Originally published in the San Diego Jewish Journal.
Chanukah comes early this year, bringing lights, latkes, and presents. DUN NAH NAAAAAAA! Oh no! You have to find the perfect gift for your special someone. Whether you are in a long-term committed relationship, or you are just experiencing the budding beginnings of romance, gift-giving can be an extremely stressful challenge. As we approach the festival of lights, here are four tips that will help you survive this tradition without getting burned out.
1. Get Personal
The best kinds of gifts are ones that you put some thought into. Whether you’ve been dating two weeks or 20 years, when it comes to finding the perfect gift, there is one place to start: with them. Think back through conversations you’ve had. What are their favorite shows, books, activities, hobbies? You may luck out and remember something they specifically asked for. You may luck out even further and they may not remember having asked for it, meaning you get to be a superhero!
Remember, you don’t have to over-think it. Just don’t make it an after thought.
2. Keep it appropriate to the relationship
Whenever you’re considering a particular gift, be sure to also consider the context of your relationship. If you haven’t been dating very long, then a surprise romantic get-away for two to the Caribbean is not only way over the top, but it will almost certainly send the object of your affections running for the hills. A good rule for new couples is: keep it simple, and under $25. A small token of your affection is all you really need. That also puts far less pressure on your date if he or she hasn’t gotten you something.
3. Match their personality and sense of humor
My dad often tells the story of the one (and only) time he tried getting my grandma a funny card for the holidays. She read it through, pursed her lips, gave a little huff and said, “Well, if that’s how you really feel.” Now, hopefully, your special someone will be a tad more understanding than my very prim and proper grandma (may she rest in peace), but when finding a gift, take time to consider the person’s sense of humor. Some people just want straight-up romance and heartfelt presents. Others find flowers and poetry irritating, but a whoopee-cushion on the restaurant chair might go over great. I’m willing to guess, though, that most of us fall somewhere in between. We like the romance, but want it tempered by humor so it doesn’t get too disgustingly, mushily sweet.
4. Have fun with the search
I’ll let you in on a secret: I actually love finding gifts for people. Why? Because rather than approaching gift-hunting as a chore, or something to stress about, I think of it as a treasure hunt (one that won’t fill my own apartment with a ton of stuff I don’t need!). It’s a fun way to communicate my affections for those around me, and show them how well I know them.
So, as Chanukah draws near, take a deep breath, set aside the stress, and get back to the real reason we give gifts: to have emotional leverage over the people we love. (cough cough, ehem) I mean: to express our feelings for the people in our lives, and to bring them joy.
With that, I wish you a happy Chanukah, and a fun gift-searching season.