Tag Archives: Christmas gift

Recounting A Special Christmas Gift (And What Made It So Special)

The holidays are a special time of year. Even in a year like this, we should appreciate that. If anything, a year like this should help us appreciate it even more. Even if we can’t have big Christmas parties or shop in crowded malls, the spirit of the season is something to cherish.

I certainly have a fondness for the holidays. I’ve made no secret of that. I think a year like this has inspired me to get more personal and share more holiday joy than usual. If it helps distract us from how awful 2020 has been, I’m happy to contribute.

To that end, I’d like to share a personal holiday memory that is near and dear to my heart. It’s also fairly recent, so I won’t rely on the kind of child-like excitement that comes with getting your first bike or video game console.

That being said, I still rank my first Super Nintendo as the greatest Christmas gift of all time, but that’s a story for another time.

This particular story happened just last year, long before we knew 2020 was going to crush our spirits. It involves a very special gift that I received from my brother. I’m not sure if he reads this site regularly, but he knows better than anyone why this gift was so special.

To set the stage, I need to explain some of my family’s holiday traditions. Ours aren’t that unique. Me, my siblings, and their significant others all gather at my parents’ house. We all bring our gifts, put them under the tree, and make opening them this big shared event. It’s simple, but it hits all the right holiday tones.

Traditionally, my family knows what to get me long before Christmas. They know me well and they know my tastes are simple. Get me some comic books, some superhero apparel, or something related to football and I’m a happy guy. I like to think I’m fairly easy to shop for.

That didn’t stop my brother from going the extra mile this year. As it just so happened, his was one of the last gifts I’d opened. At that point, I was already a happy guy, swimming in new comics and clothes. This last gift, however, caught me by surprise in a very personal way.

I still remember holding the seemingly innocuous box. It didn’t look like anything elaborate. For all I knew, it was another comic or Blu-Ray movie. I just casually opened it. That’s when I saw it.

It was a framed picture.

Specifically, it was a picture of my grandmother, who had passed away just a few years ago.

Seeing her again, even in a picture, hit me in a way I didn’t respect. Even though she had been gone for years at that point, seeing her again reminded me of how much I missed her. It was somewhat jarring, but in a good way.

I just remember taking the picture out, holding it up, and looking at it for a good long while. I might have disrupted the overall jolly spirit of the room, but I think they understood why.

My brother, along with the rest of my family, knew how close I was to my grandmother. They also knew how hard it was for her during her final years. I visited her regularly and I watched as her health declined. It wasn’t easy, to say the least.

It helped that this particular picture that my brother framed was taken shortly before she fell ill. She was still smiling, as lively as any woman in her 90s could be at that point. Seeing that look on her face, even if it was just in a picture, was enough to make my heart skip a beat.

I almost broke down, but I managed to keep it together. It helped that my older sister came over and hugged me. She knew how much my grandmother meant to me, as well. It was a powerful moment, but one that made both that gift and that Christmas extra special.

That picture my brother gave me still has a prominent place on my shelf. As I write this, it’s right behind me. It still brings me comfort to this day, seeing my grandmother in that picture. For that, I’ll always be grateful to her and to my brother for giving me such a special gift.

Bro, if you’re reading this, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for making that Christmas special and for going the extra mile in giving me that gift. You’re the best!

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Filed under Jack Fisher's Insights, real stories, Uplifting Stories

Why We Should End The Taboo About Giving Gift Cards

The holidays are here and we should not let the general awfulness of 2020 prevent us from celebrating. I just want to put that out there because I feel like it needs to be said. I understand we can’t celebrate the holidays like we have in previous years due to a once-in-a-century pandemic, but we should still celebrate.

If nothing else, we should celebrate having made it through this year. Regardless of your religious affiliation or traditions, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

I love Christmas and the holidays. I fully intend to celebrate in my own festive way with friends and family. I already have my Christmas tree up and I’ve had it up since the first week of November. However, this year may require certain adjustments from my usual holiday activities, but I’m willing to do that for the spirit of the season.

As I and many others do so, I think this is a good time to re-evaluate certain holiday taboos. I’m not referring to any of those associated with religion. There’s a time and a place to talk about that exceedingly touchy issue. This is not one of them.

This particular taboo has to do with gift-giving, which happens to be the holiday tradition I take most seriously. Ask any member of my family, from my parents to my siblings to even my former roommates, and they’ll say the same thing. I go the extra mile when it comes to Christmas presents.

I’ll spend more money than I should.

I’ll buy more gifts than I should.

I’ll put in extra time, thought, and effort.

I’ll often pester people in asking them what they want, making a point to tell me before Thanksgiving.

Getting Christmas gifts for my loved ones is a big deal to me. I take pride in my ability to go the extra mile and make my family feel extra loved during the holidays. It brings me a special kind of joy.

As a result of that approach to holiday gift giving, I tend to avoid the kinds of low-effort gifts that send the wrong message. That usually means I try not to get gift cards or cash for someone. To me, that’s just too impersonal. It implies I didn’t make the effort to show how much I love and care for the person I’m giving this gift to.

I’m not alone in that feeling. Gifting gift cards does have a bit of a taboo to it, even as more and more people shop online. If you were to give your lover a gift card for your anniversary, chances are they’ll be somewhat disappointed. It almost seems like a cop-out, as though you don’t trust yourself to get a meaningful gift for someone.

I understand that sentiment to some extent, but I also think that taboo is waning somewhat. After a year like 2020, when millions of people were stuck in lockdowns for weeks on end, I think it’s waning even faster. Honestly, I think that’s a good thing and we should use this holiday season as an opportunity.

For many people, including myself, it’s just not going to be possible to travel for the holiday. The big holiday gatherings that so many of us treasure just can’t be done safely during a global pandemic. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t exchange gifts. We just have to be smart about it and gift cards could help.

These days, gift cards are a lot more useful than the traditional gift certificates of the past. I’m old enough to remember how limited they were. Before the days of Amazon, getting a gift certificate usually meant getting something for a specific store. You could only use it at that store and it usually had an expiration date.

In some instances, it worked out. If you knew someone went to a place like Best Buy or Wal-Mart all the time, a gift certificate could certainly be useful. It was still considered very impersonal. It wasn’t the kind of gift you gave someone for Christmas. It was usually a birthday gift and even then, it was often a gift of last resort.

Now, in an era where you can buy pretty much anything online, the time is right to flip the script. If you know someone has an Amazon account that they frequently use, then why should a $50 Amazon gift card be taboo? Why should it be a gift of last resort that requires an excuse?

Love them or hate them, you can buy a lot from Amazon with a $50 gift card. You could buy a movie you don’t have, both digital or Blu-ray. You could buy a video game, although not the latest releases. You could buy multiple books and be certain they’re books you want to read and haven’t read already.

From a practical standpoint, that gift card is very useful and there’s a near-certain chance it’ll get used. You can’t always say that about a traditional gift. I’ve gotten people gifts that I was certain they’d use frequently, but they never made it out of the box. That’s the chance you take with any gift exchange.

It’s still a great feeling when you get someone that perfect gift. I can attest to the joy that comes with that accomplishment. I also don’t deny that the perfect gift is not always possible. I’ve got plenty of relatives and family members who are hard to shop for and often tell me they really don’t need anything from me.

However, I know that even those hard-to-shop-for relatives would get use out of an Amazon gift card. That may not make it the perfect gift, but it would still be incredibly useful and sometimes that’s the most you can hope for.

In a year like this, when traveling and shopping have been incredibly restricted by the pandemic, I think a simple Amazon gift card should be acceptable. Even if you don’t like giving or receiving gift cards, this is the year when we should all be willing to make an exception.

That doesn’t mean it has to be impersonal. You can still make giving someone a gift card feel festive.

One year, I got an $50 Amazon gift card for a relative. However, I didn’t just stick it in an envelope or bag. I actually put it in a standard 14 by 9.5 box and wrapped it in shiny wrapping paper. To hide the contents, I even put some washers inside to make it heavier. The relative loved it and I know they used that gift card.

You could either do that or find some other festive way to present it. You don’t have to be overly elaborate with wrapping paper or packaging. You just have to show a little extra effort, which will go a long way towards making a gift card feeling less impersonal.

In the future, long after this pandemic has passed, we may get to a point where that kind of gift-giving is no longer taboo. It may even be the norm, if only to ensure that your loved ones get something useful on the holidays.

There will always be a place for more personal gift-giving. I don’t doubt that. However, I think certain practices and taboos need tweaking. We already live in a new era where shopping from home has never been easier. Let’s use that as a way to supplement our holiday spirits moving forward. After a year like 2020, we’ll need it.

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Jack Fisher’s Guide To (Awesome) Gift Giving

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It’s official now. Thanksgiving is over. The leftovers are mostly gone. That means for the next few weeks, the holiday spirit will revolve entirely around Christmas and Christmas-like festivities. There’s no more complaining about seeing holiday decorations too early. At this point, the time is right to get into the swing of things.

Whether you celebrate it or not, there’s no avoiding it. The season is upon us. We see it in commercials, holiday specials, holiday-themed food, and holiday music. By now, we’ve all probably heard Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” at least a dozen times on the radio.

Without a doubt, Christmas is my favorite time of year. It always has been. As a kid, my family always did so many wonderful things around Christmas. Some of my fondest childhood memories took place around Christmas. As an adult, I found entirely new ways to make it memorable. I’ve every intention of keeping that tradition, especially once I find the love of my life.

Chief among those traditions is my approach to gift giving. Talk to anyone in my family and they’ll tell you the same thing. When it comes to giving Christmas gifts, I go above and beyond. I’m not the kind of guy who will be cheap or thoughtless. I’m also not the kind of guy who puts in minimal effort, stuffing cheap crap into bags and slapping tags on it. I am willing to put extra time and money into holiday gift giving.

It doesn’t matter if I’m buying for my parents, my siblings, my friends, or my nieces and nephews, who are all still kids. I make it a point to give them gifts that are special, memorable, and meaningful. From what I get into how I wrap them, I make sure every gift I give on the holidays conveys a sense of love and sincerity.

For that reason, and in hopes of inspiring others to go the extra mile this Christmas, I’d like to share my unofficial guide, of sorts, to gift giving on the holidays. It’s not a science, but it’s not some wild crap shoot either. You can give awesome gifts without being rich, psychic, or possessed by the spirit of Santa Claus.

These are simple tips and tricks that I’ve learned from years of successful gift giving. I sincerely hope they help enhance your holiday experience, both with respect to giving gifts and inspiring the right spirit for this time of year.


Tip #1: Be Proactive And Listen Along The Way

This may seem too obvious, but I’ll say it anyways. When it comes to Christmas shopping, you don’t want to procrastinate. I know that’s easier said than done. I know there’s a reason why people feel inclined to procrastinate. Given everything that goes on during the holidays, people have even more excuses.

However, this is one effort for which you really want to be proactive. That means planning or at least contemplating your gift giving schedule around Halloween. It may sound too early, but trust me. It pays off.

This past year, I began browsing Amazon, Ebay, and all the usual retail outlets around mid-October, putting together lists of potential gifts for loved ones. I didn’t buy anything at that point. The idea wasn’t to buy it all at once. That’s actually not a good strategy. The best recourse, in my experience, is to have a long list of possible gifts. It’s just a matter of selecting the right gift for the right person.

You won’t always know that in mid-October. You might not even know that until mid-December. That’s where the listening part comes in. As early as Labor Day, start listening to your friends and family. Get a sense for what they want or need. You don’t have to be obvious. A little tact goes a long way.

Then, once Thanksgiving comes around and every major outlet starts throwing big sales, you already have a list of gifts to work with. Take advantage of those sales and you’ll even save money in the process. There is literally no downside to being proactive during the holidays, which is why it’s probably the most important tip I can give for the holidays.


Tip #2: Be Transparent With Loved Ones For Their Gifts (And Yours)

This tactic is a bit more subtle, but it pays off in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, in order to glean what your loved ones want for Christmas, you have to start by letting them know what you want. Most of my friends and relatives agree. I’m very easy to shop for on the holidays.

That’s not just because I maintain an Amazon Wish List and that most of my requests involve comics, video games, and accessories that rarely cost more than $50. I’m hope and honest about what I want them to get me. I’ll go so far as to text them multiple links to items I want. When you’re that easy to shop for, people are more willing to return the favor.

This has helped a great deal with loved ones who rarely give me any clues about what to get them. Some are just difficult to shop for because they claim to not want anything. Some are genuinely sincere about that. However, they know I’m still getting them something. It can either be just some random thing I guess on or something they can help make meaningful.

Sometimes, it takes a few years to get that sort of rapport with a loved one, but it’s worth doing. Trust me. When you find that right gift for that someone and see their reaction, it makes the holidays that much more special.


Tip #3: Find Meaningful Gifts (Which Need Not Be Expensive)

This is another tip that seems logical, but is easier said than done. That whole notion that it’s the thought that counts isn’t completely wrong, but it still has some merit. Meaningful gifts are the best kind of gifts to get someone. It can have both sentimental and material value. If you really care about someone, you want this gift to send a message. Giving it meaning always helps.

Years ago, a friend of mine got his girlfriend an iPod mini. It was simple. It didn’t seem that meaningful at first. Then, I found out he engraved a quote from his girlfriend’s mother on the back. That quote made that gift more meaningful than anything else he could’ve given her. Needless to say, that was a memorable Christmas and my friend is still with that same woman.

Giving a gift greater meaning also doesn’t mean buying something expensive. Some of the most meaningful gifts I’ve ever given cost less than $20, but they were extremely personal and they sent a message to the person I gave it to. They got that message loud and clear. Our Christmas was better because of it. You can put a price on a lot of things during the holidays, but you can’t put a dollar value on genuine sentiment.


Tip #4: Know When (And How) A Gift Card Is Appropriate

This is a somewhat controversial topic among gift-giving circles. There’s this notion that if you really care about someone, you never give them a gift card. Gift cards are great for birthdays or for people you can’t always see very often, but there’s a taboo with respect to giving them as a Christmas gift. I don’t entirely agree with that.

In general, I don’t give gift cards. I treat it as a last resort, but it’s still an option. I just try to make it more than just a socking stuffer. You can give greater meaning to a gift card. One year, I included a gift card with a Christmas card that has a poem I wrote in it. That poem helped give greater value to the gift card. It made the gesture personal. It showed that I cared and it got the point across.

In the right circumstances, gift cards can totally work. When someone can’t be there for the holidays or is still new to the family, as is often the case with in laws and extended family, a gift card can go a long way towards establishing a rapport. I find that it’s a useful starting point with someone, but it shouldn’t be the endpoint.

Personally, I hope the taboo surrounding gift cards fades in the coming years. With more and more shopping being done online, I think gift cards are a lot more practical today than they were when I was a kid. The rules surrounding them may change, but for now, a gift card should remain a last resort when shopping for a loved one.


Tip #5: Make A List (And Check It More Than Twice)

That old adage about Santa having a list and checking it twice isn’t just a memorable song lyric. It’s a very practical tool for keeping track of your holiday gift giving. I maintain a list on my phone that has everyone I buy a gift for, as well as some ideas on what to get them. I constantly update that list over the course of the year and I let people know when they’re on it.

When the time comes to start buying, I use that list to track what I buy, who I buy it for, and how they react to it. This list, which can get a little bloated at times, acts as both a reference and a guide onto how I perform every Christmas. Given the size of my family and the amount of gifts I buy, it helps to keep track of who gets what. It also helps to identify a certain trend in terms of what certain loved ones like.

Over the years, those trends have helped me refine my gift giving skills for certain people. I learn their tastes. I learn what makes a gift meaningful to them. Most importantly, I keep track of it. Don’t expect to remember all these little quirks over the course of a year.

Keep a list. Check it constantly, especially around mid-November. It’ll ensure you know what to look for and who to get it for when the time comes. It also acts as a way of noting ideas that come to you for certain people. On more than one occasion, I’ll randomly see something online or in a store that I know someone would love for Christmas. I make a note of it and it pays off in the long run.


I hope this helps everyone in their gift giving efforts this season. As I write this, I’m proud to say my shopping is done. I have my presents ready and wrapped for my loved ones. I look forward to seeing their reactions on Christmas morning. I hope everyone else can enjoy a similar holiday experience.

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Filed under human nature, Jack Fisher's Insights, Marriage and Relationships