll just say that the HcQ and I were able to shop for all of our presents this year from our kitchen table and from registries. Christmas list registries. We just visited the Web site provided to us, clicked some of the items suggested to us, and we were, um, done. It took little to no thought, planning, creativity or effort. A few clicks and it was practically Boxing Day. But it seems something got lost in the process. Thought. Creativity. Effort. A trained monkey could Christmas shop like this. So I’m not sure I like it.

What about you? Where do you stand on the easy shopping options? The name drawing? The gift card giving? The specific item request lists? The Holiday Gift Registries? The people wanting cash for Christmas? What’s your take? And what are you giving this holiday season?

I asked the Merkin, when came over for dinner the other night, what he thought about all of it. As we all consumed a bottle of Cakebread and the HcQ’s birthday cake, he confirmed that he likes anything that makes gifting go faster. He’s smart and streamlined like that. However, I don’t think I am. Because I like the guessing, the wonder, the potentially getting it wrong but often fantastically getting it right. I like the surprise.

And so I was thinking about all of this in my four-mile-long Post Office queue. And I kind-of got sad. Because I started missing the old days of unique gifting, the ghosts of Christmas past tense and the thoughtful unexpected present.

I miss the surprise.

And then it was finally my turn. I stepped up to the counter to mail my treasures, and I found that I had a package of my own to collect. Someone had sent me a gift. An unexpected, surprise gift.

It seems our friend Mark* is quite the potter. And quite the gifter. A while ago, he read and remembered that I’d been looking for the perfect pie plate. So he made me one. From scratch. And for the surprise of it all. And he sent it to me in the mail. When I got over the shock and thanked him that afternoon, he said he’d made it because he likes surprising people with things they never expected to get. I get that. And thanks to Mark, I got the world’s most perfect pie plate, and what’s more, I got my gifting spirit back. (And the HcQ got an amazing pie out of the deal.)

And speaking of the HcQ and creative gifting, here’s my gift to all of you from the HcQ , the Hurricane and me. So ho ho ho and Merry Christmas from Casa con Queso!

I wish you all the most wonderful of holidays. I hope you and yours are both holly and jolly. And I definitely hope you all take some time to make an elf of yourself.

*Mark rules.

The Details

23 Responses to Go Elf Yourself.

  1. Eric says:

    I really think we could make the holidays so much easier on everyone if we all just transferred money into our family members' PayPal accounts. There could still be some element of surprise, because you could draw names to see which family member you got to transfer money to. And gift-giving creativity could be reflected in the amount of money you chose to give. This might be the wave of the future.

  2. Lady M says:

    This year, I was so confused due to insanity at work and the rest of our lives that I opened a gift from my in-laws (we had a early video conference call, since they're going to be out of the country for the actual day), and I was so thrilled that they picked a book I was dying to read. What a treat! It wasn't until later that I remembered that I'd put it on my Amazon wish list. Uh, yeah. So, sometimes, those wish lists don't take away the surprise!

  3. Jenny says:

    Personally I only like the easy shopping method for people I don't like. PS. Mark – You are a man of many hidden talents.

  4. Mamalang says:

    First of all, what an awesome gift that pie plate was. Beautiful AND so heartfelt. Priceless!We all gift give for everyone, cause there aren't that many of us. My hubby only has one sibling and I'm an only child. We do lists, but not registries. ANd the explanation is long, so I'll just post it on my blog and you can come over and read if you care.Merry Christmas!

  5. Mamalang says:

    First off, what a wonderful and heart felt gift. He's very talented!We don't do the name drawing, because we just don't have the many people in our family. My DH has one sibling, and I'm an only child. I started to post this long story of how our lists are made, but figured I wouldn't take up your comments space. If you're really curios, you can read about it on my blog:)Merry Christmas

  6. Suzanne says:

    If I'm stuck, I like to have a list to consult, but generally I prefer to come up with gift ideas on my own. And I also prefer that people choose their own gifts for me, unless they have a history of not choosing very good gifts!

  7. I'm Wearing A Merkin says:

    I don't like the wish list for the speed and streamlining so much as I do for the generation of creative spark. When Christmas vomits a truly embarassing number of presents under our tree there might be a couple of items found on various giftee's lists, ther rest will have "inspired by" credits.

  8. Jill says:

    You conQuesos sure are good dancers! The Hurricane has the most convincing expression of the three. I'm not quite sure that tights are quite the right look for your husband. I would prefer the element of surprise and thoughtful gifting, but I have to buy for THIRTY-SEVEN different people. How insane is that!!! As a result, I am all about the efficiency.

  9. Sandra says:

    Loving the pie plate and as much as I appreciate how easy Christmas has become (I actually did 100% of my shopping on line) … there is nothing like an unexpected gift!Happy holidays to you and your elves :)

  10. Aunt DeeDa says:

    Looks like the Hurricane was having the most fun with his dance!I am a big fan of drawing names. The main reason, unfortunately, is financially. Being the person that always RSVPs as one (1)….gifts start adding up. I have brothers, nephews, nieces, sister-in-laws, uncles…the list goes on. I also get caught up and go overboard on my purchases. I LOVE TO "GIFT" PEOPLE!I do, however, agree with you on the lack of surprise and creativity. I do not have a registered gift list, but know many people who do and have received them via email this year. Even though we draw names and a list comes with that name, I try to maintain somewhat of a creative level in my gift giving. I hope to think that I know my family members well enough to know what they like and don't like.This year I am very proud of myself with my gift idea and can NOT wait to see the expression on her face when she opens it. I am bummed that you guys are not going to be there to experience it, but I will take good notes and share with you. Love you guys!

  11. laurie says:

    omg hurricane the elf is precious! that face!and wow mark! what a phenomenal gift. i dream of showering everyone i know with unexpected yet perfect gifts all year round. sadly, life gets in the way sometimes.happy christmas elves con queso!

  12. Fizzle says:

    Quesita- So much to comment upon. First, I have a list of a million people to buy gifts for (uhm? none of which I've purchased for, I'm waiting for 12/24) and I like it that way. The lists, the thought, the idea that there are enough people in my world that think once a year we want to demonstrate each other's importance.Number two, you're writing's gift enough for me. You know you are ber-ill-ian-tay in my world. I don't even need to love you more 'cuz you're face is plastered on a dancing elf. You are a gift. Merry Christmas, Happy Holiday, Kwanzaa, Hannukah, whatever else I may be missing. Here's to hoping 2007 brings us together over a dish of Queso's amazing pie and Fizzle's Tarte Tartin extraordinaire…..

  13. Leslie says:

    those are some sweet moves. and a nice pie plate. merry christmas!

  14. Bek says:

    I love the holiday greetings from the Family Con Queso. Being away from family is hard. This year we are WITH family and I amlearning that it has it's moments too! :-)I love that Mark gave you a pie plate. That is a neat guy. Happy Christmas. I hope that you all get what you wanted that that The Hurricane has as much fun playing with the toys as he does with the boxes!

  15. kim says:

    I love finding the perfect gifts, but two buttheads on my list are impossible to buy for. One hates everything on principle alone. The pie plate is awesome. Suprises are the best.Love the Elfs! My kids are going to love it. Merry Merry!

  16. Tere says:

    So cute! Love your elfin versions! And that pie plate is lovely. I would totally steal if from you… if I made pies.Happy Holidays to you, too!

  17. Ordinary Janet says:

    Wow, what a fantastic gift! You're lucky you have a friend like that!Yeah, it's not as much fun anymore to buy presents, even if you can afford to give everyone in the family a gift. Then you have to worry that the person already has one of what you so carefully picked out for them. I was reading a regifting site (www.regiftable.com) and it seems that people sometimes use holiday gifts as emotional weapons. Merry Christmas!

  18. jen says:

    i love being surprised. what a great piece.and marriest to you.

  19. HB says:

    I prefer surprises – both when I'm giving and receiving. Beautiful pie plate! What a lucky friend you are. Surprise, unexpected gifts are the best.Merry holidays to the quesos!

  20. Jenny Dagle says:

    There are certain people we find it impossible to buy for anymore–my husband's four 18-20 year old nephews. They all get gift cards and seem happy enough with that arrangement.I find the demand for wish lists somewhat stressful. It's as if the pressure to get me the perfect gift is placed back on me, if that makes any sense.On the other hand, I appreciate suggestions. I got my brother in the sibling name drawing, and he told me he needs a shirt or pants, along with his sizes. My other brother got me, and he gave me something I already have. Obviously he knows what I like!P.S. Have you seen those commercials about how the post office will pick up your outgoing packages for you?

  21. Girl con Queso says:

    Aunt Deeda, okay, you completely win the best present ever award. I wish we would have been there to see her face when you gifted her. I want to hear all about it.

  22. jennie says:

    I used to make almost all of my gifts. I'd spend months thinking about what to make, then go into mad rush production in December. Most people got gifts that still had spots of sticky glue or wet paint – but I'D MADE IT. This year I didn't make a single gift. It felt really impersonal and not all that special. Like I could have written out checks and handed them out saying "buy yourself a little something" and a wink and it would have been about the same.

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