Christmas bells are almost ringing, and with it comes the groan of your bank account in racking up the names on your gift-recipient list. However I like to think of myself as something of a gifting guru and with that power comes great responsibility, so onto you I bestow my certified wisdom.
Photographic print canvases
Gone are the days of getting photos developed and storing them in actual physical albums with those flimsy plastic wallets that are really hard to open. Photos exist merely in the digital plane, on our cameras, our memory cards, our laptops, our clouds. It seemed to me then, that the idea of getting something printed, would be even more special. Especially if done on proper, tangible, hang-able canvas. For a couple of years running, I’ve done just this with scenic photographs taken on family trips to Copenhagen and Nice. I use Photobox who frequently have some kind of discount offer going (not that I’m cheap or anything) and the quality of their products has always been high. Equally this gift fulfils my dream of having something I snapped exhibited for an audience (the above photo is currently on show in my parent’s hallway).
A coffee table book
Christmas is as an opportunity to purchase something that people wouldn’t ordinarily buy for themselves. For me, that encompasses a present as basic as a bottle of Baileys, fancy hair products, or even a brand new notepad, which seems a bit insignificant, but just isn’t something I consider necessary when shopping for the essentials (a.k.a. what I can justifiably afford). Therefore a coffee table book – surely the marker of twenty-something sophistication (it means you have a coffee table and probably a flat in which said coffee table resides) – which usually retails at a price upwards of £25, is an immensely great idea. Plus, they’re often pretty hefty, so you get points for showing up to Christmas looking like a baller, AND they’re square or rectangle, making wrapping them up piss easy. WIN WIN WIN WIN.
Here is a lovely list of examples if you need further inspiration.
A hot water bottle
Hold up, I know what you’re thinking. A hot water bottle is not a sexy present. It’s functional and trite. It’s on the same level as socks or towels or shower gel. You might need it, but it exists merely as interim present before you move on to the electronic goods and sparkly things in small boxes. Let me expostulate. (I’ll make it quick whilst you’re looking up that word). A hot water bottle is literally the gift that keeps on giving. Every time the recipient refills their rubbery pouch (that got weird), they’ll think of you (hopefully) and the warmth you bring to their lives, physically and metaphorically. Still skeptical? As I said, these presents are tried and tested and just last year I bought a friend a superbly fluffy number and it was greeted with rapture.
The idea of giving something intangible is often frowned upon at Christmas, because it eliminates the possibility of ripping open wrapping paper with expectant delight. However, I’m a big advocate of gifting an excursion or activity to do with someone, simply because it’s like two presents in one. You get the joy of telling them what you have planned, and then, if you’ve been smart enough to wrangle the other ticket for yourself, you get the joy of sharing the memory with them.
Claudia Winkleman recently wrote about the joy of receiving, and giving, a personalised gift. Whilst I would be a little bit underwhelmed if a jar of Marmite with my name on it were all that lurked in my stocking, I wholeheartedly endorse her sentiment. Exhibit A, I once bought my Dad a Boston Red Sox baseball shirt that has his own surname, rather than a player’s, inscribed on the back. V. v. well received. Exhibit B, I bought my Mum a glass from Not On The High Street (I return to them time and time again when look for something a little bit unique and a little bit chic) that you can personalise to read ‘Mum’s Gin & Tonic’ or ‘Tracy’s Bacardi & Coke’, depending on their preferred tipple or if they like to be called by their actual name rather than defined by the fact they birthed you. Just a thought.
One year when I was particularly skint and feeling more Nigella than usual, I decided to make a little Christmas hamper of sweet treats for my nearest and dearest. I toiled over stove and pan to whip up a selection of chutneys, jams, biscuits and fudge, hand-decorated the labels, tied them up with brown string and in little gift bags and smiled smugly as I bestowed them upon relatives and roommates alike. No-one’s ever told me that the box of shop-bought chocolates were the best they ever tasted, but I have heard that my raspberry jam is a superlative among preserves. (They also told me the fudge was a bit hard, so you can’t win them all).
Circling back to the aforementioned brand new notepad, if you’ve a stationery fiend friend (as I am – my go-to childhood make-believe game was ‘offices’, complete with memo pads, appointment lists and a Filofax for my abundant agenda), then some writing implements and a Moleskine journal is an easy way to their heart. I once bought my BFF, who shares my love of the Nora Ephron film You’ve Got Mail, “a bouquet of newly-sharpened pencils”, and I like to think it has cemented our bond in more than just writing. Plus, with December generally declaring the resolution of another year (depending on what calendar you subscribe to), there’s no better time to write down all your achievements and everything you’re excited for with the dawn of a new year.