Emotional Health · Family & Friends

Christmas Given and Received

5347998667_32efc2c612_zPhoto by erika g. via Flickr (Creative commons License)

I had a privileged background but there was a distinct paucity of the pretentious at Christmas. That is not the English way. The “presents” were more a mark of noticing within the family what you enjoyed, what stage you were in your growing development, encouragement to pursue further growth-relevant activities — than any reward for just being you. As a growing child, books were the prevalent gift, rather than toys. “Play” was what children invented among themselves in the freedom of the garden and parks in the area.

For adults, it was the mutual acknowledgement of their preferences: a book of poetry for Aunt Dorothy, a Harrods tie for cousin David, a Fortnam and Mason shirt for Papa from mother, and a Dior scarf for mother from Papa — moderately luxurious but not overly expensive and certainly not lavish. That would have been distinctly inappropriate: the public display of ostentation during Christmas was frowned upon. Expensive gifts were reserved for birthdays when gifts were exchanged in the intimacy and privacy of the immediate family.

Here and now in the US, do we give gifts to reflect the occasion, ourselves or the recipient? Do we give to reflect our generosity, not necessarily kindness, thoughtfulness and respectful acknowledgement?

I still believe that yes indeed, the gift should be driven by the thought for each particular, specific recipient. So I am going to select my recipients and their respective gifts.

I also believe that experiences are more thoughtful and memorable than “stuff,” which you might end up hiding or re-gifting.


Three Gifts to Give:

To a young parent of limited means:
A series of classes on how to plan, shop, cook and serve healthy meals for their family and a copy of “The Joy of Cooking.”
Because: Give a person a gift card to McDonalds and you feed them for a day; teach a person how to cook and you feed them — and their family, for a generation.

To a young person in advanced stages of learning a language:
A visit to the land of their new language.
Because: Experiencing the culture is the gateway to understanding the language.

To a small group of young people starting their careers:
A meal as the matrix for a table etiquette class.
So: They can interact with others in any meaningful way, nationally and internationally; they will need this initial guidance for success.


Three Rainbow Gifts to Give and Receive:

Parenting classes before people have children or animals.
Because: It will give a chance for families to stay and grow together in patience, understanding and love.

Peace in the Middle East
So: Refugees can return to their homes and cultures if they choose.

An end to global warming.
So: Humans, animals, vegetal nature and this planet can continue beyond the next two hundred years.


Three Dream Gifts to Receive:

A garden.
So: I can regrow my intimacy with nature.

A dinner at The Fat Duck, Bray, UK with Heston Blumenthall
So: I can meet and learn from the master.

A week in London seeing The National Theatre’s full repertoire.
So: I can revisit my beloved roots.


Three Gifts to Receive:

Two corporate clients who will use my services between six to eight times a year.
Because: I thoroughly enjoy the necessity of developing a totally unique event for each and every occasion.

Six to twelve weddings a year.
Because: Each is challenging in its own way and I always learn from and enjoy each one

20 degustation with wine pairing dinners a year, 10 Brunches, 6 Afternoon Teas.
Because: This range stretches my specialty and skills beyond the mundane.


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