Christmas is almost upon us (or at least me), and we all know what that means. ‘Tis the season of brightly coloured boxes, eye-catching holiday cards, dazzling lights, beautiful bows and all things aesthetically pleasing. What’s not to love? Plenty, if you’re me, since the emphasis on appearance seems to shift into overdrive during this time of rampant consumerism…I mean quality contemplative congress with the ones you love.
Trouble is, I love Christmas. Almost everything aboutt the season mmakes me happy, possibly due to the many years I spent belting John Rutter descants in concert venues around my city. I also hail from a family that decks the halls from floor to ceiling when December rolls around. No light fixture is left unadorned, no ornament left unpacked. In such a high-intensity festive home, a love of the season stubborn enough to overcome the more distasteful elements of the modern western Christmas couldn’t help but flourish. Unfortunately, so did a sense of propriety around Christmas gifts, inspired no doubt by the fact that I grew up around a woman who could make a lump of coal look attractive through sheer gift-wrapping talent. Take all these elements, plus a latent competitive streak and fairly high-pressure household, mix them all together and you have a conundrum for the blind Christmas shopper…or do you?
Not really, actually. To get too bogged down in the aesthetics of Christmas is to miss the point of the season entirely, in my humble opinion. Still, some effort is required to make the gift-giving part of Christmas as meaningful as it ought to be, at least according to my self-imposed standards. My effort is put into personalizing the present as much as possible.
Each year, for instance, I’ve been tasked with putting together a stocking for a family member selected through a draw (this year it’s Mom). Most people devote time and energy to selecting just the right gift, but must focus what’s left of their attention on packaging the present just so. Being the world’s biggest quad when it comes to gift-wrapping, my efforts go elsewhere. I take the gift selection process a step further and try to present it creatively. My mom will be receiving a theme stocking entitled “around the world in eight packages.” Each item, selected according to Mom’s tastes, preferences and history, will represent a country and be labelled with a short verse spelling out the connection and providing a hint as to what the item might be. The moroccan spice blend she’ll enjoy for her culinary experiment is pretty self-explanatory, as is the Julia Child “French Chef cookbook” that she specifically asked to have replaced. The espresso beans are a more oblique tie to Italy, while the Benazir Bhutto biography could stand in for any of the locales where that fascinating lady once lived but will likely represent Pakistan. An audio soundtrack for a book she loves will honour India, after the author’s nationality (read An Equal Music by Vikram Seth, it’s excellent). Her favourite bronzer will give her the sunkissed look of a tropical locale, a spanish glass angel figurine will make a nice addition to the collection she displays on her mantle piece, and some obnoxiously red lipstick will hearken back to family jokes past and represent a return to Canada. I’m seriously considering writing this all up in the form of a travel itinerary that she’ll have to follow.
It’s been my experience that a little creativity will thoroughly distract even the aesthetically minded from any deficiencies of packaging. It also salves my conscience as I try to be more eco-conscious in my day-to-day life. When the creative wellspring runs dry, however, it’s time for more practical strategies that help out blind and sighted alike. They’re called gift bags and in-store gift-wrapping, and they’re the best thing since sliced shortbread.
How do you cope with the aesthetic demands of your holiday obligations? Do you find you have any? Sound off below! Oh, and now that I’ve set up this blog’s very own Twitter account, you can keep up with me there.