#20: Christmas Shopping for Family

You’ve moved to the Big City to set out on your own. Though it’s been tough, you’ve found yourself and you’re becoming the hip adult you always hoped you’d be. Now as the year comes to a close, you prepare to return to that small, rural hamlet you once called home to introduce your family to the new and improved you. Instead of telling them who you are, this year you’re going to show them with a selection of thoughtful Christmas gifts from the city you now call home. Sure, your family has hinted at gift ideas and your brother even emailed you that link, but anyone could just go out and buy something like a coffee pot. Instead, you’re going to your local shops to get them gifts with meaning. Tell your dad to have the camcorder ready because this’ll be the best Christmas ever.

Whoa there, Hipster Kris Kringle. Remember that even though your new urban environment has helped you change, the people back home haven’t changed at all. They’re still going to be the same people you left behind, just like those boot cut, wide leg jeans. And if you bring a suitcase full of artisanal gifts, that wintery ice you’re standing on will get real thin, real fast.

Sure, you can plan a weekend trip to your artsy part of town, and you can find that hand-screened poster that sums up your older sister to a T. Man, that would look good in her kitchen; like a stenciled beacon of your affection. And she may even feel fortunate knowing it’s numbered 3/20 of an extremely limited quantity. But before you give it to her, you’d better include that mixing bowl she specifically asked for, otherwise you’re just giving her artsy garbage that wasn’t made by her kids. You see, she doesn’t care that your gift is practically one of a kind. She only knows that it’s not the mixing bowl she clearly spelled out in writing. Don’t take it to heart. It’s nothing personal; she’ll just think you’re an illiterate idiot.

Thankfully you have nephews who still totally adore you and will love any gift you offer since it came from the one and only you. You’re going to leave all that Made In China junk at the sad mall toy story where it belongs because you only buy non-plastic toys (you’re part of the solution). Oh how they’ll be ecstatic over the organic gifts their “cool” uncle brought them, and their tiny minds won’t believe wood could be crafted so expertly… Then you wake up 10 years later to find your nephews still haven’t forgiven you for that Christmas present. Don’t be stupid and think your nephews are concerned about plastics, toxins, or safety. Were your gifts featured in commercials during a recent broadcast on Nickelodeon? If not, they don’t exist and neither do you, Uncle “Mom’s Stupid Brother.” Children do not see you as some sage, Far East traveler bringing them exotic gifts from beyond their dreams. Children see you as a coin purse that can buy them extravagant, mainstream toys they can’t afford themselves. Your hippy idea of post-consumer recycled material doesn’t matter if the toy sucks.

Giving your family hip, personalized gifts might fly at birthdays, but you better have your act together at Christmas because this is the one that counts. Yes, the commercialization of Christmas is awful, but so is showing up at your parents’ house looking like a pretentious jerk. Just bite the bullet and buy them the things they actually want, but don’t bring up the fact that they could have just bought it for themselves. If you don’t have the strength to buy the kids crap from TV ads, buy them tickets to an event they like and attend it with them. It’s not the instant gratification they’ll hope is under the tree, but it’ll be a chance to spend time with them, which is what they’re really after anyway. By doing this you’ll be creating memories that’ll last a lifetime, and it’ll give them a chance to see how cool you are… which may keep this fiasco from happening next Christmas.