There’s so much more to Easter than chocolate bunnies and easter eggs. And heaven knows aren’t we trying to be good and cut down on saturated fats and sugar?
Perhaps this Easter, if you’re into gift giving, it’s time to think beyond the smooth dark stuff and reach out for something else, although hopefully not of the white elephant variety.
But chocolate is safe and in abundance at Easter I hear you say.
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Yes, I know that you know what it’s like.
However, most kids these days don’t need more chocolate, so why not instead give them an experience, or take them to a show, or a sporting event? Do something with them which will give them a much better memory than just another chocolate egg.
And beyond Easter let’s take a look at the bigger picture of gift giving – Birthday, Christmas, anytime – how do you buy the perfect gift?
You know what it can be like – buy a gift for someone and you watch their face for their reaction as they open it.
First the excitement of a present. Then the anticipation of peeling off the wrapping paper, and then you watch their lips. Do they give a great big uber happy smile, do they hug and kiss you instantly, or do they say “Thank You” with a polite smile that doesn’t quite reach their eyes?
I’ve watched all three reactions many times over and I’ve also (ahem) fallen foul of the last reaction.
You know you do try to be jubilant whatever the gift is don’t you? But isn’t it true for all of us that at some time, be it Christmas, a birthday or or an anniversarythat we do secretly wonder why people buy us certain presents? Presents which at first sighting are, well, a bit odd?
Gift receiving etiquette
I’ll admit my sins. With a smile painted upon my face, learnt from years of practice and decades of family indoctrination, I carefully unwrap my gifts. At the back of my mind are the occasions when as a child I wondered why Granny had bought me yet another pair of knickers, when I would dearly have loved a doll, or when aunts and uncles spent hard earned cash on nighties, when everyone surely knew I only wore pyjamas.
Yet, all were well meant, lovingly selected gifts which had been chosen with care.
Here’s a link to what I think is a really funny YouTube video. A sketch from the British Comedy series “Alan Carr Chatty Man” when, among other things, comedian Michael McIntyre is given a present to unwrap. Watch it and weep, you’ll either love it or hate it.
And isn’t the immediate lead up to Easter holidays or Christmas a really bad time to buy gifts? Everyone pushing through busy shopping malls and crowded stores with head scratching intent and pounding headaches, clutching lists. They have a limited budget, and even less time to accomplish the endless task in hand. There has to be a point when the will breaks and seriously odd objects become le cadeau juste.
Birthdays are marginally less tricky because you don’t get the crowds.
“Next year, we’ll only give her a Birthday Card, Easter Card or a Christmas Card,” is the thought echoing at the back of many people’s minds, and yet year after year we will often end up giving, or receiving, ill-chosen, unimportant, meaningless, or irrelevant gifts.
In traditional fashion on high days and holidays many of you will gently take off the enticing wrapping paper, which may well be recycled (so might the present), and wonder smilingly out loud what on earth the present could be.
Out pops a china ornament which bears no significance to your life, taste or household decor whatever.
“I do hope you like it,” the giver will say emotionally and with your bravest smile you will naturally kiss them and assure them the painted porker is absolutely delightful and will have pride of place on a kitchen shelf.
Mistakes and White Elephants
In our house we have a cupboard full of white elephants; strange china ornaments, odd looking trays, gaudy pictures, and the like, which we have to remember to put on display when various people come around to visit. Some things you just dare not recycle.
One friend, married for 10 years, was hoping for an anniversary gift which would truly reflect 10 years of happy marriage. The fact that it nearly caused a divorce proves my point. Although her husband had probably spent hours ruffling around the shops but what he finally managed to come up with did not meet my friend’s expectations.
“It was the sort of thing you might give to a mistress, or a girlfriend,” she wailed, “I am his wife of 10 years!”
Another girlfriend was hoping for some sexy lingerie for her birthday – she received a lawnmower.
“More practical,” her husband retorted, “you’re always complaining about the grass – and your weight.”
I once gave my hubby an electric carving knife, “because you’re always complaining you never have a knife sharp enough to carve the Sunday roast.” He was not amused, nor delighted.
Getting it wrong
I don’t know how an old school chum came to be given a box of tea bags for Christmas when she’d asked her husband for perfume, although he did reason that they were Earl Grey and had a pleasant aroma.
I gave someone a stone peacock doorstop for Christmas. I thought it was lovely. I never saw it at her house again – inside or out.
Once I made the mistake of giving our son some board games and books – but I realise now that unless his presents have a square screen or something to do with electronics, I might as well save my time, effort and money.
I nearly always give my husband something for his office, yet he can’t wait to get away from his office each day.Why do I do it? I don’t know. It’s as if something strange possesses me the moment I’m in a stationery store – buy something to reflect the importance of his time spent at work.
Call me Philistine, Scrooge or killjoy if you like, but I think we should make a stand against consumerism for consumerism’s sake.
After all, someone’s getting rich on our white elephants.
10 Tips on How to Buy the perfect gift at Easter or any time of year
- Spend a day shopping with the person you’re buying for. Watch and listen carefully.
- Ask what music they’re currently into. Have they got ……?
- Look along their bookshelves. See if any authors feature predominantly. Buy that author’s latest offering.
- Take note of the colour scheme in their house. Do they prefer traditional, modern, or antique furnishings. Be guided by their taste, not your own.
- Buy a magazine which regularly gives gift ideas. Sit down over a cup of coffee and chat about interesting must-have items or popular events. Watch your friend’s reaction.
- Don’t buy run-of-the-mill items your friend uses everyday. There’s no feel-good factor for either of you.
- Do not buy strange china ornaments – all they’re good for is dusting.
- Think carefully before bringing back native handicrafts from other countries. They might look good in their country of origin, but certain things will look out of place elsewhere.
- Steer clear of impersonal items – unless you know they really want something practical for the house or garden.
- Get together with a few people and decide on one big present which you can all chip in for. Several brains are better than one.
Some of my favourite places for buying gifts in Western Australia
Vasse Virgin natural olive oil factory – Margaret River (available online)
Mount Romance Sandalwood Factory – Albany (available online)
Efez of the Heart – Bunbury
Lloyds of Margaret River – on the main street/Bussell Highway (you’ll have to foot it as they don’t have a website. But it’s an emporium).
What’s the STRANGEST gift you’ve ever been given?