It promises to be a season like no other in our recent history: discouraged from seeing our families for traditional meals, all holiday concerts and pageantry cancelled, shopping made more difficult. Will even Santa be forced to quarantine?
Accordingly I’m trying to focus on the positives of the season. Plenty of time to bake and savour cookies by the fire. We’ll decorate our home as early as socially acceptable to fully enjoy the sparkle and lights (now?). The holiday tunes will be spinning as of November 27 (or again, now?). We hope to do our annual Christmakkuh celebration with dear friends bundled up outside this year – maybe the dreidels will spin faster on ice? And it is our kitten’s first Christmas, so that will be interesting – will he knock over the tree?
And, not to be a downer, but even with a promising vaccine on the horizon, it looks like this will be our new normal into at least the first half of 2021. Thus, here are my top pandemic gift picks, chosen by myself, with no input or persuasion from any vendor. Just things I or people I know have or love.
Kobo Clara ereader – This is my absolute top suggestion. For my kids’ birthdays last year, I wanted them to receive dedicated ereaders, with no other features to distract them. They also had to be able to download books from the library (not a feature of all ereaders in Canada). After some research, I decide upon the Kobo Clara. My kids started reading nonstop, constantly borrowing ebooks and pleased to get Kobo gift cards for presents. They liked them so much that I asked for one myself for Christmas last year, and I only have great things to say about it. Excellent gift. Has been a lifesaver for both times of travel (not many these days) and the end times (that is, not having to go into a physical library or bookstore during a pandemic), not to mention for those with insomnia who don’t want to wake their partners in the middle of the night.
Books – what else do you have to do this upcoming winter but read? We’ll all be cooped up for many months, so now’s the time to crack open a book (or fire up your Kobo). I have suggestions for historical fiction, nonfiction, and Jewish literature, plus some ideas from best-selling author Neil Pasricha, who wrote The Book of Awesome and related inspirational books.
A subscription to a streaming service – I personally love to watch all the historical series on Netflix. Some of my favourites are The Crown (about the royal family in the 20th century), Outlander (based on the wildly popular books), Medici: The Magnificent (about the infamous Florentine family), TURN: Washington’s Spies, the docudrama Roman Empire, and much more. I was saddened when Call the Midwife was taken down in Canada. There’s a bottomless pit of shows to choose from in a wide spectrum of genres. There’s also lots on Disney Plus (Hamilton, Mulan, Hidden Figures, The Princess Bride), Amazon Prime (The Pillars of the Earth, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), HBO (The Plot Against America, John Adams) and other streaming services that your gift recipient may not yet have.
Board games – When you’re sick of family movie night, wouldn’t it be nice to pull out some board games? Our family favourites include Scrabble, Boggle, and Carcassonne with various add-ons. When we don’t want to think too hard, the Downton Abbey board game is fun. My daughter received Exploding Kittens for her birthday and really enjoys that, and my son likes the Fortnite version of Monopoly. But there are endless options out there, with new ones every year.
Snowshoes – Could there be an easier sport than snowshoeing? Just wear your own boots, strap on a pair, and out you go for a walk in a snowy wood, or heck even just down the street after a snowfall. Kids can do it, old people can do it, anyone who can walk can do it. We’re going to need to embrace the winter this year big time and we can’t stay inside for months on end. So bundle up, put on your snowshoes, and get outside. I recommend hot chocolate to cap off off your expedition.
A pet – if you’ve been on the fence over whether to bring an animal into your life, I say this is the year to do it. It might be tough to even find one – everyone wants a lockdown pet. But I will say that never having tonein my life, I am completely in love with our new furry friend. We put a deposit on him in February (due to allergies, we were looking for a very specific breed), luckily right before Covid hit, and picked him up in May. He has truly been the best thing of this year, like a soft, silent, self-sufficient, toilet-trained baby. Sometimes we just gaze admiringly at his beauty. Other times we laugh at his antics. But cat, dog, bird, or even snake (my nephew got an orange serpent in September), these little gals and guys could bring a lot of joy into your life well beyond the holidays.