Christmas: thinking outside the gift box

Here we go again. Wracking our brains, thinking of what to give our family and friends this Christmas. You’re making a list, checking it twice. Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. But at some point, you may start running out of gift ideas.


When we choose a gift for someone, we usually base it on what we think that person needs or wants. And that’s what makes it all stressful. We need to figure out what would interest the recipient. And since the people we buy Christmas presents for are usually the same people who get presents from us on their birthdays, we have to make sure we don’t end up repeating a gift.

Here’s a way to come up with fresh ideas. Instead of trying to guess what your giftees will like, how about giving them something that YOU yourself appreciate and enjoy? Okay, it sounds counterintuitive at first. That’s because we usually look at gift-giving as an act of pleasing others so we get them something that we assume will please them. Makes perfect sense.

But what if we look at gift-giving another way? What if we take it as an act of sharing a part of ourself with another? What if we treat it as an expression of intimacy by offering people something that has personal or sentimental value to us? What if we make it more sincere and generous by giving a gift that represents who we are, what we deeply care about, and what we love most in life?

With this type of gift, you won’t run out of ideas since you never have to second-guess what is meaningful or special to you. But will your recipients appreciate it? They may or they may not, as with any other present. But they will definitely get something new or different out of it because it is drawn from your world, not theirs. And if you can bring a novel experience or some unexpected value into somebody else’s life, then that is a real gift.

Here are a few suggestions:

1. A book that changed your life or got you through your darkest hours

There is that one book or two or three that somehow turned your life around or helped you survive a distressful period in your life. Pass on the lessons, inspirations, and wisdom you gained from that unforgettable read.

2. A CD or playlist of songs you listen to when you need inspiration or when you’re down in the dumps or when you’re in the shower

What kind of music gets you up and running? What songs can make you dance and sing in the shower? Maybe your giftee will get a kick out of them too.


3. Something that represents the causes you believe in or the advocacies you support

If you’re an environmentalist, maybe wrap an organic shirt or accessories made from recycled materials. Ecologist? Seed packets or potted herbs or an insect hotel. Health advocate? Non-fat, low-sugar, or low-sodium food products. Animal rights activist? A stuffed toy of an endangered animal or a bag made of synthetic leather. Cause-oriented gifts are an expression of the things that truly matter to you and a way to encourage others to support them too.

4. That secret recipe for pot roast or any dish you’ve mastered

Stop keeping it to yourself. For once, share it with a pal or a cousin who loves to cook. And don’t leave out any secret ingredient!

5. Your confidential skincare products

This is something you probably don’t like to share either because you want to monopolise having fantastic skin or you don’t want to admit that you’re so vain just like everybody else. But think of that acne-prone friend who could use some aesthetic intervention. It’s Christmas. Share those friggin’ beauty secrets!

6. A box of your favorite pastries from your favorite bakery

Don’t just buy a box of randomly picked cupcakes from any bakeshop you will find on the way to your giftee’s house. Go share a box of those frangipanes you love so much from that boulangerie that makes them the best, in your palate’s opinion. Let somebody special experience the rapture you get out of those goodies.


7. A gift certificate to your favorite spa or hair salon

Share your favorite stress relief hideaways. Recommend your favorite therapist or hairdresser. Treat your buddy or your colleague to some tender, loving care packed with excellent customer service.

8. A bottle of your most preferred poison

What’s your poison of choice? Tequila? Whisky? Brandy? Then stop giving a bottle of wine just because it’s the generic and customary alcoholic gift for special occasions. Break away from tradition and introduce your boss or co-worker to the kind of buzz you get from your much favored spirits.

It’s easy to hand out just any material gift. It’s much harder to give something that reveals a bit of ourself. It requires a willingness to open our door and let someone in which runs counter to our instinctive preference for boundaries, privacy, and self-preservation. But perhaps we can make a little exception for Christmas. What is personally meaningful to us could also be meaningful to another.

Good luck on your gift-hunting. May you share a genuine part of yourself with others on this season of giving.