It’s getting harder and harder to buy Christmas gifts. Once upon a time, you could always buy someone a book. But now many people download all their books electronically.
It’s getting harder and harder to buy Christmas gifts.
Once upon a time, you could always buy someone a book. But now many people download all their books electronically.
The gift of music was always a good one. But again, many people don’t purchase actual physical items such as vinyl or CDs anymore. They download their music electronically.
Buying a video game used to be a sure thing for my teenaged son. But now — you guessed it — he almost always downloads these and plays them online.
Of course, you can always purchase gift cards, but in my view, those are as impersonal as a roll of cash, only less convenient.
Clothing is always iffy. Choosing something that will fit and suit the recipient’s taste isn’t easy.
I’m tempted to give everyone a fruitcake. I think it’s a myth that nobody likes them. I remember when I was a kid one year, my parents decided to make an enormous batch of fruitcakes to give to everyone on their list.
I remember the only container we had large enough to mix the huge batch in was a big roasting pan. We started out by separating out at least a dozen egg whites, and we prepared to beat them until fluffy.
Our electric mixer found this to be the perfect moment to suddenly stop working. So we formed a circle around the roasting pan, each of us holding a fork, and attempted to froth up the egg whites.
My admiration for pre-industrial cooks who whipped egg whites by hand grew exponentially after about five finger-cramping minutes. I remember at about that point, my parents suggested it probably didn’t matter if the egg whites weren’t exactly at the meringue stage. My sister and I quickly agreed.
I don’t remember how many miniature loaves of fruitcake we made in our un-Truman Capote-like fruitcake baking, but it was a lot. We then soaked cheesecloth in rum and wrapped each loaf separately and left all that fruity-rummy goodness to age according to directions.
I am not sure how many loaves of fruitcake we actually gave away that year because I think we started sneaking into the supply about seven minutes after wrapping the last one in cheesecloth. (We had the same experience when my mother used to make pickles, with a huge crock of cucumbers on the kitchen counter mysteriously only producing a few pints of pickles. They must have, um, disintegrated into the brine).
My two children –– both college students and, thus, poor –– have begun making not fruitcake but other Christmas goodies as gifts. I don’t know many people who object to an assortment of homemade cookies and candies, and frankly I think the kids have more fun baking and dipping things in melted almond bark together than they ever would tramping through store after store.
I wonder if we wouldn’t all enjoy Christmas more if we started giving more homemade gifts?
Sometimes young people really need things like housewares or tools or clothing, and Christmas provides a good opportunity to help them get what they need to establish their households. But I think when you reach the point of wandering around a gift shop trying to figure out what you could possibly get for people who already have everything they need, maybe it’s time to stop shopping and time to start making something.
If you don’t think Christmas candies or cookies — or fruitcake — would be welcomed, there are always other ideas. It doesn’t have to be sweets. Pickles? Flavored oils or vinegars? It doesn’t even have to be edible, necessarily, especially if you don’t cook. There are whole websites dedicated to homemade gifts if you need ideas.
I don’t think I’ve ever received a homemade gift that didn’t thrill me.
That includes fruitcake.
Editor Michelle Teheux may be reached at email@example.com.