How to Give a Memory for Christmas

I'm not sure what's going on with my hair or what I'm looking at in this photo, but let's just ignore that and focus on my wonderful family.

Last night’s blog entry is one of those for which I’m particularly thankful: It’s one of those blog entries where the comments are way more interesting and insightful than the original blog entry. The goal of this blog is to generate some form of conversation, so even a single comment goes a long way in my book, not to mention such great comments as Car’s, John’s, Katie’s, and Lorena’s.

So do yourself a favor and read those comments if you have a minute. The key points that stood out were said by Lorena (“As a kid I definitely have stronger memories of DOING things and LEARNING things than of GETTING things.”) and Katie (“Out of all of the gifts I received as a child, I can probably only name 3% of them, but it seems like I remember a moment spent with family from every year.”)

It was with that sentiment in mind that I bought Christmas gifts for my family this year (see last year’s entry on Christmas gifts for a different approach).

I wanted to buy something for my parents that would give them a shared experience that they might not otherwise indulge in (I feel like that clause sets me up for some amazingly crude but funny comments…. They’re my parents, people!). And I wanted to do the same for my sister and her fiance. My brother? He’s getting a sweater. Rumor has it that he really needs a sweater.

So after much deliberation, I bought each pair a gift certificate to one of their favorite restaurants that they rarely go to. My idea was that these people don’t need more stuff, and if they really want stuff, they probably already bought it for themselves (we’re all adults here, right? If you want cookies, you buy cookies).

But I’m hoping that I’ve bought each couple a memory of a lovely evening. An evening when they can order the best dish on the menu and not think twice about it because the bill is already covered. An evening of conversation, of laughter, and hopefully at least one comical mishap. An evening they can spend connecting with one another.

That’s my gift, my wish for those I love this Christmas.

What brilliant Christmas gifts did you think of this year?

Also, if you want to give ME a gift for Christmas, go over to the Riverfront Times and–if you truly agree–nominate my blog ( and my Facebook feed ( for #7 and #20 on the 2011 Web Awards site. If I won either of those, the publicity would surely continue to expand the conversations I hope to create.

13 thoughts on “How to Give a Memory for Christmas”

  1. Thanks for the kudos, Jamey. Sometimes your blog entries get my mind working and I go off on sentimental tangents. 🙂 I like the reasoning behind your restaurant gift certificates. I know some people think that those kinds of things are impersonal or “cop out” gifts, but I think your intent behind it is truly sincere.

    Last year, I found a company that creates gift boxes filled with candy from specific decades. Since both of my parents were born in 1956 and really came of age in the 69’s, I chose gift boxes for each of them from that decade. Apparently, most of this candy is no longer available in the US, but it’s still manufactured and sold overseas–just wanted to clarify that I didn’t buy my parents boxes of 40 year old candy!

    Their eyes lit up with nostalgia as they found items like wax lips and candy cigarettes in their boxes. They had so much fun bartering and swapping items with each other too. They looked like grade schoolers again, negotiating necco wafers for candy dots and so on.

    It was a great gift, and a true pleasure to bring some of those memories back to life for them. I would highly recommend it for anyone looking for a fun gift, although it may be too late to order it for this Christmas. I think I did see a Groupon for something similar recently though.

    I’ve also gotten hands-on cooking classes for me and my mom to do together a few times. We always have so much fun, and we can make the recipes again later as we laugh about how the instructor yelled at us for adding the cooking wine too soon, or something ridiculous like that. I honestly love spending time with my mom, and it always gives us something to look forward to after the holidays.

  2. I might copy this idea of gift certificate for restaurants for other occasions. Add a little hand written note… Oh, that would be perfect. I like, I like.

  3. This year I bought both of parents (yes, both — my dad doesn’t share very well) web cameras so they can talk to and see my nieces or their granddaughters. I took it one step further and braved the post office yesterday to send my brother a web camera so we could all talk and see each other on Christmas. My dad likes to get presents and play with them right away so he’ll love the fact that he’ll be able to see the girls that day.

    • This is a great idea too. My brother and I got my parents this same gift a couple of years ago, and they LOVED it. My parents Skype with my brother and his family on a regular basis since he lives in California. I need to be better about doing it though!

  4. I’ve definitely done this before. It’s a great gift idea I think, and I feel like it’s actually quite personal. After all you are picking out the restaurant because you know where they like to eat! One year for her birthday I bought my friend in another state a gift card to her local liquor store so she could buy wine because we always talk about wine nights. I had to call the store to do the transaction and then she had to go in person to pick it up, so I sent a fake giftcard w/instructions. I think she was more touched that I remembered the name of her local store than that I gave her something (It’s a 1 location only type of local).

    So, I think it’s that kind of thing, knowing and remembering small details, that make for a thoughtful gift.

    My most sentimental gift giving experience was a few Christmas Eves ago during the dinner get together on my dad’s side. For my dad and his siblings I bought photo ornaments that I put a picture of their parents in front of a Christmas tree in. Their parents passed away really young (my dad was in his late twenties) and the picture was apparently one that nobody in the family had seen. I’d found it in this heap of old Kodak slides that my dad had scavenged from the family home then thrown in the attic. I had the slide made into prints at the drugstore photo center. Anyway, long story short, everyone teared up and I felt really uncomfortable because I hadn’t anticipated that reaction. But it was a bittersweet tear up that led to lots of hugging.

    • Lorena–I like that you chose a restaurant (or in this case, a liquor store) based on a connection between you and your friend. Although I chose restaurants based on what my parents and sister like, I had a few options, and I chose the one with which we had a connection.

      Your sentimental gift sounds quite wonderful–great job. There was a period where I, for whatever reason, tried to make everyone cry on Christmas morning with the most sentimental gifts possible. I’m really not sure why, but I was quite good at it.

  5. These are all very sweet, thoughtful gifts. I like the idea of giving something that will create a memory. Last year, I gave one set of friends who are married a “Movie Night” gift set. I filled a popcorn bowl with different goodies like popcorn, candy, soda, and a Blockbuster giftcard. They love staying in and watching movies, so I knew that my gift basket would create a fun “night in” for them.

  6. Hi! I’m late to the party on this one but I LOVE the idea. My brothers and sisters in law do a grab (so you spend $100 on one sibling, rather than $x on many). The first year everyone asked what the other person wanted (discretely, so you didn’t know who had you but you knew what you were getting). After I bought my sis in law a Medium black north face jacket, style #xyz, on sale at a certain store because that put it under the $100 limit, I decided I would not make my gift giver do the same.
    My request was $100 spent on both of us to do something together. The first year my sister in law & I went for pedicures and lunch in Boston, the second year a different sister in law and I went to see a play (nose bleed seats, but it was fun!) and last year my brother in law took me indoor sky diving (5 minutes total but it was awesome!). It’s the memory and that’s what Christmas and the Holiday season is about!

    • Katie–I like that you made it your request for your gift to be something you do together with the giver. That adds an extra layer to the process, resulting in something that will bring you closer to the giver. I very well might try that next year.


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