It’s that most wonderful time of the year when I set in motion my annual strategy for holiday shopping.
Each year I come up with a foolproof plan to get my shopping done early, with as little stress as possible and without loss of blood — mine or anyone else’s.
It involves starting early, relying on shopping lists that tell me exactly what I want to buy, avoiding impulse purchases and getting in and out of stores quickly.
Alas, my strategy, reviewed and updated every year, never proves foolproof. I always “need” one or two more gifts that I suddenly remember on Christmas Eve.
Truly, is there anything more depressing than shopping for gifts on Christmas Eve when the stores are full of desperate men with eyes glazed over as they fill their shopping carts with the last of the salami-and-cheese collections, big cans of caramel corn and bath sets with loofah scrubbers?
So my mission this holiday season is to avoid that scene. I like to shop in the city, but I also like some of the bigger department stores that are now largely in suburbia. (I have a special affection for Macy’s because of “Miracle on 34th Street.”)
So I’ll be dividing my shopping trips between downtown and the malls.
A friend does much of her shopping online, and though I realize that’s efficient, I like to see what’s in the stores and observe fellow shoppers and what they’re purchasing.
One part of my strategy has already fallen by the wayside. I just started shopping but should have begun it weeks ago. So I’ll shop faster. I remain confident that everything will be acquired and ready for giving well before Christmas Eve.
The advent of the gift bag combined with tissue paper as an acceptable alternative to wrapping paper and ribbons has been a wonderful shift in holiday etiquette for me.
The gifts I give look like they were wrapped by someone lacking opposable thumbs.
My goal in wrapping is to wind up with at least one side of the package that looks good and then to mask the rest with stick-on bows. Sometimes my gifts will have five or six bows on them, possibly a sign that somebody was enjoying a little eggnog while doing his wrapping.
Gift bags and tissue paper make my oddly shaped, lumpy presents, however traditional they’ve become in my family, a thing of the past. I can simply drop presents in a gift bag, add some tissue paper which I’m told should be of a color that is complementary to the bag — whatever that means — and make out the tag. Voila! And you can do that with eggnog without mucking it up too badly.
As for gifts, I like to give books because I think they’re one of the best things you can give, even if the recipient isn’t all that big on reading. There are books for every taste, and I’m good at matching people on my gift list with books they would enjoy.
Of course, I realize that a book isn’t going to be received with a lot of enthusiasm by somebody who wants, say, a motorcycle. But if it’s in a gift bag, chances are they’ll guess it’s not a motorcycle right away.
On that topic, I never say a word about what a present might be before I open it. Not after the ham incident.
A friend visited us one holiday season bearing a good-sized present which we set aside to open later. As we sat around chatting and enjoying some holiday cheer, he mentioned that I might want to refrigerate the gift because it was perishable.
“As long as it’s not another ham,” I said jokingly. “Everybody gave us a ham this year. If I never see another ham, I’ll die a happy man.”
You know where this is going, right?
Irv Dean is the Gazette's city editor. Reach him by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.