Three Holiday Spirits of Giving

Holiday shopping would be a snap if it were just a matter of time and plastic. Ring it up, wrap it up, and pour yourself some eggnog.

But this generous act can become an anxious affair, given the Goldilocks Syndrome: We don’t just want to give a gift, but The Gift, one that’s just right for each of our special someones.

Matching present to person requires a strategy. Just as Christmas has three ghosts, there are three spirits of holiday gift giving: the Spirit of You, the Spirit of Me and the Spirit of Let’s Just Get It Over With. Figuring out which spirit should guide you for each person on your list save time and anguish.

The Spirit of Let’s Just Get It Over With: On first blush this approach seems like a bad attitude. But it’s the safe choice for people you don’t know too well or people you added to your list out of a sense of obligation such as co-workers or distant relatives. Instead of guessing what they might like, a mail-order gift basket or department store gift certificate is just right.

The Spirit of You: The traditional gift-giving strategy hinges on your knowledge of the recipient’s taste. Does she love classical music or nature? Is he into foreign films or punk rock? Ask for a list. See what the person wants and riff, choosing something close yet surprising. (This works for most people over 15. For the younger set, get them exactly what they want or they might shoot you that mournful look I gave my parents when I was 10.)

The Spirit of Me: Dicey yet satisfying, this approach should be used only for close family members and friends. It is gift-giving as a personal statement, whereby your present says something about your values and your taste: the book that changed your life, the record that turned you on to jazz, the film that made you love the movies. Enclose a short note explaining why this gift meant so much to you and you can deepen your lifelong bond.

Follow these steps and your holiday gift giving will be easy leaving you more time to shop for yourself.


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