Gift Voucher: As far as stress-free gifts go the voucher has many advantages. Difficult maiden aunts, family members you only see once a year with weight fluctuation issues, new boyfriends and girlfriends of your extended family who have been invited by proxy but whom you hardly know – all, thankfully, can be catered for with a one-size-fits-all gift card and a token bottle of whatever red is on offer at the local supermarket. The downside to gift vouchers in the Good Old Days (or perhaps, in this respect at least, they were the Bad Old Days) was that they were redeemable only in certain shops or types of shop, so you still had to have some vague idea of what the recipient might chose to spend their money on. A book token, for example, is no use whatsoever to a non-reader and a record token would hold little appeal for either those who aren’t particularly fussed about music (I find that concept baffling but even in my own family they exist) or the Greatcoat Guru who only uses obscure independent record shops which don’t accept gift cards and stock music no high street chain that does accept gift cards would be likely to carry.
My son, Ben, would regularly receive tokens for a well-known high street computer Game retailer (no names, no pack drill) from a friend, and would groan in disappointment whenever he did so. The problems were twofold: firstly they would never have what he wanted in stock and would have to order it, and secondly they were charging twice as much for it (and usually more than the value of the gift card) than any other shop or online retailer. It also meant a trip into town to cash in the voucher, which in mid-January weather could be a damp and bitter experience even without the added hassles detailed above.
I have a maiden aunt who loves a Boots voucher. I have given her a Boots voucher for Christmas every year since 1983. So has every other member of my family. She lost her mobility in 1997 and now has no opportunity to cash them in, but sticklers for tradition we still give them to her. She probably has enough money in Boots vouchers now to broker a takeover bid. The downside to this arrangement was that she always gave a Boots voucher back. I would give her a fifteen pound Boots voucher and she would give me a five pound Boots voucher. As I never, ever shopped in Boots – apart from once a year to buy a fifteen pound gift voucher – it would demand me saving her gift to me all year round and then putting it towards her gift the following December. It would have been easier to just tacitly agree for me to buy her a ten pound voucher and for her not to bother, but this would have seemed mean-spirited however logical.
Thankfully, these days you can buy vouchers to spend online that can be redeemed against pretty much anything, be it a book, a record, a bottle of bubble bath or even a new sex toy without the gifter ever needing to make a decision regarding the nature of the gift or the recipient ever having to disclose the nature of the purchase. Wonderful! On the downside, both parties then have to contend with the guilt of buying from a multinational tax-avoiding conglomerate that is driving local high street shops and services out of business at a terrifying rate.
Ah well. You pay’s yer money and yer takes yer choice…
Glitter: The kids, bless ‘em, love a spot of glitter, don’t they? A pot of glue, a tube of glitter and a bit of folded cardboard and they’re in heaven. Little pink tongues sticking from the corners of their mouths as rapt in concentration they sprinkle alliterative sparkles over Santa’s sleigh, gawd bless ‘em. Mum, though, generally not so keen; especially when even the cyclonic power of the Dyson can’t get the bloody stuff out of the living-room carpet. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, glitter. All year round. Forever and ever. Amen.
Gold: I don’t know, what were those wise men thinking of ? Gold! For a baby! I arks ya! *tsk* Admittedly, it probably went down well with Mary and Joseph, but it’s a bit lazy, ennit? Personally, I hate getting money for Christmas – it shows no imagination whatsoever and a lack of thought, IMHO. A gift voucher’s marginally better – depending on which shop (see previous entry) – but not by much.
That said, compared to Myrrh and Frankincense… What’s wrong with a rattle or a nice romper suit for heaven’s sake? I mean, there the poor little bugger is, laying on a bed of mucky straw in a feeding box with nothing but a wispy old bit of swaddling cloth (‘I’ve never seen a baby so crudely swaddled’ – Peter Cook, bless ‘im) to hide his shame and those two dummies fetch up with a couple of bags of plant resin! What the… …
And now I think about it, what’s all this with the ‘plant resin’? Sounds a bit iffy if you ask me. ‘Oh yes, officer, it’s just a bit of myrrh for the baby. And some frankincense. Yes, I know what it looks like, but honestly… Yes, very similar, and it burns the same way too, but…’
One hell of a party going down in that lowly cattle shed in the year nought if you ask me. Perhaps that’s why the shepherds were there: catering. Nothing hits the spot when you’ve got the munchies after a heavy night’s clubbing like a good ol’ Shish, now does it?