The Gifting Dilemma by Damien Jordan
The winter season makes us all excited for holiday fun, from baking, to decorating, to partying with friends. But perhaps the most long-awaited seasonal activity is on our minds even in the many months before December: gift giving.
So what is the best way to gift? Is it making the item of their dreams by hand? Or finding the perfect present on the shelves? We’ll find the answer as we wander through the experience and advice of Ottawa natives, each with a different input and perspective.
“Homemade gifts, all the way," says Grade 11 student Sydney Deneau in my fist interview of the day over Zoom on a snowy Sunday morning.
Syd is on the call from her bedroom, an artists’ haven full of paintings, sketches and pictures, including a self portrait in progress balanced on an easel behind her. She tells me how she makes her gifts in many mediums, from paint to lino-cut to pottery, all with the help of her lovely dog Maple, who was eager to contribute to the interview.
“My end goal is to [get people to] be like ‘oh wow! This is awesome! You’re the best!’ [when I give them gifts], and I can really get that with homemade stuff."
Travelling through the slushy streets of downtown Ottawa, we reach the home of Susan Greene, a mother from the Glebe who provides a different insight. “It’s difficult when you have four kids with very specific wishes, and a full time job," she says as she picks at a bowl of cherries on the kitchen counter. “Plus [when I buy gifts], I get to shop for me too.”
Ms. Greene doesn’t have a lot of time off from her job with Global Affairs to spend shopping, but when she does, she looks online or in Bank Street’s quaint, boutique shops to find the perfect gifts and stocking fillers for her family.
“I’ll start looking as early as August to make sure I can get everything [my kids] ask for.” she says, “Never wait until December, everything’s sold out by then.”
I thank her for the advice and log back onto my computer for my final interview, with Canterbury High School student Nate Fahmi.
We find Nate in their room at their Mom’s house in Orleans, accompanied by their cat Louie. It’s still snowing outside, even by late afternoon, and they seem thankful to be at home instead of on the bus.
“I mostly just crochet stuff,” they say when asked what they like to make their friends and family for the holidays, “Winter stuff, like mittens and scarves. I like making mittens.”
Nate makes their gifts with hooks and yarn most of the time, but will also turn to the shelves of their local bookshop to find the perfect read for their classmates in Canterbury’s Literary Arts program.
“I like anything that has thought put into it.” they say, patting Louie on the head as he sleeps on the bed. “Even if it’s just a Spotify playlist or something, it’s still so special.”
So now we’ve made our way across the city, visiting people who each have something unique to contribute to the conversation. But what’s the answer to the question? What truly is the superior way to gift over the holidays? Luckily, we found that too.
“It’s so nice!” Nate says, “People are giving each other gifts, I’m not going to be judging. Like, ‘ugh, you got me a chapters card? I hate you.’ That’s so rude!”
Ms. Greene frowns as she puts her now empty cherry bowl in the sink. “Well, I don’t know. As long as people like [their gifts], who cares, really?”
“I don’t care!” Syd dramatizes, smiling. “If you wanna buy someone you love a Christmas gift, go for it! If you wanna make them something, go for it! If you wanna just give them a hug or something... Go! For! It! Just make people happy!”
Because that’s the spirit of the holidays, isn’t it? It’s not about wining, it’s not about being above others. It’s about sharing love, and making people happy.
“I like anything that has thought put
into it.” -- Nate Fahmi