Only three weeks till Christmas and from now until the day itself there will be endless gift guides published by papers, magazines, blogs and retailers suggesting the best Christmas presents for everyone in your life.
I thought it would be interesting to look at it from a different angle to the usual lists of perfume, clothes, books etc – what is it you actually want to give the women in your life? For example, would you like them to have some time to themselves, snuggle up in cosy comfort, or experience a little luxury?
I’ve come up with a few categories below, and for each I’ve provided a couple of suggestions for the best Christmas presents at different price points.
Best Christmas presents for women when what you actually want to give is:
Comfort – hygge may have come and gone, but we still love a bit of cosiness at Christmas.
1. The YuYu hot water bottle is apparently the world’s first long hot water bottle, and reaches the bits other hot water bottles don’t! You can buy a YuYu bottle on its own for £15, or buy a cashmere, fleece or other fabric cover with a tie so you can tie it round your waist or shoulders for maximum comfort.
2. Candlelight is synonymous with Christmas, and a scented candle adds to the seasonal ambiance. I don’t usually like ‘Christmas’ scents, which can be cloying, but the True Grace Manor Christmas candle has a deliciously tangy mandarin fragrance. From £35.
Beauty – not the kind associated with pungent perfumery departments, the kind that lights up your day.
1. Common Farm Flowers, who only use British flowers, will deliver to your door The Four Seasons of Flowers – a willow wreath for Christmas that you can keep and redecorate for any occasion, and a huge bunch for spring, midsummer and autumn. £230, and definitely on my Christmas fantasy wishlist.
2. Something that’s used daily. I’m a great believer in not keeping things for best and using only things you love. Things like glasses, mugs, plates, cutlery etc. It’s particularly important when you work at home and tea breaks are a crucial part of your routine. Whatever your female friend’s style, there will be a mug or plate to suit.
Time – a bit of time away from the usual routine is a tonic, especially in winter when we tend to be cooped up indoors a lot.
1. B&Bs often have winter offers. For example, Bistrolotte here in Frome have a winter retreat offer of midweek dinner for two, followed by bed and breakfast, for £130.
2. Cinema tickets – a bit of escapism can be a real boost.
A new skill – let’s hope we don’t see too many of the cliched ‘New Year, new you’ slogans, but the turn of the year is a good time to think about change.
1. A custom that might well catch on here is Iceland’s Jolabokaflod (Yule Book Flood) – receiving a new book on Christmas Eve and spending the evening reading it with a mug of hot chocolate. Start your own tradition by giving a young friend Cooking on a Bootstrap by Jack Monroe, over 100 affordable and delicious recipes.
2. Vanessa Dennett runs regular workshops for small business owners and (would-be!) makers at her stylish and comfortable venue Oak Tree Barn in Burrington, not far outside Bristol. I’m looking forward to a wreath making workshop there soon, and next year there will be monthly Nourish & Flourish day retreats, ‘a spa day for your soul!’ (£75).
A little luxury – we all like to be spoiled once in a while.
1. London perfumery Angela Flanders offers up to four 2.5 ml eau de parfum samples of any of their fragrances for £3.50 each, with free postage. You can choose your own selection or one of their collections. And then there’s 10% off if you decide to order a full-size bottle.
2. One Hundred Stars dressing gowns hit the headlines – and immediately sold out – when Nigella Lawson wore a pale pink & green Venice map design on her cookery show. Very hard to choose, but I think the China Plates design (£69.95) is my current favourite:
Practical help – indulgence is good at Christmas…and practical might be just the thing as well!
1. Zero waste kit for bathroom or kitchen. With slight trepidation I gave a friend one of these when she moved house, hoping it wouldn’t seem too worthy, and she was thrilled with it. Make up your own collection of plastic-free alternatives like shampoo bars, reusable cotton pads, cotton produce bags etc to make habit changing so much easier.
2. Babysitting, caring for the elderly, providing a lift etc are some of the best Christmas presents any parent or carer could receive. You just need to decide what will be most useful, how much time to give, design your own voucher and make sure the arrangements are made.
Your love – it really is the thought that counts.
1. Never feel making your own presents is second best. You don’t need to be an expert cook or brilliant at sewing, just choose something you will enjoy making and know you can achieve!
2. Sometimes the best thing you can give is nothing at all. If you’d like to gently extricate yourself and a friend from the habit of exchanging presents, the bestselling Miss Minimalist has a Gift Exemption Certificate on her site with a very gracefully worded invitation to ‘find other ways to enjoy the season together’.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed putting together this entirely biased list of best Christmas presents (chosen because I like them, and not because I’m being paid to mention them!) I hope you have fun present shopping and opening, however much or little you decide to indulge.