What were they thinking?

Grin and bear it ... I really hope this isn't a repeat of last year.
Grin and bear it ... I really hope this isn't a repeat of last year. 

Oh come on – admit it! It’s a thought that runs through your head at least once every Christmas when you unwrap that certain gift. It could be a kettle stand, a hand-knitted jumper, a back scratcher or any of the other hundred or so really strange gift choices that some people make. Whatever the object of aesthetic torture is this coming Christmas, you know that (despite the delighted smile you’ll force onto your face) your brain will be screaming:  “what the heck were they thinking?”

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not in any way talking about the weird and often quite useless gifts that our children give us. No – those items are loved and cherished no matter what they are. Last year my six-year-old gave me a Mariah Carey CD – a second-hand one from 1999 that she bought with her own pocket money from the school fete. She thought that Mariah looked so pretty, gyrating across the cover in a pair of skimpy white panties and bra, with a rainbow artistically plastered across her boobs. I’ve never played the CD, but I treasure it nonetheless.

Adults, however, are old enough to know better.

"Regardless of how much time you have, the rule for selecting a great gift never changes; know who you’re buying for," encourages Westfield Christmas Gift Expert, Margaret Merten. "Start by making a list of everyone you need to buy for, and identify three things each person likes. Whether it be a hobby, musician or destination, it doesn’t matter. If you’re not sure, ask! Friends or family can provide insights, or ask direct without giving too much away."

Margaret suggests the following strategy for organized shoppers:

- Make a list of who you need to buy for, then make a short-list of potential gifts and run these by friends and family for a fool-proof win.

- If you see something that grabs your attention, jot it down. Chances are your tastes extend to those around you, provided their interests match!

- Get inspired. "Having an idea of what you’re after sometimes isn’t enough, you need to see what’s available," Margaret says. "These days, gift guides are produced by everyone from magazines to bloggers, and browsing them is great for ideas. Westfield produces its own guide that’s available in-centre and online. The benefit is that all the products shown are available for purchase in that centre, making it easy to plan your shop."

And as for dodgy gifts – anything from ill-fitting lingerie from the in-laws, to bad-taste costume jewellery or truly gross perfume - well, the possibilities are endless. "At least half my extended family gave me some variation of bath salts, bath oils, etc last year," says one Mum, Leonie. "The kicker is though – that I don’t have a bath! It’s all still sitting there, taking up room in the cupboard."

And sometimes, of course, it’s not the item itself, but where it came from. "My daughter’s boyfriend gave me a gift basket of toiletries last year," says another Mum, Joan. "It had soaps, moisturizers, lip balm and so forth. The trouble is though, that he forgot to remove the card which showed it was a present given to his mother by her work colleagues." Awkward!