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Essential Journal

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Tailored Thoughts On: Christmas Shopping

Unsure what to get that special (or not so special) someone this year? Huntsman cutter, Matthew Gonzalez, gives his two cents on the art of festive gift giving

words Matthew GONZALEZ

December is often a socially busy time of the year. The run up to Christmas means there are work parties, frequent nights out at the pub, copious amounts of food and – unfortunately – Christmas shopping. Few things in our social lives are more stressful than having to buy a gift for just one person – let alone practically everyone you know – because there is so much pressure to ‘get it right’. To help alleviate some of that stress, especially for those last minute shoppers out there, here is a guide on how to select the perfect present for your friends, family and acquaintances. 

There are essentially two types of gifts; the obligatory gift and the meaningful gift. An obligatory gift is exactly what it sounds like, it’s a gift that you feel you need to give to someone, either because they unexpectedly gave you one, or because your connection to them socially dictates that you should. Meaningful gifts, on the other hand, are for people that are really important in our lives; family members, partners, and close friends.

Obligatory gifts are actually pretty straight forward. How much you spend will depend on circumstance and your relationship to the person, but the methodology doesn’t change. First of all, when you’re out shopping, avoid tat at all costs. No one likes receiving it, and it’s a literal waste of money. As environmental issues increasingly influence how we live our lives, there is no reason we should go out and buy a smiling plastic cactus desk ornament that you saw on some gift guide. If it is bound for the bin or a charity shop immediately after opening, then you would have been better off giving cash or donating to charity. Obligatory gifts should not be, or at least appear to be, thoughtless. The best option for these kinds of gifts are consumable. Few people will be disappointed by receiving wine, whiskey, chocolate or a nice tin of biscuits. 

If you want to give food, make sure to find the right balance between quality and quantity. A box of celebrations are great, but not really an appropriate gift. Instead, a box of truffles from Charbonnel et Walker or Fortnum & Mason will add a luxurious feel to any present without breaking the bank.

Buying a gift for a loved one is hard, especially after years of knowing the person. Eventually, all the great ideas have been done. Great gifts can carry some emotional weight and will hopefully be cherished by the recipient. We live in a world where we have too little time and too much stuff, so instead of giving just another physical present, consider giving an experience. With a little planning, you can easily book tickets to a show, exhibition or even a weekend city break that will be a moment that can be shared between the two of you, or as a gift to another couple.

If a long weekend or tickets to Wilderness Festival are a bit too pricey, remember that meaningful gifts are given as a token of love, friendship and affection. Just like the obligatory gift, you can imbue an object with a lot of emotional weight and transform an otherwise pedestrian gift into something special by simply explaining why you chose it. For example, if you found and framed a favourite childhood photo and gave it to your parents explaining why that photo meant something to you, it will probably start to mean a lot to them as well. All of us have that one cherished object that means the world to us but is worthless to everyone else, and that is because objects do not possess value until we assign it to them. 

A great gift shouldn’t be about giving someone a thing that they did not already own. Instead, it should remind them about what they already have: A person in their life who cared enough to want to give them a present in the first place. MG