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.)
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.