‘Tis the Week Before Christmas … And the Crush is On!

All right, so we have only seven days left until the big event. If you exchange gifts with colleagues, the countdown is even tighter.

If you’re like I was three decades ago, you’ll have done much of your shopping in September, or perhaps procrastinated all the way to November.

If so, you may be feeling – not smug – but pretty good about your organisational skills. Heck, you may even be prone to breaking out into Christmas songs, either contemporary or classic.

While others (not my London readers; they are, instead, struggling with their trains) are scrambling for parking spaces or (depending on your budget and your locale) finding themselves in a crush of fellow shoppers, the September and October shoppers likely also have their wrapping all done.

They may be enjoying school or other concerts and recitals or watching holiday specials at home, sipping eggnog (which I never have liked) or another beverage of choice.

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, there are year-end and other social gatherings with colleagues and friends

… with all the temptations such events bring. The truly virtuous among us (Dalya, Deb, Leeanne and Melissa, among others) have no doubt been maintaining or exceeding their regular fitness routines, whether or not they plan to indulge in all the goodies appearing on office desks this week.

The Crafty Ones

If you abhor the thought of cooking, let alone the other domestic arts, please skip this section entirely or you may be about to be nauseated. Consider yourself warned.

However, if you’re at a stage I enjoyed about a decade and a half ago, you’ve been making home made cards to send near and far. You’ve sewn holiday-themed aprons for little ones, or had the kidlets sit with you at your sewing machine to help make seasonal placemats or even quilted wall hangings for the grandparents. Perhaps, as I did, you’ve been sipping wine as you wait for the paint to fully dry on the hand painted Christmas ornaments you’ve lovingly crafted for your little ones, or for little ones who technically belong to other people but hold important places in your heart.

As you dabbed paint here, and signed the year and your initials there (on the back of the ornaments, obviously), you’ve been envisioning how your future adults will be clamouring to take these ornaments for their own Christmas trees when they move away from home.

A word to the wise: they (the ornaments, if not your future young adults!) may well still be in your home a decade from now, but that doesn’t mean the kids won’t appreciate you.

Fast Forward to the Next Stage

If you’re like many people at my stage in the game, your young adults don’t really want or need things. Nor do the older adults, unless it’s a bottle of the good stuff.

Whatever peoples’ perceptions of millennials, and while there will always be consumers, my experience is that many are highly conscious of consumption, energy and all manner of important things. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t use a bit of help, though; they may enjoy experiences (simple or luxurious), or good old fashioned cash or gift cards that come in handy when you’re starting out. Even those on tight budgets may prefer that you donate on their behalf to a cause.

For many at this stage, stocking stuffers become your call to creativity.

Giving Because You Can

You may already have given gifts, donations or time to others this season. I know a number of readers volunteer their presence, and their ears, which can sometimes be the most valuable gifts of all.

Working in a post-secondary institution, we have thousands of students. I value a tradition we have on campus, in which various departments “adopt” students who have identified themselves as parents who could use a bit of help at this time of year.  Assorted departments are assigned respective students, who will typically remain anonymous but provide hints through a coordinating office. We ask them to let us know their children’s ages, clothing sizes (and preferred colours) and interests.

Departmental colleagues chip in cash and then get together to plan out who will buy what for their respective “families”. There will often be grocery store and movie theatre gift certificates, clothing and toys for the kidlets, and sometimes a little something just for the parents – who typically ask that the focus be on their own little ones. I know that these families benefit, but the people doing the giving – and wrapping, typically over a lunch break – also look forward to this each year.

Hostess Gifts, and Those Little Somethings  For Others On Your List

If you’ve not yet found that little something special for a host/hostess, colleague, friend or relative, try to avoid impulse buying. Think about what’s meaningful to the individual, and her or his interests – whether it’s a donation on their behalf, a treat they’d not normally buy themselves, or something else.

Do they like scent, or run from it? Are you shopping for a gardener, an animal lover, a reader or a music lover? Is this a relatively serious person, or someone who would appreciate a cheeky gift? Think it through before you brave the crowds. To help you out, I’ll be posting a few suggestions over the next few days. Here are some starters.

What Do You Recommend for Colleagues?

If you’ve found a tried and true gift idea for people with whom you like to exchange a little something, feel free to click on the “Comment” section and let others know.

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