My family has a tradition of giving people exactly what they want or need. You give me a list, and you will get something on that list, preferably something that can and will be used. For example, when I started driving, the garage I used had no automatic opener on it. I had to get out of my car, unlock the garage door, open it, get back in my car, and drive in. Now, this is really more of an inconvenience than anything else, but I had a good reason for wanting a garage door opener for Christmas. I was on the swim team in high school. That particular winter was one of the coldest and snowiest on record, which meant that when I got home from practice and got out of the car, my wet hair would freeze solid. Seriously. So, I asked for a garage door opener for Christmas. Dad and I spent Christmas afternoon that year installing it. I was thrilled; my friends thought I was insane.
This practicality extended to gifts from Santa. How many people got underwear from Santa? For some reason I never understood growing up, Santa always brought my dad colorful underwear. Every year Dad got at least three new packs. Santa gifts were usually one big thing and lots of little things like bookmarks and pencils with your name on them. I’m still using those pencils. They’re very handy at work where things tend to “walk off” and disappear. Pencils with your name on them always seem to find their way home again.
My family opened gifts on Christmas Eve. We’d eat dinner, open gifts, and then attend the late night service. My sister and I would pull the gifts out from under the tree and pile them up for each person in a different chair or corner of the couch. We were the “gift elves.” Each person sat next to their pile. Remembering which chair/corner was yours was important because Santa left his gifts in the same place. The images you see of people tearing into gifts all at once with paper flying everywhere didn’t happen at our house. We actually opened our gifts one at a time, each person taking their turn and paying attention to each person during their turn. I’m amazed that my sister and I had that much patience as kids, but apparently we did. Inevitably, one gift was matching nightclothes for my sister and I, which we would wear that night. The pictures on Christmas morning of us exploring our stockings and Santa gifts always had us in matching nightclothes. Were your Santa gifts wrapped? Ours never were. We each had a pile of Santa gifts in our designated space. My sister and I were different enough it was never hard to tell which pile belonged to whom.
Thank you notes
We wrote thank you cards. One of the…umm…benefits of us opening gifts one at a time is that someone could keep a list for each person of what they got and from whom. The few days after Christmas my sister and I would spend a little time each day writing thank you notes, whether we liked the gift or not. Somewhere over the years I got out of this habit…but shh…don’t tell my mother. She’d be apalled. [Hi, Mom!]
Hazards of wrapped gifts generally involved the cat and curling ribbon. She loved curling ribbon. She’d chew on it, eat it, and generally massacre any curling ribbon she could find, including ribbon still on the roll! We had to make sure any gift with curling ribbon under the tree was under another gift so she couldn’t get to it. She also had a blast playing with the wrapping paper after we opened gifts. That, to her, was an awesome gift. A big pile of crinkled up paper and paper balls to attack and spaz out in. And don’t forget the boxes to hide in. A kitty dream, I tell you.
We all keep wish lists. You know you do. Even if you never write it down you have a list in your head of things you’d love to have. My sister and I would spend hours going over the big toy book from whatever department store we got it from. It was sad the day Sears discontinued their Wish Book. I have many a fond memory of me, my sister, that book, and a marker for circling the things we wanted. As kids, our gifts weren’t nearly as practical, but as we got older, they became more so, although there was always that one thing on the list just because you wanted it, no practicality necessary.
Now I keep my wish list on line via Amazon. With friends and family scattered all over the globe, it’s the easiest way to let people know what I’m interested in. My wish lists usally consist of things I’d love to have and that I would use, but that I’d probably never buy for myself. And of course, it’s not just one big unorganized list, but rather multiple lists, each with a different theme: DVDs, kitchen, music, etc. [Before you pick on me, remember, I organize things for a living. It’s what catalogers, us librarians maintaining the library catalog, do.] I try to get my friends to give their wish lists as well. Sometimes I find that perfect gift that’s not on their wish list (the things you see that just “scream” that person), but usually I stick to the list.
What kind of gifts do you give? Practical or just fun stuff?