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How to Make the Best of the Holidays

by missbrighid


The holidays are coming, and I was thinking about all the stories I've heard about people hating the month of Celebrating. I was trying to figure out why in the world anyone could hate such a beautiful time of year, when in my family, we never take the holidays for granted. It's the most done-up holiday of the year for me and my Neopets, although they prefer to stay the colors they are, and have specifically told me not to paint them.

Now, Neopets naturally have the best time of all during this time of year, but why don't their owners have as much fun as they did when they were younger? Obviously, the answer is money. Most people don't like feeling obligated to spend their hard earned Neopoints on other people, so the time of Giving becomes the time of undue stress and hardship for most Neopian families. Why is this? The number one reason that I have come up with is the fact that people don't know how to buy presents.

If you look at it the way most Neopians do, it's easy to see why everyone gets so frustrated. You go out to the overcrowded shops, stick around for hours and hours hoping to catch something before it flies off the shelf for good and you have to wait for restock, all while dodging in and out of the extremely heavy foot traffic, only to spend even more money on expensive wrapping paper that will simply be ripped to pieces and thrown in the trash a few weeks later. All this, and you never get what you really wanted or needed in return, and you've chopped your savings into a very tiny piece of what it used to be.

Please, I beg of all of you, don't keep torturing yourselves like this! It's all completely unnecessary!

Follow these simple rules, and I promise, your holidays will be the best you've had in years.

1) Shorten the list of people you'll give gifts to.

It's really sweet of you to think of all of your guildmates and their pets, and their petpets, as well as the Techo master and all of your pets' friends, but honestly, do you ever get anything back from them? Do you even know any of their names? My first rule of thumb for saving yourself time, energy and money for the holidays is to downsize. This doesn't mean that you don't need to give them anything; it simply means, prioritize. Your pets and first ring of friends are the most important to you in your life, so splurge more on them, and just bake a few batches of cookies and/or candy for the people farther in the background instead.

2) Don't waste money on high quality wrapping paper.

This is one area that quite a few people get very irritated. First you have to get out the awkward rolls of paper hidden in closets, behind tons of other boxes and shoved in weird places. Then when you finally find them and get them out, most of the paper has huge rips in it that renders a large portion of the roll useless. Then you have to figure out how in the WORLD to wrap the most awkward of gifts, like things that didn't come in boxes or are frankly just too large to wrap in a practical manner. Not to mention the fact that quite a few people have absolutely no idea how to fold it all in the first place, and end up cursing the whole gift-giving process.

Instead, how about getting a bunch of brown paper bags, tissue paper, and a roll of colored twine, then having your pets and their petpets color on the paper to decorate them? Also, how about just using the paper grocery bags you always just throw away, or put in the recycling? If you cut the bottom off and one cut down a single side, it becomes a large piece of paper. Then get your pets to decorate it. It's a great way to show off your pets' creativity, save money, and it's incredibly adorable and cherished by their friends. Don't be afraid to tape the ribbon down, either. Just roll up a piece of tape and stick it underneath the ribbon, and no one will be the wiser until they go to remove it. It helps it keep its appearance.

This isn't to say that you can't use wrapping paper at all. I happen to absolutely love it--all the different colored boxes with fluffy bows, stacked in precarious positions. You just don't have to wrap everything like that. Be a little creative and you'll save yourself money and receive compliments on your ingenuity.

3) Take time to think about what you want to give to certain people.

Nothing is worse than receiving the same gift year after year (i.e. bowties, scarves, bikes, plushies, etc.). How many bowties does a single pet really need? Of course the type of gift given depends on whom it is given to, but the same principle applies to everyone. Say you're an owner, and have absolutely no idea what to get your teenage pets. You always end up getting the same things, and considering that they're teenagers, they never tell you what bands they really like, so you ask around the chat boards to see who the most popular stars are at the time, then end up buying a CD they already own. Instead, don't be afraid to give more interesting gifts, like a book on time travel for the scifi fan, or an archery set for the pet that really, really wants to get back at Punchbag Bob. Sure, practical gifts that actually have a purpose are great, if they're truly needed, but if your pets have more clothes on their bedroom floor than in their storage spaces, do you really want to be adding to the pile of laundry that you always end up doing for them?

Ideas come to me for gifts, generally when I'm just wandering around the shops looking at random objects. I admit, it's really hard to just think of the perfect gift off the top of my head, unless I keep it in mind for the entire year, which is even harder sometimes. One of my old friends had randomly told me that he really wanted a pet Draik one day. Now I obviously couldn't go out and buy him a Draik morphing potion. But I went and looked in the trading post to see if anyone had ever made a plush version of the winged creatures, and low and behold, there are tons of them. My friend adored it--it wasn't as good as the real thing, but that way he could keep the pets he already was taking care of. Then last year, I was looking for a gift for my best friend, and happened upon a box of Jub Zambra and the Cobrall Charmers mugs. It was the perfect gift because I've never liked that particular band, although my friend and her pets find them to be the best musicians around. Also, they had just moved into their new Neohome, so it was kind of a housewarming/Day of Giving present. They loved it, of course. The trick here is that the gift is for them, not you. Therefore it means that much more to give a gift that you absolutely despise, yet know the other person would adore.

Another idea for one present is an inside joke. Everyone always says, "laughter is the best medicine." Well, it's true. Giving a gift that reminds someone of something funny that transpired between them and yourself earlier in the year is always a great idea. Don't be afraid that you'll look like a fool if they don't remember. If you've given them a box of 300 NP bouncy balls and they look at you weird, remind them of the time they bounced one too hard and it flew out the window, taking out the mailman. Trust me, they'll remember.

Lastly, the thoughtful gift. This is the gift that you typically reserve for your owner, pets, and the people that have made the biggest impact in your life over the years, either by helping your family through a crisis, or just being there to talk to. This, I find, is the easiest gift of all, although most people make it the most difficult. I want to make this perfectly clear: thoughtful does not equal expensive. Thoughtful is when you show someone just how much they mean to you, which does not mean you need to spend millions of Neopoints on a single present. Again, think of whom you're giving it to. Say you're about to finish training, and have absolutely no idea what you could possibly give to your owner because you're completely broke. This is probably the reason you want to give them a really great gift in the first place--they've bought you codestones and bottled faeries many times throughout the years. Make some personalized stationery. Make sure it's very light if you're going to write on the picture, or just make a full color picture on one side, then write on the opposite. Write a thank you letter. It's not hard at all, if you can think of all of the times they've bailed you out of a rough spot. Make a rough draft if you want; a list of things you were grateful for. Your owner always hung your drawings on the fridge when you were a younger, but she'll more than likely frame your letter--and what did it cost you? A little time?

4) Forget the diet!

Now I don't work at the Hospital, but I think gaining a few pounds over winter is way, way more tolerable than being too stressed to have any fun. I say, if you want a little more than your fair share of your favorite dish, go for it, and stop worrying about your waistline. Go ahead and think of the Month of Celebrating as your gift to yourself for being so good for the whole year, and worry about the numbers on the scale later. Worrying makes you sicker than gaining a few pounds, and effects your entire life and is extremely difficult to rid yourself of, whereas winter weight can be taken off very easily.

Now in closing, I would like to all of relate to the less-than-rich folks out there. I grew up in a very poor home, never really making quite enough Neopoints as I wanted to. As I've stated previously, the holidays are the biggest party of the year for my family, and we always made the best of everything, even though we had very little to work with. My pets took it upon themselves to help out of course, making most of their own toys and other amusements by entertaining themselves while I was bringing home the proverbial bacon, but I can't help feeling that my pets sometimes felt less than satisfied in that I could not afford to buy them books and tickets to concerts and the most popular toy of the year. I specifically remember the year of the Candychan. We were reading the chat boards, and they were talking about how people were selling them on the trading post for ridiculous amounts of NP. Then Xongy looked at me and told me, "I think they're stupid. Don't get me one, I would hate it." I smiled, and I think he could see the weight being lifted off of my shoulders. While he didn't end up being on the 'cool pet' list in the guild that year, I think he appreciated the gifts that he did receive much, much more than his peers. Maybe that's why Christmas means as much to him now as it did then.

So remember, this holiday season, relax. There is absolutely no need to put yourself into the poorhouse, or buy gifts for people whose names you can't even remember. This tradition has survived so long not due to the amount of NP we spend on others, but due entirely to the time spent with our families, building and upholding traditions, and celebrating the fact that you've survived yet another year. Gift giving is meant to make the person receiving feel loved, appreciated and understood, and you as the giver feel better about yourself for spreading happiness.

Happy Holidays.

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