Начну со статьи про рождественские подарки, опубликованной в Трибуне дня три назад. Она мне как-то вот очень по сердцу пришлась. Если ее нет в открытом доступе, то полный текст под катом.
Most families have a holiday tradition that has been passed down through generations. For the Glantons, it's the Christmas "hot seat."
After a hearty meal and singing our rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," we pull a chair to the center of the room and, one by one, people are called into the spotlight to open their gifts.
When I was growing up, we'd start with the youngest, including babies in their mothers' arms, and end with the eldest aunt or uncle. But in recent years, we've narrowed the hot seat down to youngsters under the age of 18, which cut the time significantly from what used to take hours.
During that time, everybody gave a gift to everybody, down to third and fourth cousins, some of whom we weren't even sure were related. Sometimes it was a just a key chain or a scented candle — but everyone received something.
As a teenager, I remember being bored out of my mind watching my dad, by then the family patriarch, open his fourth box of white handkerchiefs and my Aunt Arvella tear into a nicely wrapped box to reveal her third set of dish towels.
Now, I get a kick out of watching my 8-year-old great-nephew open his gift from me and pretend to be surprised, even though it's the same remote-controlled helicopter that his younger siblings and cousins had just received.
He probably doesn't even remember that I gave each of them a similar gift last year. I certainly didn't — until someone reminded me.
But I take pride being in tune enough with the younger generation to know that they'd prefer anything electronic to a set of Ninja Turtle underwear.
Before I go any further, I need to make this clear. I have a fantastic family. By no means are we perfect, but we love and support each other. I wouldn't trade a single one of my brothers, nieces, nephews or cousins for the world. And that's the truth.
With that said, I'm going to talk about one of our imperfections.
In case anyone in my family is reading this column, I'm not saying that no one gives any thought to the gifts we give each other. But those who fit into this category know who they are.
I'm one of the biggest culprits. I'm often guilty of grabbing whatever is left on the store shelves on Christmas Eve. My only criterion is that it fit into a gift bag.
I was brought up to believe that it isn't what's in the gift that matters or how much it cost. What's important is that someone cared enough to want to see me smile and giggle as I sat in the hot seat and opened my boxes.
Our family wasn't wealthy, and there were lots of people to buy gifts for. So the fact that someone spent their hard-earned money and gave their time, even if only a few seconds, to think about you at Christmas spoke volumes about our family, our relationship and our unconditional love for each other.
I still carry that with me today. I truly appreciate any gift that someone gives me, for any occasion. Even if it's not my personal style, I make a point to wear it at least once. And if it's a household item, you can bet that I have it on display somewhere in my home.
A few years ago, we decided to cut back on our gift-giving list. The kids, including those in college, still get presents from everyone. But the adults pull names. Well, actually Elfster — the online gift matching website — does it for us. And my nephew maintains the list of Secret Santas.
It was supposed to streamline the giving process and make the gift exchange run more smoothly. In my opinion, it made it more complicated. This idea of a Secret Santa apparently causes a lot of stress for some people.
Some relatives simply don't trust everyone to come through. They worry about gift inequities and whether some people, while receiving a gift, might forget their own Secret Santa obligation. It has happened a few times. So the host simply buys a few extra gifts to have on hand in case of a shortfall.
To deal with gift inequities, Elfster allows participants to list what they want. Sadly, almost everyone puts down "gift card."
With busy schedules and the holiday rush, it's understandable that many of my relatives love the gift card idea. They can pick up a few gift cards in the grocery store checkout line and their Christmas shopping is done.
At our Christmas parties now, everyone just goes around the room handing out gift cards. You give one person a $25 card and they hand you a $25 card back.
Most of the time, they don't even take the time buy a card from a specific store. They go with the generic American Express or MasterCard that can be redeemed anywhere.
Last summer, I decided to cash in on the numerous gift cards I've received over the years. I had enough of them stashed away in a Manila envelope in my closet to purchase a brand-new iPad.
I suppose I could look at it as though my relatives all got together and said, "Let's chip in and get Dahleen something she really wants."
But in reality, it's the opposite. A gift card is the ultimate nongift. It shouts, "I was too busy to think about you this year."
I refuse to give them. And I've made it clear that I'd much rather receive a key chain that someone picked out for me than a one-size-fits-all gift card.
It's not just that gift cards are impersonal. There are more complicated issues associated with them as well.
We had to decide what — if anything — should be the minimum and maximum price of the gifts in the Secret Santa exchange. It wouldn't be fair if someone spent $50 on a gift card while someone like me catches a Wal-Mart door buster and spends $15 on an actual gift.
So in previous years, we settled on a minimum of $25 and a maximum of $50.
This year, we didn't include a minimum, but the maximum is still $50, which some people apparently think is what they're expected to spend. That's steep for a relative who might have lost their job or is experiencing other hardships.
My advice to anyone who asks me is to ignore it and go to Wal-Mart.
To keep from receiving a gift card by default, I list a few things I might like — a "Boo" stuffed animal, a Filofax weekly planner or AMC movie tickets. All of them are inexpensive.
I'd never suggest that we stop giving gifts altogether at Christmastime. But I'm going to offer another idea for next year.
Let's go back to the old tradition of everyone getting their turn in the hot seat. Elfster can continue to pull names, but instead of giving a gift card, we'll give each other something that can be cherished forever.
When the spotlight shines on us, we'll tell the person whose name we've drawn how important they are in our lives. That's much more meaningful than a gift card. And a lot more valuable than a key chain.