Here we are….the end of Thanksgiving weekend, still with scraps of turkey left in a gelatinous pool of gravy in a tupperware container in the fridge, already embarking on Advent and the mad dash to Christmas. It's not that I don't love the holiday, because I truly do. It's the gift thing that drives me crazy. 

Growing up I remember getting very practical gifts for Christmas; socks, underwear, sweaters and other things we needed were wrapped and put under the tree. During my marriage I lamented the gifts that seemed, to me, wasteful and useless but were given with good intentions. As a mom, I treasure the painted macaroni necklaces and hand-made jewelry boxes that my kids create with love and that innocent sense of pure joy. It's actually watching them grin from ear to ear that is the gift; year after year, I relish how their eyes sparkle and their faces glow as they watch me unwrap their handiwork.

This weekend I ventured out on Black Friday. Not to partake in the certifiably inane practice, but to grab a few things for a home improvement project. I couldn't help but duck into Pier One; I am trying to find an Advent Wreath that inspires me, and thought they might have something. They didn't. Instead, I saw these:

And I had to chuckle. These napkins crack me up all the time–there's a great selection at Junque Drawer Boutique and I want them all–but this one, for some reason, made me stop and think just how ridiculous our Christmas lists have become.

Because, really, I have what I need. And the last thing I want to do is give someone a list of what to buy for me….because a true gift is an expression of something, not just an object wrapped in paper.  To me, that could be an experience or a conversation or any host of things, but probably isn't something that I can pick up at Nordstrom's.

Don't get me wrong…I could write a list of things I want but don't yet have. Yoga classes (and the time to take them), awesome equipment for my kitchen, that sexy new perfume from Burberry….trust me, I have that list. But I can probably buy those things for myself if I really want them. I'd rather get a gift that costs nothing–but means something–than the reverse.

Which puts me in a pickle when the roles are reversed; because giving a gift should be about them, not about me. I want to bridge that gap between being the crazy chick who gives the dreaded tie or chotchkie that will just end up in an office 'white elephant' exchange and being the overly sentimental loon who seems out of touch with the holiday.

This is especially challenging with kids, I think. Past years I've tried books, sentimental offerings and the like with little success; they want toys, dammit! So I justify their gifts with the knowledge that giving them what they want might not seem overly inspired to me, but it makes them happy. And that's what it's all about, right? 

Truth be told, I think I want the same thing on Christmas that I want all year around: happy, healthy, giggling children; a warm home that smells good (and is clean!); good food, great wine and amazing people to share it with. Wonder if Santa can stuff all of that in his bag?