I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that it’s better to give than to receive, but with so much pressure to get someone the perfect gift is that really always the case? Following Christmas, my best memories of the season often encompass a very real sense of accomplishment and joy after giving a successful present, in spite of the inevitable occasional misfire. Here are my top three happiest gift-giving moments from 2016. What’s the best gift that you gave last year?
3. Taking the pressure off a friend and organising her birthday
When my best friend turned 25, she was feeling disillusioned with birthday celebrations and too stressed out to plan anything. Annoyingly determined for her to have a Good Time (and adamant that 25 was offensively young for her to feel so old) I hid 10 envelopes around her house. *Cue treasure hunt!* Each contained a clue which led to the next envelope alongside revealing the activities which I’d planned for the day, from tickets to a science exhibition to dinner reservations. The best part was spending quality time with a woman I love and making her – temporarily – less bitter about the aging process. Plus we ended the day watching the Spice World movie, so that’s something.
2. A gift which someone actually wants
Last year my boyfriend turned 30. Embarrassingly skint and feeling low – I was in my third month of ‘sofa surfing’ whilst I saved up to move house – I decided to get creative. We’d just embarked on a long-distance relationship so after some research I made 30 ‘open when’ letters. As soon as I saw his Face of Amazement at the PS4 his two besties got him I realised that the most successful present is often the one which somebody actually wants, and that means Money sometimes trumps Time. Whilst I’d never be able to save up for a PS4 (plus, you know, he probably doesn’t need a second one) this Autumn I saved up hard, bought him some sake and a ceramic sake set which he loved, and… wait for it, wait for that beautiful Face of Amazement while I cackle gleefully… a one night Hobbit Hole experience!! Yeah, this is basically just a night glamping up north, but it’s right up his street. He might not have expected it, but he definitely wanted it.
If Sebby was reading this he’d probably defend the hell out of the time and effort that went into those thirty letters. But sometimes? Researching a gift someone will truly love is an equally great use of your time and effort as trying to go super personal. Of course, most of us could never afford the gift which would truly floor someone. In my case, Sebby’s Face of Amazement was followed by a worried look – ‘how much did you spend on this?’ The good news is that anyone worth knowing cares a lot more about you than the presents you buy them and they would never want you to put yourself out for them.
Occasionally saving up is worth it, but that’s not to say that ‘homemade’ gifts are always a novelty or second best… *
1. A personal ‘homemade’ gift
My boyfriend’s cousin has two little girls, aged 6 and 8. I’m scared of kids; often I find their opinions to be much more sensible than an adults which is incredibly intimidating. But somehow in December 2015 I managed to trick these girls into liking me. This was no easy feat as Sebby hadn’t taken a girl home before and they were initially very suspicious. So I did what any normal person would do; I pretended to be a monster. After some time chasing them around the house as they screamed in terror, I began to roar ferociously. “I only became a monster because no one wanted to be my friend!’ *cue pretend monster crying* It turns out that a gruesome but lonely monster is much preferred to competing for Sebby’s affections. Two months later the girls danced around in dragon costumes whilst I played the Exorcist theme tune on a piano. I was in with the cool crowd!
The family Christmas party had to be cancelled this year. I won’t go into details but during my first day at Sebby’s parents house I watched A Series of Unfortunate Events with his mum and I am sure that the only explanation for the fiascos that ensued is that Count Olaf crawled out of the screen to cause havoc for the rest of the holiday. (Come to think of it, the next day I watched The Grinch… what was I thinking?) As a result I didn’t get to give the girls the 3000 short story I wrote them, which followed the adventures of them and their dog. People say that the best part of gift-giving is seeing the happiness on someone’s face when they open their present but in this case I wasn’t actually there.
Last night Sebby’s sister text me to say they received and loved their gift. In a video of the girls saying ‘Merry Christmas’ they completely ignored the camera; their eyes were too fixed on the story to actually look up. I replied; ‘I hope they like it. I hope it makes sense. I hope it’s okay.’ And then I received this final message:
‘They absolutely love it!!! Sarah wants it her bedtime story instead of Harry Potter xxx’
For someone who was afraid of kids just over a year ago, this really felt like a surprise gift-giving success. To conclude? I’m definitely Team Give! Although that’s not to say I’ve never been tempted to switch sides; my boyfriend wants to make me feel special, my best friend is a genius and there’s a rumour that my boyfriend’s mum is Mrs Claus (still to be confirmed). I didn’t enjoy Christmas growing up and finding myself under a pile of wrapping paper the last 2 years? Please don’t judge me guys; I like it. (Shhh!)
When it really comes down to it, do you prefer to give or to receive?
*I know some people make their own beautiful gifts or are super crafty, but for many of us trying to make a present when we’re out of money means drawing a face on an apple (my friend explained that baking ingredients are expensive for a beginner), making a Christmas decoration out of a tampon (hint: just add glitter) or cutting holes in an old t-shirt and pretending it’s Mean Girls merchandise. Anyone who isn’t grateful for a gift does of course belong in the Burn Book nonetheless.