Christmas. The most exciting and anticipated holiday of the year. A time when
visions of sugar plums--or stereos, new cars, the latest computer, and various other
desirable and expensive Christmas gifts -- dance through our heads. Unfortunately the reality of
Christmas gift-giving is often a far cry from our visions.
When we're children, it seems as the holidays approach that anything is
possible. But as we mature and gain experience with this annual observance it
eventually begins to dawn on us that it might not always be all it's cracked up to be.
By the time we've reached our late teens--when, coincidentally, the potential for
receiving truly outstanding gifts is optimized--we realize that Christmas gifts are
seldom what we hope for. In fact, from year to year it becomes possible to actually
predict the kinds of gifts you'll unwrap on Christmas morning. Let's look at a few
The Necessity Gift
The necessity gift is one that always seems like a really great idea to your
mother or grandmother, but which is invariably a big yawn to unwrap. Let's be
realistic, how excited is anybody likely to get over a dozen pairs of matching socks, a
hairbrush, winter gloves or underwear? Slipper Sox, new sheet sets and toothbrushes
also qualify. After unwrapping such a gift, a person is likely to exclaim: "Gosh, you
shouldn't have!" And mean it.
The Token Gift
The Token Gift might be received from almost anyone. Though it seems like an
intimate friend or close relative wouldn't stoop so low, experience proves that token
gifts take up where imagination and/or money leaves off. So it's possible to receive
these kinds of gifts from the most unexpected sources.
One present in this category is the ever popular "soap-on-a-rope." I've never
seen these marketed in June. But come early November the soap factories undoubtedly
pay double-double overtime to their workers in order to meet the vast holiday demand
for nameless, pungent-smelling brown soap manufactured over the top of what
appears to be a six-foot-long shoe-string. A note of caution: Soap-on-a-rope should
never be given to boys under the age of 12. They invariably turn them into near-lethal
weapons. If disappointed enough, they might even turn them on you.
Other token gifts include cheap aftershave lotion/cologne, stationery, and the
ever-popular electric shaver. Though this latter might occasionally fit into the Necessity
Gift category, I've never met anyone who actually uses an electric shaver. For this
reason, this gift might also fit into our next category.
The Closet Stuffer Gift
Closet Stuffers are exactly what they sound like: gifts that are stuffed into the
closet shortly after Christmas, never to be seen again. The reason they stay there for a
very long time--generations, even--is because most Closet Stuffers make us believe
that someday they might be fun and/or useful. But of course, they never are.
Great Closet Stuffers include pasta makers, fondue sets, tacky knick-knacks, tie
racks, and the ever-popular but usually short-lived all-around exercise machine. Some
of these gifts might have actually been on someone's "want" list. But don't kid yourself.
If you purchase such a gift, within weeks it will be doomed to a life of utter darkness.
The "I Didn't Know What to Buy You" Gift
We've all been guilty of purchasing one of these gifts as some time or another.
But that doesn't make it any more fun to unwrap them ourselves. Many of the
"IDKWBY" gifts fall into the food category. Examples include: cheese and sausage gift
sets, mixed nuts, chocolate covered cherries or pretzels, tins of tasteless Christmas
cookies, ribbon candy, five-gallon tins of assorted flavored popcorn and, last and
certainly not least, fruitcake. Now some fruitcakes wouldn't qualify for this category.
There are actually people in the world who spend months concocting 12-pound,
liquor-filled, green-red-yellow speckled wonders (you wonder what's in them) as
special gifts for their favorite relatives. This doesn't make them taste any better, but
they do make great door-stops in the off-season. No, only department or drug store
fruitcakes fall into this category.Of course, not all "IDKWBY" gifts are culinary in nature. Calendars qualify, as do
chia pets. Enough said.
It would be possible to list several other Christmas gift categories that would
send a cold tingle up your spine. But rather than list any more of these, I'd like to give
you a few examples of really great gifts: Stereo components (good quality), gold
jewelry, an appropriate music C.D., gift certificates, and quality clothing.
But if you want to be absolutely certain your gift will be appreciated, go with
cold, hard cash. The receiver is certain to experience the true American holiday spirit.