We all know it is the most wonderful time of the year, but finding those perfect presents for family and friends can be frustrating and taxing even for hard core Christmas shopaholics.
As mall crowds and stress rise during the season, so too does the pressure to find the right gifts. After a long day trudging through shopping malls without success, it’s tempting to avoid the fuss and resort to typical boring gifts.
Perhaps the best thing is to not resist. Approach the season with Zen – like water, just go with the flow. Maybe it’s time to embrace classic gifts. The trick, though, is to pick out stylish new versions that make them more desirable.
Dad gifts are notoriously cringeworthy, and nothing makes a man feel more middle-aged than to unwrap a boring tie and practical socks on Christmas morning.
It does not have to be that way, though. There are now plenty of stylish and attractive business ties. Make dad hip for a day with a classic American look from Ralph Lauren or a silky Hermès sample.
The same goes for socks. Argyle might be dad’s idea of wild and crazy. Show him it’s OK to flash even funkier colours and patterns. Go online and find a pair with Homer Simpson on them.
The beauty of socks is they’re discreet enough to be relatively hidden while he can still feel like a bit of a rebel.
As for mum, we know it’s sexist and patronising to give her cooking equipment for Christmas. She does not need a new spatula or a “World’s Best Mum” apron to be reminded that without her, your diet would be little more than instant noodles. Luckily, there are more exciting gifts for people who enjoy cooking and the culinary arts.
A slow-cooking sous vide machine is probably something mum wouldn’t splurge on but might like to play with. If Italian food is her thing, a proper pasta maker is another good kitchen toy. But make sure it’s a solid one, not a cheap model.
For serious baking, a professional Kitchen Aid mixer would please any cake addict. They come in a range of colours so there’s no excuse for not finding one that matches the kitchen cupboards. Best of all, it’s going to save mum a lot of sore arms mixing and kneading.
One suggestion: include as part of the present a dinner somewhere nice to imply you want her to enjoy the gift, not just to cook good food for you.
If your mum only cooks Chinese, think outside the box. Nobody needs another rice cooker or wok, but high-quality ingredients, especially dried goods like mushrooms and scallops, have a special place in Chinese dishes and will be appreciated. If you’re aiming even higher, dried abalone and fish maw will make you extra honourable and filial.
Fitness equipment is another category of gifts that some appreciate while others do not. Health fanatics probably own or have access to a yoga mat, weights or a Fitbit watch. But there is also the risk that the gift could be misconstrued as a hint that the recipient needs to shed some weight.
One way around the problem with sporty gifts is to choose items that have other practical uses. Compression shorts and pants are all the rage now, and not just with athletes and runners. These tights are also a fashion item because they make you look good. Supposedly they improve blood flow, help prevent deep-vein thrombosis and prevent chafing and rashes.
Another cool sports accessory is a stainless-steel water bottle. In addition to being a must-have fitness item, it also has additional eco cred. Stainless-steel models can double as a hot-water vacuum flask in winter. That means your non-sporty friend who only pretends to workout can fill it with hot chocolate and tell everyone else it is hydrating coconut water.
One uninspired present that nobody ever minds is money. A little red packet isn’t just for Lunar New Year – you’d be amazed at how festive and merrymaking a little hard cash can be.
Nowadays, you do not even have to engage in the crass transaction of giving a cheque to your young cousin or nephew. You can just discreetly transfer the funds through an app and follow it up with a holiday e-card that has a nice holiday jingle.
If you do not want to give money, gift certificates to restaurants or shops are just as welcome. Just make sure that the coupons have sufficient value to actually make a viable purchase. A HK$200 coupon can buy some nice treats at City'super, but it probably will not go far at Lane Crawford.
Still lost for ideas, especially for today’s young generation who have their noses stuck perpetually in a smart phone or iPad? Do not even think about it – just get them a Netflix subscription.