Holiday shopping: What to choose?

In Russia, the biggest gift-giving holiday is New Year, comparable to Christmas in the United States. Source: PhotoXPress

In Russia, the biggest gift-giving holiday is New Year, comparable to Christmas in the United States. Source: PhotoXPress

In Russia, the biggest gift-giving holiday is New Year, comparable to Christmas in the United States. Champagne and a box of chocolates for the grown-ups, and a packet of sweets for the kids – these are the go-to New Year’s presents for Russians when they have no idea what to give. But there are some other options available too.

Which is more memorable about New Year: the joy of receiving gifts or the hassle of buying them? You have to buy presents for everyone – your nearest and dearest, your pals, the boss, and all your co-workers too.

The biggest headache is that there is no one-size-fits-all present, so shoppers get all bent out of shape trying to find something for everyone, whilst avoiding the social faux-pas of giving an unsuitable gift. The answer is to come up with a strict New Year hierarchy and put people in priority order for gift giving. Once this is done, it is much simpler to work out what to give everyone.

At the top of the gift-giving tree, usually, are those closest to you; the husband, the wife, the kids. Spouses tend to give each other gifts for household chores: a set of pots and pans, an electric saw, or even something related to their interests, such as a tennis racquet or some kind of hunting gear.

Children usually pick their own presents. The main thing here is for mom and dad to intercept their children’s correspondence with Santa. Having snatched the Santa letters, the moment comes for some parental moderation. Children might want almost anything – from a skateboard to a railway set that fills half the room – but in reality, they will receive what their parents can afford. In any case, the one thing they receive without a doubt is a box of chocolates or sweets.

Next, employees have to look after the boss. They may well rank lower on the food chain, but this does not afford one a second of relaxation when it comes to choosing some amenable gift here. Diplomacy is the watchword. Of course, it cannot look like a run-of-the-mill kind of present that will go straight into a pile of other such presents and bring no benefit to its donor whatsoever. On the other hand, going over the top might evoke accusations of flattery.

Very often, groups of mid-rank employees will get together when buying the boss a gift, while only more senior staff will buy an individual present. A nice statuette for the desk or a picture for the office wall will do here ‒ or perhaps some high-end stationery?

Similar gifts can be bought for business partners, taking care, of course, to have the present engraved or accompanied by something that clearly reveals from whom it came. This ensures that the recipient has a permanent reminder of who presented it and to whom he or she owes a favor.

Colleagues from work come at the bottom of the pile and often receive the dullest gifts: a small figurine indicating the Chinese symbol of the year, some champagne, sweets, a souvenir mug, and so on.

The range of goods available in stores where everything goes for a dollar makes shopping simpler here.  Still, even in this area, things are not done and dusted.

Situations arise where someone gives a colleague a gift and gets nothing in return, because they did not figure in the other’s New Year hierarchy. The discomfort of such situations can drag on until the following New Year. By that time, the “Scrooge” has been crossed off the other’s gift-list. However, Scrooge, seeking to make up for last year’s error of judgement, then makes an extravagant gift and leaves the tables turned uncomfortably in reverse.

“In general, people are buying gift mugs, little statuettes and serpent fridge-magnets. Soft toys go well, and we had one fellow buy a 200-euro ($260) knight’s sword yesterday. But most present buying only gets going in mid-December, and runs all the way through to New Year. On New Year's Eve, the place goes ballistic. They’ll grab anything that isn’t nailed down,” says Natalya, a sales assistant in a gift shop.

Even though New Year’s gifts appear in shops a month before the holiday itself, the main boom occurs only in late December. It seems that people get themselves sorted out with their gifts at the last moment, in order to not inconvenience those who had their act together earlier.

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