by Chrysa Smith

A little over a century ago, O. Henry penned The Gift of the Magi. Of course, it’s topical, because the story involves gift giving, true love and being cash poor.

Interesting that it took about a hundred years for so many of us to understand, perhaps for the first time in a long time, what it’s like to be faced with holiday gift-giving, on a more limited budget for the masses. Bah humbug! Thank you Uncle Sam!

So while some are giving IPads and IPhones, I will be eyeing other options to show my affection for family and friends this season—and here’s what I’m thinking:

Back to basics–no tech gifts on the list. I’m making it chic and trendy to go old-school with beautiful gifts from days of communications past, one item that’s unique and specially wrapped, gifts for/from nature and home made items and of course, gifts from ‘ye olde wine and spirits shoppe.

But you must admit, when you think of Christmases past, what are really the big gifts? Not the car, piano, trip to Cancun (disclaimer: I’ve never received any such gifts, but some of you may have), but the gifts of great times with friends and family—so instead of thinking ‘what could they use?’, instead think ‘What would make them a great memory?’ That’s why I like gifts of ‘experiences’ that will last long after the wrapping paper and novelty have worn away. What are some of your favorite cherished Christmas memories? These are tops on my list:

  • Two city girls (that’s me, pictured right, circa 1980) who voyaged to the country in search of the perfect Christmas trees. Carol was the photographer. After almost losing one on the highway (due to a lack of materials to secure the bugger) we arrived back in NYC to families who, shall we say, were less than impressed with our ‘green’ discoveries
  • Seeing my son’s face on Christmas morning as a little boy; as footprints were left on the hearth; carrots for the reindeer, vanished.
  • First Christmas as a married lady, a married lady who hosted the holidays and a married lady with a new baby
  • A Buche de Noel (Holiday log cake) made for my family; lovely people who proclaimed it looked like something from the forest
  • Making Plum Pudding for my coworkers back in the 80’s–I guess they just thought I was British (which I’m not) or a weirdo. Nobody was giving that back then, which I have to say, made it memorable
  • Listening to the Mazowsze (Polish Folk Singers/Dancers) with their angelic voices; They’re on the live show list this holiday
  • The Christmas my husband got me a bike, a spa card and all sorts of things that were really me; stuff I really wanted; he really listened to me (or was he insinuating that I needed more help to get fit?)

I can still bake the buche, make the plum pudding, listen to the carols, and I know what this year’s gift is to and from my husband—-tickets to Les Miserables, which we will do a few days before Christmas. But I may also pick up a copy of O. Henry’s old tale—it’ll be a reminder to me and all on my list, that the true value of Christmas may indeed lie in and be better appreciated, when one is temporarily, cash poor.