Friday 28 April 2017

Gift-giving all wrapped up

Giving and receiving presents should be stress-free, says Constance Harris who has the following tips...

Constance Harris

Having chatted to people about it over the past two weeks, listened to lots of radio talk and spent the weekend working on a stall, which was partly in aid of the St Vincent de Paul, at the excellent Dublin Flea Market (see www.dublinflea.ie for the last one on today in Newmarket Square, Dublin 8), I have a pretty clear picture about the most important thing that must be said about buying gifts for Christmas.

It is about joy. Comfort and joy. The gifts you buy must bring you, as well as the receiver, comfort and joy. If trying to buy gifts is a source of pain and anxiety, I implore you -- don't buy them. A gift at such a cost is not a gift.

Secondly, if you are time poor as well as cash poor, I recommend making a list. It calms the anxiety as to where you will find the time because in the doing of the list you will work out a strategy to combat the problem. Like in a battle. This way you won't lose your sanity, or your shirt.

On the list, create four columns under the headings: name, amount, ideas and done.

List everyone you want to remember and how much you want to spend on each person.

In the "ideas" column listing a few things helps clarify in your head whether the gifts you are thinking of are right for them.

The reason for the "Done" column is to, a) stop you buying too much for one person, because there is always one person we tend to love shopping for because they are a joy, and b) to give you a sense of the fact that you are winning on the gift battlefront.

Finally, total up that "Amount" column. This will show you how much you are planning to outlay. Now ask yourself, can you afford it?

If not, amend your list, before you go out and are besieged by panic shopping and pressure.

If time really is an issue, I suggest you decide on one venue to do all your shopping. If you have a whole day to crack the list, then department stores or shopping centres such as Dundrum Town Centre or Kildare Village, Victoria Square, Belfast, or Mahon Point in Cork, are obvious choices because everything is under one roof and the ambiance is pure Christmas -- therefore nice! And most have good refund policies.

If you have just one hour, then pick a strong specialty shop, such as Paula Rowan gloves (Westbury Mall, D2) or De Bruir studio (Kildare town), where you can find one item in a wide variety of different designs which can satisfy the variety of people on your list. For something different, markets, which happen in towns all over Ireland, provide tons of original gift ideas, often made locally.

For instance, in Smithfield last weekend, the Flea Market had a huge variety of gifts, from whacky handmade slippers, to foldable bikes, to recycled furniture, candle sticks, handmade shirts, home baking and more.

Across the way, NCAD students had set up shop, too, and were selling wonderful things.

And the atmosphere in a market is very sociable and jovial. It gets one in the Christmas mood -- goodwill to all men. The spirit of Christmas.

If you don't have a few hours to stroll around a market, a good place for a really comprehensive range of gifts is Newbridge Silverware's centre in Kildare, which not only stocks their silverware, but also has tons of gift solutions (and has a great restaurant to provide sustenance).

Newbridge's most recent collections, the 17th- and 18th-Century inspired ranges of picture frames and jewellery, are among my favourites of the company. Their centre also has antique silverware, a book section and gift cards, a Butler's chocolate spot, home wares, a jewellery emporium, Patrick Francis scarves, leather pieces, and Swarovski encrusted accessories such as red carpet, studded purses and pretty hair accessories. For men there are watches, cufflinks, pens, wine accessories and executive desk items.

Christmas decorations are a lovely "token" gift and Newbridge's Christmas room, which attracts collectors from all over the world, has an exclusive, date-stamped, decoration for collectors, which is inspired by the past, and is an image of Irish family.

Sanctuary (of the Covent Garden spa fame), which does lovely at-home spa and beauty products available from pharmacies nationwide, produced interesting research stating that married couples are most likely to give each other disappointing gifts.

This is probably due to many factors but rather than go into all that I suggest -- forgive and forget past grievances. Remember why you fell in love and that glorious feeling that went with it. Then, think of a gift for them.

Guys, if you are buying her gorgeous lingerie, even if the box is from Susan Hunter's, Brown Thomas or Peaches & Cream, and contains the most fabulous silk concoctions, make it part of and not the whole present.

Lingerie is wonderful to receive. But it's an intimate present that can't be shown off. So get her something else, too. It makes her feel like you care even more. (Remember, do check her lingerie drawer to find out her size and the store's return policy.

Ladies, men like to look good. They don't like to appear vain but men know they are judged by their appearance.

And right now especially, be it in work or out of it, men need to feel respected and supported.

So show the world and him, you value him by getting him some nice clothes. Or a gift that you know he'd really enjoy, such as a golf lesson. Or great performance footwear by Timberland or Dubarry, because he likes the outdoors or sailing. Christmas is all about love and care. That is what the gifts are about. For me, a stress-free, happy house not burdened by Christmas gift-giving stress is the greatest gift of all.

I wish you a peaceful, joyful Christmas.

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