A Gift Guide to a Mindful Christmas
I am writing this article on Eartha Kitt´s Santa Baby rhythms and thinking with nostalgia about the times when Christmas meant stuffing your face with as much cake as possible, without thinking of the diet you´d have to take up soon and dreaming of all the toys you´d get without worrying about all the money you would spend on presents. Christmas changed in plenty of ways since then. I no longer feel confident that my best friend would enjoy a quarter of a plastic pearl bracelet, or that my mom really dreamed of getting a used sponge. I now put plenty of heart, thought (and money) into my presents. Each year I find myself more mindful about what I gift. I want to make sure my loved ones will not only love the presents but also use them. While my own wishlist contains a hand-knit Romanian winter sweater and a cast iron pan, I tried to inspire you with a list of presents for each and every taste!
Let´s start off with experiences.
1. Movie / Theatre / Concert Tickets
Experiences are the least voluminous presents you´ll have under your Christmas tree. In the case of movie / theatre / concert tickets you can choose to be 100% sustainable and gift the digital versions, or, for the more traditional of you, print them and pack them inside a nice book ( the printed script of the theatre play) or a vynil ( with the band´s you´ll be seeing best album). You can choose to get a ticket for yourself and your loved one, or gift them two tickets for them to take whomever they want. Just make sure it´s something your loved one will love.
A gift for crafty people, who love learning a new skill. Be it a Japanese cooking class, a origami workshop or a woodworking class, there´s surely something your loved ones would enjoy learning. You can again choose to get one for yourself too and accompany them.
One of the best investments I´ve made in myself this year was the Medium and Humans of New York Patreon subscriptions. I use the Medium one every single day and have learned so much by reading their articles on technology, literature, personal finance and much more! I pay less than 5€ a month for it and it´s just soooo worth it. If you´re feeling generous, get your loved one a one year or six month subscription of a great magazine. If they´re tech savvy and you want to be mindful about the environment get them the online version. If they insist on having it on paper, get the printed version, just educate them on recycling.
You´ve surely stumbled on Instagram upon advertised masterclasses. The one that pops up most often on my social media is Neil Gaiman´s Art of Storytelling. It´s definitely a gift I and many of my friends would do anything to receive. If storytelling is not your cup of tea though, worry not, because the Masterclass site has soooo many other ones your loved ones are bound to love (from Gordon Ramsey teaching cooking to Anna Wintour teaching creativity and leadership). And if that´s not technical enough for you, there are plenty of courses on edx, Coursera and Udemy for under 100$ you´ll love to gift!
The priciest option on the list, but oh how enriching! This is the second Christmas I decide to gift André a trip. Last year it was flights to the Açorean island of São Miguel and this year it´s flights to Madeira. It´s something I benefit from too and since I´ve been trying to keep the tickets to under 100€ a person, it´s not actually thaaat much of an investment considering what we get in reutrn. In terms of the "packaging" of the gift, on both years I´ve opted to buy a booklet guide to the destination and package it nicely with a "We´re going (to need this)..." post it on it.
Now for the physical gifts:
6. Books / Music / Art / Games / Movies
So here´s a story. Nonna´s a 95 year old lady in my neighbourhood who I´ve been teaching German for over a year now. She´s an absolute star born in the twenties, in a world far gone. She grew up without toys. Even though she comes from a prominent family and lives in a castle up to this day, her parents never bought her toys, not even as a child. Instead they bought her animals and art - books, music and paintings.
As an art lover myself, I think these are all exceptional present ideas. Your boyfriend´s a game enthusiast? Get him a Cards Against Humanity game! Your mom loves to read? Get her a special edition of her favourite trilogy or a brilliant book you´ve read lately! Hint: Try to buy used books from your local antiquarian bookshop instead of supporting Amazon. Your brother got a new record player? Get him a nice rare vinyl! Your grandpa thinks they don´t make movies like they used to? Get him an old Alfred Hitchcock movie.
This year my mom asked (yet again) for us not to get her anything for Christmas since we´re already spending a lot on the flights home. Knowing my mom my entire life, I quickly found the loophole. It´s food. Food is rarely considered a gift but you can make a pretty nice present out of it. Get a nice cheese, a good ham, a gourmet chocolate, a hearty bottle of wine and most importantly - make them local. You´re sure to make an impression.
For food and cooking lovers, the people at Bon Appétit wrote a wonderful curated gift guide you can check out here . They also made a list of beautiful baking gift ideas for your baker friends, you can find it here.
A final gift for your parents and grandparents who say they don´t need or want anything. Figure out what they care about and make a donation in their name. Is it the church? Abandoned animals? The Red Cross? You´re sure to find a cause they care for worth your money. Donate a little bit, or if you´re short on money, do some volunteering there and share a picture of the impact the donation or the volunteering in your loved ones´ name made.
On a side note, I thought of sharing some things we´re gifting this year for your inspiration. Here are some things: a lunch and wine tasting experience, tickets to the new Star Wars premiere, tickets to the Chicago musical, some beautiful alpaca fleece scarves made in Peru, hand-made fluffy wool slippers, a fancy gourmet salt for bbqs, Portuguese buttered cheese and some bottles of good wine.
One thing to take away though: think long and hard about the people you´re giving gifts to. The gifts must speak to them and actually mean something. The nicest presents are the ones you put thought and heart into. The price label count not matter less.