Have you ever had that feeling of blind panic, for example when some helpful soul tells you that you have a month until Christmas? That awful feeling of pressure when you put down on paper the names of all those you feel you are expected to have gifts for, but realise you haven’t a clue what to give?
And yet, how many presents that we give or receive do we truly remember?
The reason I’m thinking about this isn’t because I want to be irritating and highlight the fact that we have about 3 months until Christmas. Although, if you’re still reading, I apologise as I just have!
It’s because my birthday this year got me thinking about it, but not in an ungrateful way.
According to the one closest to me, I’m a difficult person to buy presents for. So, this year, he decided to go with flowers with the promise of them being supplemented at a future date when I saw something I wanted. The thing is what one person thinks is just a makeweight token can actually mean far more to the receiver than something they choose for themselves at three times the cost. Because, to fall back on an old phrase, it’s the thought that counts.
To me, his thought process was as big a part of the gift as the physical gift itself. He hadn’t just gone online and clicked a selection. He’d thought about it. He’d selected a florist locally whose displays mirrored the style he knows I like. He’d gone in and had a conversation about the flowers to include and, as important, those to exclude! He’d picked them up so that he could give them to me rather than having them delivered.
And I know, long after they cheered me by their physical presence, I will remember that present.
It compares starkly with the present buying of a deceased relative which still raises a dry smile. Many years ago, they were obviously at a loss at what to buy their partner for Christmas. Trying to give the benefit of the doubt, we’ve always assumed they went shopping after a particularly boozy Christmas party at work. Whatever, the rectangular box under the tree was unwrapped on the day to reveal … an electric carving knife. A practical labour-saving gift, given to the one who did all the cooking but always left the carving to, you’ve guessed it, the present giver! Both the initial outburst, and the subsequent long silence between recipient and giver remain a clear family memory. So, perhaps another memorable gift but for all the wrong reasons!
After the past couple of years and with the current multiple crises we face, it feels like cheering gifts which keep us warm without using energy, of the gas or electric type, might be the order of the day going forward. Maybe it’s time for me to bring out the knitting needles and start on some matching hat and sock sets for all those near and dear?
I can just imagine the scene as my lot open an assortment of mis-matched socks with holes in all the wrong places. Complemented by ill-sized hats that either slip down to conceal their eyes or perch atop their heads like egg cups. The mere thought of their faces causes mine to crack a smile, even if my brain is warning me off with a loud reminder that it could lead to a very silent Christmas in our house this year!
This column appeared in our Autumn 2022 newsletter. If you would like future editions of our quarterly workplace wellbeing newsletter sent directly to your inbox, please sign up here.