by Holly Adam

I was blessed to be a child of some privilege, but more importantly, a child who was taught to give, to find joy in the giving, to observe closely and listen carefully. For only with one’s eyes, ears and heart can one best determine what to give to whom as holiday season approaches.

It’s not always easy, especially as one drops into meltdown mode, whether from a Tryptophan overdose or simply from pure post-Thanksgiving exhaustion. But no matter how tired you’re feeling, now is the time to fine tune your gifting skills. As a retailer, if a client wants help in selecting a gift of apparel, make sure you ask the right questions. Then take the item you deem most perfect (in the right size and color) off the selling floor and straight to gift wrap. Deliver it to the client with a blank handcrafted card (preferably from a local artist). Okay, you can include your logo somewhere, but make sure it looks like the gift giver put in the special effort. Lose a floor sale, win a heart.

Always a great gift idea: a Christmas stocking stuffed with goodies. Yup, you can put in boxers, socks, wrist jewelry, fine chocolates, luxury soaps, even better with each item wrapped in tissue. Nothing fancy, no more paper than necessary, tied with a little ribbon. (We called them “popcorn balls” after those hideous corn syrup confections of my youth…)

Other great holiday gifts: a candle with some gelt, a tradition in the making. Or how about a family menorah or candelabra to pass on to those who will carry it forward. Something personalized is always special, as is anything hand-made or home baked. Remember that recycled (a.k.a previously loved) items score extra points these days.

For someone who appreciates supporting local food purveyors, get the best jam/jelly/honey/sauce/monthly locavore farm deliveries you can find…and you can still throw in some boxer briefs and socks. A gift certificate to a favored restaurant is always appropriate, as is a bottle of fabulous wine.

Yes it’s trite but your presence is of course the most important gift of all. Be there. Time can’t be bought. Days don’t come back. Create joy wherever and however you can. Perform a random act of kindness and feel your heart swell. Love hard and love well. Good friends are the real blessings of the holidays.

A final note on notes: thank you cards must be mailed by December 31st and, unless you’re a kid, “Thank you for the gift” does not constitute a thank you note. Make it personal. Open your heart. And breathe. With a little help from your friends, you’ve got this!

Holly Adam is a former men’s fashion director at Bloomingdale’s and now owns Stamford Ct.-based catering business Shop Chop Cook. She is gifted gift-giver. Holly can be reached at