Christmas gifts don’t have to end up in the re-gifting box if you choose something both thoughtful and useful, writes Carol O’Callaghan.
Unlike most women I know, I have never understood the attraction of two things: shopping and chocolate. The former I do out of necessity, as and when required — food shopping and farmers’ markets I quite like — but chocolate I consume only when it’s served up and I’m in company where I feel I can’t decline. If I fancy something sweet, a slice of crusty bread with jam does the trick.
I’m fine — in fact, enthusiastic — about home interior shops, not surprisingly, but ask me to go shopping for the sake of it and flick through clothes rails, shelves and the first day of the sales, and I just might cry.
Yet, the season that is now in it requires an exchange of gifts, so in that spirit I make a list of the naughty and nice who will receive something practical for their homes, or a cookbook, because quite simply, these are the things I like to receive (Yotam Ottolenghi’s Meditteranean cookbook, please Santa).
I now have reason to feel smug about this, as it seems the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology agrees. Last year it undertook research based on the stress-inducing question all Christmas shoppers ask themselves: What should I buy and will they like it? The results of the research showed that the amount spent did not necessarily correlate with an appreciation of the gift. However, presents the giver liked themselves, were more valued by the recipient than gifts that attempted to second guess the recipient’s desires.
As I like housey things, ergo my list is filled, but if you do too, don’t make the gift too practical with items like oven wares and oven gloves as they scream of kitchen drudgery, whereas pretty table runners with matching napkins, and wineglasses speak of prettiness and polish.
I have a particular weakness for anything to do with laying tables, especially crisp white cloths, but now that I’ve acquired a new and sparkling white table, I want to leave it uncovered. However, I’d consider some sweet little red and white striped runners called the Scandi, placed across the shorter width of the table, to act as a place mat between you and the person seated opposite, leaving plenty of uncluttered exposed table top between each one (€19.90 at Interiosity).
The unexciting kitchen ladle is redesigned with wit and functionality in the Dinosaur, freestanding version from Designist (€16). See main image.
With the fashion for warm metallics like copper and gold, try a little bling with a set of gold-effect wine glasses. Go over the top by adding them to a traditional red and green table decorating scheme, or use them to warm up an all-white look (€28 for four at Next Interiors).
Like oven wares, kitchen gadgetry might have associations with work, unless they have an interesting aesthetic or a fun element to balance out practicality. Check out the Collection chrome effect citrus juicer from Argos (€18) which will look smart on the counter top of a modern kitchen design.
Coffee machines can offer all sorts of ways of brewing the morning wake-up fix, and might be the right gift for the caffeine addict in your life. Try the Vietnamese Phin style gizmo, a single serve slow drip coffee maker which percolates happily in its own little glass (€30 at Designist).
Candles are the perfect stocking filler and make an equally nice gift to take visiting, rather than a box of chocolates or tin of biscuits. Max Benjamin has taken a selection of its fragrances - the delicately scented French Linen Water being one — and applies a personal message to the ceramic holder (exclusively at Arnotts €24).
Penney’s Cactus candle €2.50 would make a lovely gift from a child to an aunty.
Candle holders, in general, light into action at Christmas more than any other time of year, and for a seasonally appropriate version, the witty robin red breast shaped tea light holder from Laura Ashley is a nice little number to set amidst a fireplace swag (€12.50).
Biscuit barrels are a lovely way of transporting a crowd of homemade gingerbread men. But if baking is not your thing, just cheat by pouring some high-end shop bought biscuits into a barrel.
M&S has a Christmas-appropriate bling finished gold version for a touch of wow (€12.50).
Affordable Irish paintings, sculpture and prints might be the perfect gift — to give or receive — this Christmas. From now until December 24, the 2020 Gallery on Cork’s North Mall is offering prints by Ludmilla Korol starting at €50 unframed, with themes close to home like the Munsterlandscape. Lily Corcoran’s Irish Lace print (€55) and Flowers on the Lee (€90 unframed), are perfect for an ex-pat. A more substantial gift, with a particular Christmas theme, is an oil painting titled Mistletoe, Poinsetta & Holly, by Eadaoin Harding Kemp (€558), seen below.
A personalised Christmas decoration from www.jennywalshdesign.com is a handmade gift for life in wood to give to a child who, on reaching adulthood, can hang it in his or her own home (3 for €20).
What could be more appropriate as a decoration than the traditional star. Here Jenny finishes it off with the recipient’s name and a ribbon for easy hanging.
Get this bear out of hibernation and onto the Christmas tree.
Maybe your little recipient would like this baby reindeer on a festive red ribbon.
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