Written by

Gift Ideas to Help Spread the Holiday Spirit


Way back in elementary school, it was easy to find and give unique gifts during the holiday season. If I wasn’t spending half the school day making ornaments out of old Christmas cards or gluing together macaroni picture frames, the other half of the time I would be in Santa’s Workshop, a gift store that came to our school every year. Santa’s Workshop set up shop in the school library and offered affordable, yet timeless presents for everyone on one’s shopping list.

Before the shopping began, there would be a preview day so that students could browse and plan what they would purchase for those hard-to-shop-for people in their lives. After I would visit, I’d then prepare my list of desired shopping items so that when school let out I would be prepared to go home to plead with my parents for money. Although they would always say they didn’t need or want anything, what they didn’t know was that I had found the something that would complete their lives at Santa’s Workshop.

One year I bought my mom a small blue sandcastle dusted with an irridescent, snow-like sparkle. I fancied it to be the most elegant little statue, a guaranteed conversation starter. The next year I bought my brother a paper clip holder with a magnetic lid for easily accessible paper clips. It even included 25 or so multi-colored paper clips. If that gift didn’t say thoughtful, I don’t know what would.

Now that I’m older, I no longer have the safety net of Santa’s Workshop or classroom crafts to fall back on when Christmas shopping. I worry that my gift will seem insignificant, completely thoughtless, too random, a bad color… the pressure to pick just the right thing for each person can be paralyzing. This year I’ve decided to give a few presents not from the mall. Below are my top non-mall gift ideas (followed by a few from the mall).

1) Christmas Tea — Neither Irene nor I have ever had proper tea before and it has always seemed quite relaxing, so this year I invited her out for some Christmas Spirit (that’s really what our tea was called) at Lisa’s Tea Treasures.

Never have we been more amused with sugar cubes, tea cups and crustless sandwiches. I wanted to eat everything with my pinkies sticking up and Irene kept asking for “two lumps of sugar and just a spot o’ creme.” A rollicking good time was had.

2) Cambodian sausages — My mom has never asked for much for Christmas, so this year, when she asked if I could get her some Cambodian sausages, I was more than happy to. She had a friend in Portland who knew of a lady who made these sausages in San Jose, so all I had to do was call her and drive over to pick them up. When I called her, she had to shout a bit to be heard over the chanting monks in the background which made me think I was calling at a bad time. Nonetheless she told me to come over and so to Eastside I drove. When I showed up at her front door she asked how many I wanted and led me to the bed of her truck where she showed me the different kinds she had — spicy and non-spicy. I took some of both.

Other gift ideas (the mall variety):

3) Digital Photo Frame Keychains — I’ve been wanting one since I saw it in a Black Friday ad. Who cares if the screen is smaller than the one on your phone and of a lower resolution. This one is on a keychain!

See how happy Nathalie is that she has one??

4) A fleecy robe — this is great for keeping warm on a Sunday morning or for putting on when you get home from work, along with your slippers. After I got mine, I put it on and then retreated to the study where I sat by the fireplace in a wing-backed chair so I could smoke my pipe and contemplate the world over.

5) How I Met Your Mother DVDs — Barney and hot chocolate for Christmas? I think I’ve made my point.

Other edible gift ideas:

6) Decorated cookies — show you care with finely detailed decorated cookies. Check out the pleated skirt and purple scarf on the lady cookie below.

7) A Krispy Kreme cake — Give them the best, give them snowmen donuts.

If you run out of ideas and you don’t have time to run out to get some Cambodian sausages, don’t forget the power of a hug! Or a Starbucks/Nordstrom gift card in a high denomination.

Last modified: January 10, 2019