Mrs. C says: We each have our own preferences when it comes to shopping for gifts. Some of you may well be ahead of the game by the time you read this, having been purchasing your presents throughout the year. Come on. Admit it. Some of you bought presents during lockdown, didn’t you? There’s a section on getting ahead of the game just down this page, if you want to join the ‘Organised Club’. Of course, there are others of you out there nowhere near as honed in and prepared. Indeed, you could be one of those masochists who love the last minute frenzy just before the big day. Either way there are so many options open to you. We are here to help steer you through the maze.
Ed Elf: Where to start…where to start? It’s a tricky one.
Mrs. C: Consumable gifts – food, drink, candles or toiletries – are the perfect place to start for adults. They often work best as presents because…well, they will almost always be used. We’re working on that age-old principle you can never have too many bottles of whatever, be it wine…perfume…aftershave…
Ed Elf: Eggnog! None of that strange stuff, though, like pickled oysters or mango liqueur. And do you remember that shower gel that someone bought you, Mrs. C? Made you smell like a flower market: a cheap flower market.
Mrs. C: Thank you for reminding me. Go for quality and simplicity and wrap your gifts with care – you won’t go far wrong. Another always-wonderful gift is a rather special, quality Christmas ornament, like the crystal gems offered annually by Swarovski. They’re a luxurious treat many will not purchase for themselves. And then there are the less tangible gifts.
Ed Elf: My naughty Uncle Sven once gave me a box of thin air to inflate my balloon. Is that what you mean by less tangible?
Mrs. C: I’m thinking tickets or plans for an event or trip that you can perhaps share with a loved one later in time. You know, when we are all back to something more like a normal existence and non-essential trips are back in style. Maybe someone you know has always wanted to visit Highclere Castle after falling for Downton Abbey. Consider a journey on an old steam train or a meander round Harry Potter’s world of wizadry.
Ed Elf: Yes! Yes! I want to go! I want to go! I’ll sort that Voldemort out good and proper.
Mrs. C: Anyway, the advantage of this kind of gift is you can shape it to suit the person’s interests, your pocket and location. You don’t need to have the actual tickets but can instead use print outs of the attraction or brochures you’ve requested, held together in a decorative folder, file or shallow box. It might be you can’t book tickets for the adventure you have in mind quite yet, anyway. Enclose a short letter detailing the gift and reasoning behind it for that added personal touch. It could be that it is a ‘make up’ event for something you couldn’t do because of the restrictions placed on us all in 2020, but know you will be able to do again…one day.
Ed Elf: And if they don’t appreciate all that effort then they’re a miserable old….
Mrs. C: Thank you Ed! Moving on…there’s always the trusty hamper. See our Hampers page for our recommendations. They can be ordered and delivered with minimal fuss. And why not try something a little different, like the Design Museum or British Museum online shops. Indeed, why not be even more adventurous and look at the Metropolitan Museum in New York for gorgeous gifts – that’s if you don’t mind paying a customs charge on top of a shipping fee. Then there are the shops at Highgrove and Buckingham Palace. We have useful website addresses for these in our Elf Helper a little farther down this very page.
Ed Elf: I aim to please.
Mrs. C: These rather regal shops have some inexpensive and desirable products along with beautiful Christmas decorations for any traditional tree. We’re not done there. Also on this page we have ideas for last-minute gifts and an intriguing word on superstition and gift giving. We don’t want bad luck being handed out. That would simply not do any all.
Ed Elf: If you can’t find what you want here, there’s always our tailor-made Presents for Adults, Presents for Children and Presents for Pets sections – plus there are loads of ideas for stocking fillers on our Christmas Stocking Gifts page. Oh yeah – and much more on Gift Websites to Love. Wow – piles of prezzies.
Mrs. C: If none of the myriad of ideas we lay before you still won’t interest that one awkward, tricky or gift-phobic person on your list, there is still hope…and we’re not talking socks. Almost everybody has some charitable cause they believe in, if not actively support. We have a Charity page to give you a head start. A charity donation in someone’s name can be one of the most touching and personal gifts of all. Ultimately, remember this – something you have put a great deal of thought into, but costs a fiver, is preferable every time to a gift five-times as expensive that makes the recipient feel you don’t know them at all. Now then – on to those useful websites.
Highclere Castle, home of Downton Abbey: highclerecastle.co.uk or a variety of tour options at viator.com
Steam train jouneys: railwaytouring.net
Design Museuum: designmuseumshop.com
British Museum: britishmuseumshoponline.org
Metropolitan Museum New York: store.metmuseum.org
Swarovski Crystal: swarovski.com
Buckingham Palace: royalcollectionshop.co.uk
Did you know…the world’s largest Christmas gift is the Statue of Liberty? The French gave it to the United States in 1886 to commemorate the alliance of France and the USA during the American Revolution. The statue in New York is 46.5 metres high and weighs 225 tons. We’d like to have seen someone wrap that.
As you hopefully know by now, the annual How to Christmas countdown calendar starts on November 6. Some people have asked why that date in particular. Well, it’s the day after Bonfire Night here in the UK and, with Halloween having disappeared on to the horizon a few days earlier, autumn celebrations are over. We don’t have Thanksgiving to look forward to, like our chums in the United States. Time, then, from November 6 to focus on Christmas and begin the countdown in earnest to the biggest celebration of all.
However, we also encourage you to get ahead of the Christmas game whenever and however you can. That’s why you can read each and every day of the calendar much earlier in the year if you should so wish. There might be some suggestions on the November and December pages you might employ sooner.
We like to see Easter properly acknowledged and celebrated so, although we have Christmas on our minds to some degree or other 24/7 365 days of the year, it’s normally May when our Christmas-related activity goes up a notch. It’s not quite as crazy as it might sound, especially if there are lots of presents to buy. Even if you bought for just one person a month between May and Christmas, you could have eight people ticked off your list by December. Think of the extra thought you could put into each and every one of those presents. You can manage your budget, too. Christmas 2020 will be an extremely tough one for many people financially after the horrors of the pandemic.
Six months out to the big countdown, we recommend you start a gift drawer – or gift trunk/case/cupboard if you prefer – and start building up your festive stash. Not on the High Street has Christmas stock to purchase all year round, with a great selection of personalised items. Buying a personalised Christmas ornament in May, June, July or August means avoiding the stampede of the festive season. Visit notonthehighstreet.com – a good first port of call.
Tickets for a musical, Christmas concert, carol service or sporting event might ordinarily make a perfect gift. That is not quite so straightforward in 2020. But once we return to more normal times, remember that in future years you may need to act as early as May in any given year to avoid disappointment. For example, in recent years, a third of tickets for the Polar Express steam train journey in the Midlands sold in three days and certain dates were sold out for late December by early May. Please don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking you are peaking too soon.
Elf Helper: If you are struggling to know what to buy someone, tell them you have bought their gift already and ask them to guess what it is. Their replies will give you several gift ideas to enable you to go out and buy the right thing.
“Kindness in words creates confidence.
Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.
Kindness in giving creates love.”
Lao Tzu, Ancient Philosopher from China
Help! Last Minute Buys
Getting caught on the hop should only happen at Easter and you’re rabbit-shaped. Therefore, it is always worthwhile having a few additional gifts on hand in case you have any surprise Christmas visitors. Have a couple of bottles of wine and chocolates in gift bags under the tree. Place a distinctive Christmas bauble in a small gift box. Wrap a classic Christmas CD or DVD. Should the unexpected happen, you’re covered.
Think about keeping a small stock of gifts in throughout the year: perhaps brands such as Kenneth Turner from Achica, who offer cut-price deals on quality products all year round at achica.com – making it possible to purchase scented candles, bath oils and beauty creams at very competitive prices. If they don’t get given away, you can always use the products yourself.
Amazon gift certificates can be bought and printed at home in a matter of minutes – or sent direct to the recipient via email through amazon.co.uk.
Gift cards are usually well received by young and old for games, apps, music and books. Buy a few extra ones in for ideal last-minute gifts. Again, you can always put the leftovers to good use. One4all gift cards – available from most post offices – can be spent at most major shops (around 17,000 of them actually). With so many outlets to choose from, there’s no worry a certain retailer might not be trading by the time you give the gift card. It is also possible to order these cards online and to customise them at one4allgiftcard.co.uk. Zeek’s the place where unwanted and unused gift cards are put to good use. Check out zeek.me or the Zeek app for discounted gift cards for brands and stores.
A festive flower arrangement makes a pleasing last-minute gift. You could also consider using some of the florists mentioned on our Flower Arrangements page. Stores like John Lewis and Marks & Spencer will often do next day delivery for some gifts and flowers, but make sure to double check times, dates and any potential delivery extras if you are cutting it fine.
Superstition & Gift Giving
Any of you out there particularly superstitious? Then you might want to be aware of this little lot. For starters, the superstition attached to the giving of sharp objects, especially knives, is that you must receive a coin in return so as not to sever the relationship. It was often the case that a penny would be attached to the item by the gift giver, stuck to a kitchen knife maybe, so that the recipient could immediately hand it back – friendship intact. In some cultures, it is taboo to give a knife as a gift. We tend to agree. Not very festive. Here are some other old wives tales about gifts:
- Never give a pair of shoes as a Christmas gift as it will make the recipient walk away from you.
- Put money in a purse, wallet or piggy bank if you are giving any of these as gifts. It will bring the recipient good luck and ensure the given item will never be empty.
- Long-stemmed red roses with prickles will cause a relationship to suffer.
- Giving an umbrella as a gift is bad luck – even more so if the recipient then opens it indoors.
- Giving a mirror is high risk as it is fragile and if broken will result in seven years of bad luck.
- Gifts containing or depicting horseshoes pointing upwards, ladybirds, pigs, frogs and four-leaf clovers are good luck.