I used to get really stressed out around Christmas time. I wanted to get everyone the perfect gifts, and not only did they have to be perfect, they had to be surprises. No lists of wants or likes to help me along, just me and my imagination. I felt that knowing what was under the tree took away from the joy of Christmas. After all, if everyone’s buying off of a list, then really you’re just trying to figure out who got you what. And what fun is that?

If I did find the perfect gift then I was thrilled, but far too often in my search for perfection I’d pass over gifts that would have made the recipient happy, certain that there must be something better out there, only to have to scramble at the last minute to get the gift I had spotted weeks before. I’m not a fan of crowded malls (it’s the fast walker in me, who resents having to dodge all the slowpokes) so that only added to the stress and general frustration. And the element of surprise went both ways – I didn’t give out a list either, so although some members of my family prefer to shop at the last minute anyway, they also had the added challenge of having to brainstorm ideas as they navigated the chaos of the malls.

A few years ago I realized that the stress I put on myself to try and live up to my own high expectations was sucking the fun out far more than lists ever could. And I’m sure my family was more than happy to also have the return of lists. Now we generally buy a mixture of items shortlisted by the recipient and items that we think the recipient would like. I still prefer to have a hint of mystery under the tree on Christmas morning, but I much prefer to have a month of joy than a morning of surprises.