Givings and misgivings

2007-12-22 00:00

For many of us the end of the year is a righteous cause for celebration. Building up to December’s silly season, office parties offer their own brand of silliness where people, in a drunken stupor, photocopy their backsides, french kiss the receptionist, and generally let their hair, and everything else, down in a feast of wine and shooters that would make Bacchus proud.

Radio presenter Gareth Cliff’s family Christmas parties are a lot tamer.

“My parents, particularly my mom, are great at keeping the Christmas tradition going. It doesn’t matter how old we get, where we are, where we live or what we are doing, we always get together to put up the Christmas tree. Then my mom usually organises a Christmas party. She invites the Salvation Army over to sing and we, together with all the people we know, friends and family, sing carols,” says Cliff.

In his years of radio presenting on 5FM, Cliff has received a number of strange gifts, including a T-shirt that read “100% Zulu boy”.

“I was probably the only white guy on radio who was supportive of that particular cause. This is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. My worst gift was a basket of nuts and biltong that an unnamed relative gave to me. It was a horrible masonite basket filled with biltong and nuts that had long passed their expiry date. It would’ve been better if this person had not got me anything,” says Cliff.

Cliff prefers to stay in Johannesburg over Christmas. “I never go away at Christmas time, I’m crazy about Christmas and about spending it with my family,” he says.

Another drive time 5FM presenter, DJ Fresh, has a crazy schedule at this time of year, even though he doesn’t really do parties on December 25.

“For the past four years, I’ve played at an underground party in Durban on New Year’s Eve. This is the first year in five years that I’ll be playing somewhere different. I’ll be doing a gig in Namibia, taking the whole family and then we’re spending a week in Swakopmund,” says Fresh.

“The best present I ever got was a Nintendo console. It was 1983 and I remember saying to my mom, it’s only 30 bucks, which in those days was a lot of money. The beauty of the Nintendo was that you only needed one game, the rest you could get just by swopping. In three years I had owned and played all the Nintendo games around.

“What I would really like for Christmas these days is peace of mind. My life is so full of clutter, it’s part of the stuff that comes with what I do,” says Fresh.

Nazma Vajat enjoys a different kind of limelight. She’s been volunteering for Reach for a Dream in Cape Town for nearly eight years. A librarian by trade, she started doing volunteer work when she was still at school.

“Each year at this time I am strengthened by the willpower of the kids we help. They go through so much pain but they’re always smiling and grateful.” says Vajat.

“Every November and December we do two dream handovers to children in homes who have no families. One year we took a group of kids to a shopping mall. They’d never encountered an escalator before so we landed up going up and down the escalator the whole afternoon,” says Vajat.

For Kirsty Lamberti, a publicity consultant and lecturer, her best gift this Christmas was her emergency passport.

“After having foolishly realised less than two weeks before departure on a Christmas cruise that both of my passports had expired, I started to panic and had to do something fast to fix the situation. I know now more than ever before that Christmas certainly is a time for giving … lots of cash to the people at the front of the queue at downtown Johannesburg Home Affairs. At least I will be in a position to attend this holiday with my loved ones.”

Recycled gifts are a no-no for Lamberti, especially items that have been used and then cleaned up to appear new.

“We have a very eccentric family friend who used to recycle things lying around her house as Christmas presents in an attempt to impress her husband by her ability to save money,” says Lamberti.

When it comes to gifts of a personal nature, recycled or otherwise, Grant Ravenscroft, of Croft & Co., would rather jump out of the bathroom naked with a ribbon tied round himself than give his wife gift vouchers.

“A little effort needs to be put into giving gifts. Instead of vouchers, rather give a person something they can exchange for something else.

“Also, as much as people love receiving a set of plates or a throw, in other words gifts for the house, they’d much prefer to get gifts that are specifically for them,” he says.

“A few days ago, a customer bought two Mont Blanc watches, one for him and one for his wife. It’s that kind of gift that is instantly gratifying. You don’t have to plug it in or figure it out, you just put it on your wrist and wear it. The giver also wants instant gratification, he or she wants to see the other person’s eyes light up when they tear up the wrapping,” says Ravenscroft.

“I would personally like to get a fusion power razor. I love the art of shaving,” says Ravenscroft.

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