You’ve kept it hidden during the month of December, or perhaps the twelve hours between when you bought it and Christmas morning. You’ve carefully wrapped it with some paper that is both aesthetically or emotionally resonant with the gift itself. Or else used the trimmings from a sibling’s gift-wrapping session.

Either way, the moment of handing over the present is at once exciting and terrifying. More often than not, the moment is a let-down. Not necessarily because they don’t like the present but because they can’t register a reaction quickly enough as they try to figure out what it is you’ve bought them.

Therefore you have to jump in and say “IT’S AYOKE FOR …” and “REMEMBER HOW YOU WERE SAYING YOU NEEDED A …” Either way, a certain magic of the moment has been lost. Worse still, if they actively dislike the present they’ll look away and remark on how nice the wrapping paper is.

Of course this won’t happen if you go for broke and present them with a little BMW embossed box containing a key and you just point out the window to where it’s parked. Buying someone a car may no longer be an option so here are some thoughtful presents that will always elicit oohs and aahs on Christmas morning:

DVDs can be an underwhelming present, chiefly because as an object they don’t inspire much awe. They are the chicken-and-stuffing-sandwich-from-Topaz of objects. But there is one DVD that will leave you stunned.

‘No Direction Home: Our Olympic Journey’ is a truly harrowing viewing experience. It tells the true story of a group of athletes who are in London, terrified to return home because of the hames that is being made of the Welcome Home ceremony by a combination of dark and/or incompetent forces in the government and the Irish Olympic Council. We see inside the athletes minds as they are presented with the awful choice of no homecoming at all or being subjected to the show-trial on the side of a truck on Dame Street. As the film proceeds towards its inevitable depressing denouement there is a poignant moment where one athlete is introduced to the crowd by Des Cahill – who it turns out is also being held hostage – and the audience thinks it’s Katie Taylor. So as not to disappoint them and possibly provoke a riot, a male dressage competitor has to pretend to be Katie Taylor. The result is excruciating. It’s tough uncompromising reportage and the filmaker’s follow-up film: the story of the engineer taken from his home at gunpoint and forced to stand next to Miriam during the digital switchover – Saorview: Free, But At What Price? is eagerly anticipated.

Charity Gifts

These have taken off in a big way in recent years. Who could fail to be charmed by the ads on the radio, excited farm animals off to help third world farmers? (No one has ever done a true voiceover of the animals’ thoughts however. I think a cow would be muttering “Of course I was the last to hear about it. Don’t they know now I can’t stand the heat?”) With the exception of the deluded male goat who claims he’s going to be a milk-making machine (I’ll have my tea black thanks), these are productive gifts that will last long beyond Christmas. The problem with charity gifts is that everyone wins except the person receiving the gift. Therefore a new charity gift has been designed in conjunction with the European Union. You still give a goat or a cow but as well as a warm fuzzy feeling, the recipient will also be guaranteed large subsidies by the Common Agricultural Policy, thus shutting third world farmers out of many food export markets. You know the old saying “Give with one hand, repeatedly slap around the face with the other.”

Books

The book is the failsafe Christmas present because it takes so long to complete one, the giver will be well out of the way before the receiver realises how last-minute the gift was. But with a little thought the perfect book can be found. Undoubtedly the success story of the Christmas season has been the historical epic Frankfurt’s Way.

It tells the story of a mainly well to-do family who are racked by feelings of guilt over the way they’ve abandoned their working class roots. The book follows them all the way from their lowly beginnings right up until the time when a potentially advantageous marriage to a wealthy farmer starts to go sour. Frankfurt’s Way is a parable for all of us about what happens when you forget who you really are and how to recognise the important things in life: a salary of a hundred grand a year and a big pension.

Board Games

With the release of Cork Monopoly, the public has woken up again to the charm of a board game. Many a happy afternoon can be passed in a distinctly lo-fi way. The key to engaging the players’ attention is an appropriate level of difficulty. Surely then the new version of Cluedo will be one to keep a family entertained through the depressing months of January and February.

One person plays The FAATHER. Instead of solving a murder, the other players will attempt to find millions of euro taxpayers money hidden by the FAATHER in properties and complex financial entities around the world. Be warned though, prematurely declaring “It was the daughter with an ATM card in Kiev!” could lead you with egg on your face as THE FAATHER has the right to play the “Local People Versus The Media Above In Dublin” card.

Happy shopping!

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