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The agony of finding ‘the perfect Christmas gift’

It’s that time of year again where I feel an internal panic that I haven’t done what I need to for the perfect Christmas day nor bought what I should for my loved ones to open on that morning.

Diane Hall


Woman holding a boxed wrapped present with christmas decorations on the floor

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When my girls were little, I was under no illusion as to what they wanted for Christmas. My youngest will have told me what Santa should bring at least three times a day from September (the list getting longer with each advert she watched), whilst my eldest would have written a nice, neat list of suggestions. That was the easy part…every year, they’d always hope for a present or presents they didn’t know were coming, i.e. surprises.


See, I can follow a list or punch Argos product codes into its little stock controller machines, but the surprise thing got me every year—and still continues to get me.


When they were young enough to be into Bratz dolls, for example, I could give them a surprise by choosing something from the range they didn’t already have or hadn’t asked for. But then they grew up and began earning their own money, and that was when the present-giving detective game ramped up another gear. In theory, everything I buy them is a surprise, as they’re too old to make Christmas lists anymore. On the flipside, however, it’s so, so, so difficult to buy them anything they haven’t already got or which they couldn’t buy themselves. It takes the meaning away, when I learn that I’m surprising them with something they were about to buy anyway.


This year, in desperation, I turned to Google. ‘Christmas gifts for her’ went into the search bar and a load of crap came up in the results. Nothing out of the norm…if I didn’t want make-up or bath stuff, Google didn’t want to know. ‘Where does it hide the good stuff?’ I wondered aloud, before realising I sounded like a drug dealer.


Searching ‘Christmas ideas’ results in the antithesis of creativity—just the same old, same old I see every year when I feel this urge to knock my daughters’ socks off with gifts that are both unique yet perfectly suited to them.


Do other present-buyers feel my pain? It’s almost like a version of the X-Factor, where I survey every possible gift idea with the scrutiny of the show’s judges. No, that’s too boring. No, that’s what I got one of them last year. No, that’s too expensive and they’ll tell me off, if my husband doesn’t do that first. No, they’ve got thousands of them, and I’ll only plump for the wrong one. No, that’s too ‘out there’. No, that’s not what either of them want…(just be honest and admit you want that for yourself, Diane).


I say every year that, because they’re no longer children, I won’t spend anywhere near what I used to on them, but I still manage to find my bank balance depleted come January, as it’s difficult nowadays to make any sort of impact with a small budget. I hate the panic, and the fact that you can’t search the internet for something when you don’t know yourself what you’re looking for. All the Artificial Intelligence that’s been invented, and there’s no solution or provision for finding ‘the perfect Christmas gift’! We’re in 2022…I should be able to complete a questionnaire about the recipient and have the internet subsequently conjure up the very thing that will make their day, in gift form. But, no, data engineers just concentrate on stuff like self-service tills and chat bots instead of trying to help me out.


I absolutely get that the festivities shouldn’t centre on gifts, and I’m lucky that I’ve got two wonderful kids who look forward to Christmas for the time we all spend together—the games we’ll play as a family, the food we’ll scoff and the programmes we’ll watch. Gifts just enhance an already-wonderful experience. I just wish I could eradicate the pressure I always feel to provide the perfect presents; instead, it feels like a bomb in my stomach ready to explode.


When I see television adverts that claim to stock ‘the perfect gift’ I snort into my cuppa. Yeah, yeah, so you say. A few jars of ‘interesting’ chutneys and a Cath Kidston gift box just doesn’t cut it nowadays…well, not with my lot.

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