Elizabeth: Other Thoughts on Gifts

Smiling Christmas snowflake ornament on the tree
© Eldridge Photography

According to the calendar, Christmas is just a little over a week away.  It seems hard to believe that could be true, on the other hand, this year seems like it has lasted just short of forever, so I’m pretty sure time is no longer running in a straight line.

Here in the Writing Castle, the lights on the tree are sparkling and I haven’t managed to kill the poinsettia plants yet, so I’m all set for whenever Christmas decides to appear, though I should probably bake some cookies, just in case.

I was listening to the car radio as I drove to the grocery store yesterday and the expert (of some sort) who was talking said this year will be especially hard for those who have been struggling to make ends meet all year and said that it would not be uncommon for those who are struggling to overspend for the holidays thinking, “I’m already in such a hole, what’s a little more debt?”  It reminded me of my first job, working at a department store.  I loved working there, except for during the holidays–when overspending was definitely on display.

The second expert on the radio yesterday–I think she was a psychologist–was from the “experiences not things” camp, which is the one I’ve been in for the past few years.  I remember when I was a kid, my grandparent’s idea of Christmas was a potted plant and a box of Sees Candy.  At the time I thought “how can they not have a tree and decorations and presents?” and was sure that I would never be like that.  I haven’t given up on the tree and decorations, but I’m starting to understand their holiday streamlining a little better, especially as I look around at a houseful of stuff.

For the last few years, our gifts–other than small stocking stuffers–have been activities.  One year it was brunch at a really nice restaurant I’d been hearing about for a long time; another year it was glass blowing.  This past holiday’s gift of tickets to see Hamilton wasn’t quite a success–the tickets were for a performance just after the pandemic broke–but on the whole, “experiences” have turned out very well.

This year, we’re going to try a Bob Ross Joy of Painting activity on Christmas Day, somewhere after the eggs benedict but before the roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.  If you’re not familiar with Bob Ross, he had a painting show on television from the 1983 to 1994, where he showed viewers how to paint landscapes with mountains and rivers and happy, happy trees.  Youtube has a whole Bob Ross channel, where you can watch full episodes of his show and paint right along with him.   We’ve got our canvases, brushes, and a set of paints that the Amazon guy just dropped off on the porch.  Who knows what the paintings will actually look like, but that’s not really the point.  If we have fun and some laughs, I’ll consider it a success.

Considering a holiday (or non-holiday) “experience” of your own?

While things are a bit limited during the current shut-downs, there are still things you can do with the help of Zoom, Facetime, or something similar.

How about a virtual wine tasting?  Google seems to have lots of ideas about that.  I did a virtual wine tasting a few months ago as part of a virtual conference I was participating in.  The wines were sent ahead of time, along with some snacks, and as we sat their with our wine and our Zoom screens, it was almost like a regular wine tasting, though we had to open our own bottles. As a plus, no worrying about driving home after drinking!

Not a fan of wine, how about a virtual tour of Florence and Tuscany?  The free webinar, which I came across on Facebook the other day, is on January 20th and is from Girl Travel Tours.  There are undoubtedly many others out there as well.  I’m looking forward to seeing Tuscany without having to spend countless hours in a plane to get there.  It won’t be the same as actually being there, but after staring at the walls of my own house for the last ten months, I think it will be an excellent “experience.”

Courtesy of Youtube and various museum and travel sites, you can find virtual tours of a number of museums and galleries.  A glass of wine, a plate of appetizers, a comfortable couch, and a virtual walk through the Musée d’Orsay–that sounds like a nice way to spend the afternoon.  I just may have to add that to my own schedule.

Prefer some virtual nature instead?  Both Yellowstone National Park, and the Yosemite National Park provide a way for virtual visitors to “walk” the trails.”  While the San Diego Zoo, the Georgia Aquarium and the Monterey Bay Aquarium offer live webcam viewings of pandas, penguins and beluga whales.  Not quite the same as being up close and personal, but maybe the next best thing.

Or maybe your idea of the perfect “experience” is to cuddle up on the couch with a blanket (or a loved one) and watch a movie.  With all of the streaming sites out there now, there is bound to be something to catch your fancy and, as a plus, there’s nothing to wrap and no boxes to cleanup afterward.

Virtual experiences can provide a nice break from the day to day and can help refill the creative well or, if you’re lucky, provide a creativity jump-start.

So, what ideas would you add to the “experiences” list?

10 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Other Thoughts on Gifts

  1. Lovely post!
    I used to paint Christmas cards for special people – mum, partner and special friends – and it was such a relaxing thing to do. In these days of ever-on working, I wonder where I got the time.
    So I think that’s what I’d like for an experience – time. Time to do some of the things I used to do, but don’t do now. Painting is one of them. Dancing and kareoke is another, to bring out my ‘always nearer the surface than I think’ inner diva.

    • “Time” sounds like a great experience. I use to do so many more things in the past and I wonder too where I got the time. Though maybe I’m missing “the inclination” rather than “the time.” Priorities have definitely shifted over the years.

      Good luck on finding ways to bring our your inner diva 🙂

    • I love the “closed house” idea. That’s so smart for these crazy times, and a way to have a connection, but from a safe distance.

    • Getting together outside would be a pretty chilly gathering where you are, wouldn’t it? I’m pretty much uncomfortable with gathering with anyone–inside or out–for any length of time. If some solitary time now is going to give me (and others) a better chance to have social time a little further down the line, then I’m okay with that. I do miss being able to hug my kid though.

  2. I’m all for experiences, too, especially under more “normal” times. Often kids get so much stuff that having a fun family outing is a way to indulge and create memories at the same time. I’d been planning to treat myself to what I thought was an online experience at vangoghSF.com, but I just checked, and—oh, no! It opens in March, and it’s all indoors. You actually have to go there! So that’s not going to happen. Perhaps I’ll content myself with Christmas day at my friend’s place with the patio and outdoor heater. Sounds like the very thing to celebrate the holiday!

  3. These are some really great ideas!

    I only have one idea to contribute — Zoom story time of some sort. If you all have a copy of The Christmas Carol, you could lower the lights and take turns reading Dickens’ classic. Or, you can tell ghost stories around a campfire background. (Ghost stories are very traditional at Christmas! See the Dickens classic just mentioned.) Or maybe if everyone is creative, take turns telling a new story; each person gets 15 seconds or one sentence, and you go around the zoom meeting.

    We’re doing a very practical Christmas. Warm shirts. Books. Blankets. I’ve heard there’s a Czech tradition for four gifts: something soft, something hard, something you need and something you want.

    • I love the idea of doing a Zoom story time–either reading/telling an existing story or making up a new one, with everyone contributing a bit. The possibilities are endless.

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