To be fair, I’m not a present purist. When it comes to Christmas, there are few philosophies I stand by universally, except this: the best gifts for the ones you love are the ones they’ll love. What this means, for my own small crew, is that no matter how much I want to dole out magazine subscriptions and museum memberships, I sometimes find myself herding an overstuffed rainbow-colored llamacorn through the aisles of our supermarket and later stashing it in a neighbor’s attic until December 24th.
(Don’t tell Bee, ok?)
Still, there are a few standby gift experiences that I love to give and my family loves to receive. And so: if you’re in need of a healthy jolt of Christmas creativity (and a llamacorn alternative), might I suggest the below?
For Your Significant Other
This gift hit the jackpot four years ago, and it’s been going strong since. If your spouse, partner or significant other is notoriously terrible at taking time out for themselves (everyone I know, currently), this one is an absolute win.
Simply snag a yearly planner (I like this simple version, but these fancied-up styles are perfect for overachievers) and get ready to pencil out some serious dates. Plan that getaway to Nashville in March, perhaps a local cherry festival in the summer. Do some research – when does the zoo open? Stash an annual pass inside the planner for a family outing. Favorite band coming to town? Paperclip tickets to that month. Date night at your favorite restaurant? Call the sitter in advance and tape a gift card on Friday. Buy a pre-packaged set of massages and scatter them throughout the year.
Enlist his/her friends to help. A golf tournament with his brother in July? Check. Movie night with his best friend? Check. 1:1 date nights with the kids? Check.
Bonus: if there’s something your significant other has always wanted to do/learn (rock-climbing! pottery! run a marathon!), now is the perfect time to write it down in black and white. Break their big dreams down into sizeable action steps, month after month, and they’ll feel your support all year long.
Cost: $15 + any experiences, reservations and tickets you purchase to include.
For Parents, Neighbors, and Friends Who Feel Like Family
Two winters ago, Ken and I splurged on a Sunbasket subscription once/month. In a season where date nights felt elusive and hard to come by, they were the perfect excuse to hunker down, pour a tall glass of merlot, and cook something special we wouldn’t have dreamed up otherwise. Since then, we’ve stuck to a near-monthly delivery schedule (we often skip weeks where time feels strained), and every time a delivery arrives, we treat ourselves to a late, slow dinner after the kids go down. From smoky turkey chili with butternut squash and watercress to steak with tarragon béarnaise and roasted winter vegetables, the meals are ever-delicious, and it’s a perfect way to build togetherness into our family rhythm.
Last year, I gifted a subscription to a new mother struggling to find the energy for dinner prep, but it’s also a perfect for parents, teachers, or your favorite neighbors. Our friends’ small group splits a subscription: they each rotate a week for whoever can come and dine, and they’ve found it to be a lovely excuse to ensure they’re making time for community in an otherwise harried season.
Cost: $40 (with $40 discount here!).
For The Littles
Experiences can be trickier for the little ones to truly treasure, as instant gratification begs for something – anything! – to unwrap under the glistening tree. I find craft kits to be a surprisingly perfect solution here, both for busying the littles on the exciting day, and for safe-keeping long after.
My very favorite kits are equal parts gift + event, i.e. a jewelry-making kit paired with an afternoon tea party downtown to take your new creations for a spin. Or a toy camera kit paired with a photo scavenger hunt around the house.
For Everyone Else, and Those Faraway
I love the ritual of holiday cards – the lighting of the fire, pouring of the tea, writing of the memories. And yet: it occurred to me this year that it might be lovely to hold off on sending them in December and instead, save them for a rainy day?
This year, I’m harnessing my Christmas correspondence momentum and pre-addressing an everyday postcard for anyone on my holiday card list. But instead of flooding every mailbox in December, I plan to trickle them throughout the year. With a hope and a prayer, they’ll arrive on a day where they’re needed, rather than expected.
Cost: $12 for 52 postcards here.
p.s. Tell me: what experiences are you gifting to your loved ones? I want to hear everything!