Or, if you really have to get something:
- A card.
- Something they tell you they need.
- Consumables: chocolate, coffee, tea, honey, maple syrup, fruit, wine, whisky, soaps, a locally made specialty, and the like. A friend of mine gave me a tin of olive oil as a housewarming gift - perfect!
- If they have kid(s), an afternoon of free babysitting with no strings.
- Unless they have significant allergies, are terribly picky or discreet foodies: a homecooked meal.
- Tickets to the movies, a show, a concert, the local philharmonic, the theater.
- Take them out for a day and share with them your favorite things about the places you live.
- A donation in their name. There are tons of charities out there who can put your moolah to good use!
- Introduce them to a new experience: horseback riding, rock climbing (and hey - I know a great guide!), ziplining, rafting, skiing... See what's available in their area and make sure you understand their limitations.
- a photobook or scrapbook of holidays past or family memories.
Holiday time doesn't have to be about big spending on lots of material stuff. To me, it's about the memories we have and the new ones we create by spending time together. It's the snow storms we've braved to be together, the excitement of Santa when you're young, homebaked cookies, the moments your family laughs about for years afterwards.
Here's what my family laughs about. Repeatedly, voraciously, and with tears of laughter rolling down our faces...
It was probably 10 years ago. My grandfather was in his early 80s, a little unsteady on his feet, hard of hearing but still kickin'. He was always a pretty quiet man (unless you were talking about The War or Politics). He liked his beer but his doctor had him cutting back for health purposes. Nonetheless, it was the holidays, so he decided to imbibe.
My dad, not realizing the implications, later decided to open a bottle of bourbon. My grandpa appreciated his bourbon (something I've inherited from him!) so he had a shot. Then another, apparently. And maybe another? I'm not sure, because no one was really paying attention until he got up to use the bathroom. He seemed fine, until we hear the terribly loud and unmistakable THUMP of a body falling into...
...the bathtub! And a loud cry for help from my grandfather! The whole family rushes in and he is tumbled over in the tub, feet up in the air, the shower curtain fallen all around him. Fortunately he didn't get a chance to get his pants down because we are all crowding the door frame to see if he's okay! He's chuckling, thankfully, and not really hurt. It takes two of us to get him out of the tub. My aunt runs into the kitchen to tell my grandmother, "Dad fell into the tub!" And her cheeky response, without even blinking an eye (as if she expected this to happen!):
We still laugh about it now, even though both he and my grandmother have been gone for several years.
So, whatever you give for Christmas, never mix bourbon and beer! And cherish your family memories, all of them.