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Danny's Reading: Christmas Review

Average: 3.5 (11 votes)

This April, my wife, my kids and yours truly are taking off to America for a two-week holiday, as avid readers of this monthly nonsense will remember me banging on about a couple of months ago. The flights for all four of us cost an arm and a leg, the travel insurance set me back a kidney, and the necessary permits to get into the country deprived me of another handful of non-vital body parts that I didn’t even know I had.

And this, I hope, explains why my wife and I have decided, this year, for the first time in twenty-one years, not to buy a Christmas present for each other. Not only because my wallet is so empty at the moment that I’m afraid to open it lest I create a black hole and drag us all kicking and screaming into a parallel universe, but also because, come April, we intend to bring so much stuff back with us that it would probably be cheaper and easier to simply move there and be done with it. I don’t know what my wife has on her wish-list, but mine is so long that I’ve used up three pens, and counting.

Which reminds me… I must add pens to my wish-list.

It does feel a little strange, not to be getting my wife a Christmas present. But, on the other hand, it does shorten my Christmas Shopping list by one person, and that can only be a good thing because, as much as I love Christmas and everything that comes with it, there is nothing – but absolutely nothing – that is guaranteed to frustrate, befuddle, bamboozle and bemuse me more than Christmas Shopping.

I hate Christmas Shopping.

My parents, my children, my best friends and my wife. These are the important people I buy gifts for. Other friends and close acquaintances get money or gift vouchers. Everyone else gets a box of chocolates or some such. People I don’t really like get told that I don’t really like them in the passive-aggressive form of a Justin Bieber CD or the second book of the Twilight Saga. And that’s about it.

You’d think it would be easy, shopping for a mere seven people I’ve known most of my life, or, in my kids’ case, all of their life. But you would be wrong.

My children are by far the easiest of the lot. We buy them a bunch of stuff, more often than not related to whichever TV show they’re currently into, and then my wife skillfully manipulates them into writing them down in their letters to Santa. This works well for all concerned, as I get to spend many a happy hour floating contentedly around toyshops, which I still enjoy today as much as I did when I was five, and my children always get what they think they’ve always wanted. Except that this year, my son surprised us by adding ‘a toy fried egg’, ‘a pair of cymbals’ and ‘snow’ to his letter. I actually managed to find a fried egg. I looked for, and prayed that I wouldn’t find, a pair of cymbals. Unfortunately I did, but they seem so flimsy that I reckon he’ll get half a dozen clashes out of them before they shatter into a million pieces and silence reigns supreme once again. As for the snow... well, I’ll open the freezer every now and then and he can sit in front of it and imagine he’s looking out of a window. Eating a plastic fried egg off a broken cymbal. Kids can do that kind of thing.
So, my wife is sorted and the kids are covered…

Our best friends – a husband and wife who got married at pretty much the same time we did – get increasingly difficult to buy for with every year that goes by. They claim the same for us. Last year, we bought each other the same weekend break, on the same weekend, at the same hotel, which worked out perfectly. But this year, we’re at a loss. I wouldn’t mind getting them the same again, but we like to be original when bearing gifts. Besides, the hotel has since been demolished, and I doubt that a weekend spent camping out in a pile of rubble would be very much appreciated.

My parents, however, are by far the toughest people to buy presents for. I suppose it’s understandable… they also have birthdays and mother’s day and father’s day and a wedding anniversary throughout the year, so by the time Christmas arrives, we’ve already exhausted our ideas for potential presents. They don’t help much either. Whatever we get for my mother is inevitably too big, or too small, or just like one she’s already got (probably because I got her the exact same thing the year before, and was so relieved that she liked it that I got her the exact same thing again). These days I don’t even wait for her to ask ‘Did you keep the receipt?’ – I simply wrap it in along with the present. Sometimes, I don’t even bother with a present… I just give her a random receipt so that she can appreciate how much I hypothetically spent on her imaginary gift.

As for my dad… he’s simply impossible. His hobbies are chatting with friends in cafés, drinking coffee, and sleeping. And absolutely nothing else. He has no interest whatsoever in football, or fishing, or driving, or reading, or any one of the million and one things that men his age are stereotypically supposed to be interested in. And since I can’t afford to buy him a café, have bought him about twenty-seven coffee machines over the years, and he already has a bed, this makes buying him anything a complete nightmare.

So there you have it. I’m going to end this here, because in a few minutes I’m heading out into the wind and rain to either get hit by lightning or inspiration as I trawl the shops yet again for the right gift for the right person. If I succeed, then all is well and good. If I fail, then they’ll all be getting plastic fried eggs and the cheapest set of cymbals that money can buy for Christmas.

Naturally, I’ll keep the receipts.

Have yourselves of New Years. I’ll see you in 2012. Which reminds me… I must add a calendar to my wish-list…

By Danny.

Danny has been tecahing at EC Malta English school for over 10 years.