Many people I’ve spoken to have said that they’re just not feeling the Christmas spirit this year. Global problems seem overwhelming and the erosion of political integrity here in the UK means that not that a lot of people are in that wholesome and celebratory mood.
Photo by Cozy Winter
Even though I always try to be intentional with my gift giving, I wasn’t going to write a Christmas gifts list this year. Nobody needs to be bombarded by yet more advertising for things that they don’t need, for the sake of buying stuff.
Photo by Addy May
It got me thinking – it is possible to enjoy a Christmas that features gift giving without participating in this wasteful consumerist cycle. I believe that it is. Of course, there’s the beautiful handmade and thoughtful gift approach. I admire the people who go down this route. But I just don’t have the time or inclination.
A different approach that I’ve learned from the people around me is sounding out the people you care about on exactly what it is that would be useful and make a difference to their lives. This approach means advance planning, and depending on what they say, it might mean teaming up with other people to jointly buy a more expensive gift than you would otherwise buy on your own.
Does this spoil the excitement of the surprise gift? Perhaps. But I’ve found that the anticipation of getting something beautiful and truly useful seems to be just as exciting (and longer lasting) than being surprised by initial shininess that gets relegated to the back of some cupboard before the Christmas holidays are even over.
These kinds of gifts are, by their nature, very personal. However, to help stimulate your own through processes, I’ve listed some gifts below that I’ve given or received which have been used, loved and genuinely appreciated.
I hope that you spend the Christmas period doing what you want to do, not what you think you ought to do.
It seems a bit strange, but one of the most successful small gifts that I give frequently, is a small amount of high quality vanilla powder - dried and ground vanilla beans. Gorgeously fragrant, warming, comforting and sweet - almost everyone, no matter what their dietary requirements, uses, loves, and eats vanilla.
It is super versatile – it can be added to fresh and cooked fruit, cocktails, desserts, breakfast cereals, hot chocolate, coffee, baking or added to sugar or sweetener for later use. It’s also a great food treat for those trying to lose weight by adding a calorie free taste of sweetness to anything. If you want channel your inner craft-deity, you can fill a decorated glass jar and make a cute label. Or you can just wrap it as it comes. Everyone I’ve given this to has used it to the very end. The quality of vanilla powder varies, but the best and most reliable I’ve found is here.
Planners for a Productive Year
I find that planners are a wonderful gift for those who love the feeling of being organised and who find hard copy the most useful way to achieve that. Hard copy planners can also help stimulate creativity and different ways of thinking about your weeks, and months.
While there are so many different types of planners, there are only three brands that I regularly buy as gifts. The first is the Hobonichi Weeks planner (pictured above) which is one of Japan’s favourite planners. This is a slim line planner that is light and small enough to carry around in your bag, but with enough room to plan your year down to the smallest detail.
Testing Tomoe River paper
For the stationery nerds, the Hobonichi planners use luxurious Japanese Tomoe River paper, which is incredibly thin, smooth, durable, and resistant to ink feathering.* There are a number of places to buy Hobonichi planners, but the two that I’ve personally bought from is the Hobonichi shop in Japan, which you can find here and seems to ship reliably, and the Journal Shop which you can find here.
The second type of planner that I regularly buy as a gift is the Papier planner (pictured above). Papier has a huge number of different designs to choose from, as well as being able to personalise the cover with your loved ones name. While Papier planners aren’t too big (A5), their hard cover makes them a bit annoying to carry around with you. This means that they’re better for people to use as desk planners. If you use this link here, you can get £10 off your first order of £25 or more.** If you don't want to use this link, you can find the diaries directly here.
The final planner that I regularly gift is the planner designed by YouTuber and artist Amanda Rach Lee. This is a beautiful planner, uses extremely high quality paper which can stand up to paint, inks, and glues. This planner is particularly appreciated by teenagers with a bullet journaling practice.
It has just enough space for daily planning and journaling without feeling overwhelming. Each month has a theme designed by Amanda, which is beautiful but leaves enough space to allow a lot of personal customisation and creativity. Only available on the Amanda Rach Lee website here, it’s a lovely gift that is quite unique, in the UK at least.
One rather unusual Christmas gift that I’ve given quite often are these Dock and Bay beach towels. While only the super hardy are going to the beach in the UK at this time of, these towels are great for everyday use. As they pack to a tiny size, they are perfect for the gym or the pool. Made from recycled plastic bottles, these towels are smooth, soft and thin.
More akin to the Japanese towel, the tenugui, than the typical fluffy towels that we’re used to in the UK, they take a little bit of getting used to but dry better and more quickly than fluffy towels. Easy to wash and extremely quick to dry, each person I’ve given this towel to uses it regularly mostly for post gym, pool or yoga rather than the beach.
Clothes as gifts can be tricky. You want to buy something that people will love and wear. Unless you know the person extremely well, this will require a little bit of investigation. However, here are two items that have been very well used by everyone I’ve gifted them too.
The first, which although not glamorous, is something that is super useful; Uniqlo Heat Tech Ultra Warm Crew Neck Long Sleeved Thermals. These thermals are super warm, thin and light weight. Two of these thermals could see someone through an entire winter season and are thin enough to be worn under shirts but warm enough to withstand extremely cold conditions.
They come well packaged in rectangular boxes which makes them easy to wrap beautifully. Check sizing before you buy – but don’t rely on the Uniqlo’s website sizing recommendations, which can be quite off. It’s best to go on a shopping trip with someone to find their sizing and then buy some for opening at Christmas time.
The other gift that has been appreciated and used are Sweaty Betty leggings. Despite being designed for women, I notice that these leggings are increasingly being used by men too – typically under looser shorts. Despite a recent drop in quality, Sweaty Betty leggings are still best in category – stretchy, supportive and squat proof. The Sweaty Betty sizing on its website is more accurate than Uniqlo’s and has an easier and more user friendly returns policy – so buying off the website using the recommended sizing shouldn’t be a problem if you ask for a gift receipt. Sweaty Betty has regular sales and discount codes are often floating around the web, so you should never have to pay the rather hefty full price.
I’ve found that Bluetooth speakers are a gift that is always appreciated, especially by students and teenagers. My favourite brand for speakers is Bose, which always delivers high quality products at quite a high price.
However, Bose seems to have a permanent bundle offer on its
Bose SoundLink Micro Bluetooth® speakers – where you can get two for around £140. These speakers always rate very highly on review sites and I’ve always found buying directly from Bose a good experience. So for the price of a bottle of perfume, you can buy two teenagers a rather fabulous, high quality speaker that will see them through school, university and beyond.
I know that some families have a tradition where each member contributes to a pot of money to buy a Christmas gift for the house. I think the perfect gift for this category would be the Dyson V12 slim absolute cordless vacuum cleaner – as it will be used by everyone and may lift some of the cleaning burden from whomever its falling heaviest on.
While the V12 isn’t the most advanced of the Dyson cordless vacuum cleaners, on various testing sites, its performance is comparable to Dyson’s most advanced version but it is significantly lighter. It’s easy to empty, and the battery power lasts long enough for most vacuuming sessions. It looks cool and is so light and easy to use that even quite young children should have no difficulty in using it.
If you need further inspiration - you can read my other gift lists here.
I've done my best to list sellers with good reviews, that I've used before or are known reputable companies. However, I can't promise that you'll have a good experience with any of the sellers that I've listed using my links - so please make your own decision.
*Stationery nerds can be reassured that Sanzen Paper, that took over Tomoe River in 2022, has recreated Tomoe River paper beautifully. Perhaps not quite as perfect as the original, but almost.
**Using this link will also give me a benefit.
Image of Vanilla Pods by Sidath Vimukthi.