Christmas on a budget

Christmas is a time of love. Of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. Of family and friends.  Tis the season to be jolly….and all that. In good ol’ Pakistan, however, we read about it, we watch the festivities on TV but rarely do we experience it. For us it’s just a much needed day off from work because of Quaid-i-Azam’s birthday. However, if you have the chance to be elsewhere in the world at Christmas time, primarily Europe or the Americas where all the Christmassy action really is, that’s where you’ll start getting into the groove and really feeling the Christmas spirit. Or lack of it. Because let me tell you, my friends, Christmas is not JUST about all the above-mentioned. It’s also about ….gifts (sigh). Yes unfortunately, mankind has become a greedy, greedy race. Give us a chance and we’ll expect gifts. And if you are of the “not-gift-giving” species (as am I)…especially on Christmas…well, you might as well go and join dear Uncle Scrooge.

I, however, am smart. I have figured out in a very short time that one can give gifts without going bankrupt. (Why one has to go around giving gifts to everybody under the sun; work mates and acquaintances and the doorman in your apartment, house is BEYOND me) But…that’s how it is here. Therefore, follow my instructions and no one will be able to point a finger at you, for after all you DID give a gift. Here’s how:



Now I am a terrible baker. All my friends know it. I bake stuff that even I can’t palate. But I love to do it regardless. Nothing like the smell of half-baked brownies, over-baked pies, hard-edged ginger-bread men etc etc. The trick is to package ‘em up so well that no one can complain.

Or stuff ’em with hashish to ensure none of them retain the ability to.

Here’s what to do. Make a trip to the nearest 100 rupee store and stock up on gift bags, colourful wrapping paper, yards and yards of ribbon, those shiny, star shaped thingies which you can stick on gift boxes and other such flowery rubbish. Stick your rock-hard brownies in a nice box, wrap the box up pretty and HEY PRESTO, you’re done. That’s what all my husband’s colleagues got this year. My baked delicacies jazzed up to the nines. There aren’t many who’ll tell a proud and doting husband that his wife’s baking sucks!



These are the best. People will be too polite to say ANYTHING to you especially when you give a detailed explanation of how you feel it’s your duty to spread good cheer by adding the personal touch to your gifts. No sir, no impersonal, store bought stuff for my beloveds! Instead, handmade little beauties, made by a loving hand. Thoughtful and considerate. A sincere and loving gesture. Personal. Cosy and warm. No one will have the heart to say anything to you. Trust me. You might even be able to draw some “aawwws” while you’re at it. So go for it my friends. You love them so much you WANTED to spend time and do-it-yourself. No one will fault you for lacking in creativity or ideas. After all, you tried.

What do you mean ‘I just spray painted my old kicks?’

And that’s what matters. Sniff. Here’s what I made for the 2 acquaintances from the gym locker who gave me a handmade card and a box of funky-coloured bandages (??!!) respectively. (I mean, seriously?? WHY bother giving anything???) I gave them …(drum-roll!!) ….hand-painted pine cones! Hee hee. I got into my car, traipsed over to the nearest park and collected all the fallen pine cones I could get my hands on. A dime a dozen my friends, a dime a dozen. Painted them different colours. Stuck 5 each in above-mentioned fancy looking gift bags and started spreading the cheer. I even got them to say “awww”, I swear it!! The Bandage-Giver actually had a tear in her eye!



Now this is a smart smart idea. Hee hee. People here are known for being eco-friendly and recycling newspapers and paper bags and all that.  They will not only applaud you for your efforts but might also be doing the same thing next year, so be prepared for receiving something similar next year. An Environmentally-Friendly-Gift is  what I made for the next door neighbour. I had to! She landed up at my doorstep with ….”BAKED GOODS” (refer above).  They weren’t very good. Salty even! I’m pretty sure I got the rejected batch! Had they been good, it would have been a different story. Since they weren’t, she got an “Environmentally Friendly Gift”: A Newspaper Snow-Flake.  Here are the instructions:

1)      Take an old newspaper (a colourful one).

2)      Fold it up several times.

3)      Take a pair of scissors

4)      Cut circles and triangles and different shapes all over

5)      Open up the folded paper

6)      HEY PRESTO

7)      An Environmentally Friendly Gift is ready

And they’ll never call your bluff, treehuggers are notosiously militant, we hear.

I made lots. It was fun. I painted some even. I looped ‘em together with string to make ‘em cutesy and  decorative (hang ‘em on your tree if you must), stuck ‘em in another gift-bag and left them at my neighbours door with a nice note. I got a gushing phone call about my ecological spirit, my sagacity, my will to recycle paper etc etc. I agreed with her whole heartedly and even went off in a tangent about saving the rain-forests of world.



It doesn’t get better than this people, I hope y’all are taking notes. Stuff-lying-around-the-house is actually the most brilliant idea one can come up with. It can consist of anything that is ugly enough to be palmed off. But beware of one common mistake. Please ensure that the stuff don’t LOOK old otherwise you’re toast. You may consider the following:

a)      Old picture frames you’ve gotten sick of

b)      The still packed boxes of soaps, body washes, bubble baths etc which all of us have but NEVER use

c)       A tie which your husband will never wear because it’s just so darned hideous to look at

Not too mention that it makes him look like a frikkin idiot.

d)      A pair of your own earrings which are so dated you wouldn’t be caught dead in them

e)      Anything knicked from your husband (if you have to give something to a dude). A body spray or a not-too-expensive-cologne will do. Just make sure it’s not one which the husband will miss. If you’re smart, you might even have him convinced that you bought it.

And finally:



You know what I mean. Oh yes you do, so don’t act all righteous and pious with me! You do it all the time. So what if I did it on Christmas?? Your friend “X” gives you something, you swipe off the card with the message from the box, attach a new card with YOUR OWN message and palm it off to friend “Y”. No one will know, no one will care. That’s just expected! You think I ATE those god-awful “BAKED GOODS” which the neighbour gave me???? (refer above). Not me!! I palmed them off to my husband’s cousin. As for those funky-coloured bandages…ALSO GONE! Handed them to the boy who used to mow our lawn in the summer. 

Soon… there shall be a reckoning.

So there you have it. You can use these words of wisdom for all Gift-Giving-Occasions, not just Christmas. Use them for birthdays or anniversaries and such. People will remember you and your gifts for years to come. I will now take my bow. You’re welcome. 



Categories: The World I Know

Author:Alliya Iftikhar

Is still working on a by-line!


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