The Saint Arts & Culture Christmas gift guide 2012

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Christmas is just around the corner and we figured you’d be too busy wrestling with looming deadlines and panicking about exams to be thinking about presents shopping, so here’s our guide to what you should (and shouldn’t buy) this Yuletide…

Arts & Craft – Tasha Cornall

Want to know the absolute worst thing about this year’s academic calendar reforms? No, it’s not the heartless obliteration of reading week. It’s the fact that, for many of us, exams are finishing ridiculously close to Christmas this year. Many of us will be forced to face the prospect of fighting through terrifying hordes of last-minute shoppers to get to the last pair of slippers in John Lewis – the ones your Mum’s been hinting about ever since the first time she saw that weepy snowman advert. But never fear – I’m here to save your elbows from pushing through the crowds with my DIY gift guide.

There’s no better way to relax after a long day of revision in the library than settling down in front of the telly to watch Miracle on 34th Street for the six hundredth time, embroidery thread in hand, knotting and looping your way to a handmade friendship bracelet. Grab a couple of skeins of thread in coordinating colours from In Stitches on Bell Street, adding some curb chain from the hardware store next to Jannetta’s, some ribbon from Bonkers, or some charms from one of the jewellery shops if you’re feeling more adventurous.

If paper crafts are more your thing, head over to Darling, Bonkers, or the newly-opened Paperchase and pick up some pretty patterned wrapping paper to fold up some origami treats. You could make a mobile by stringing some origami cranes onto fishing wire, or tie lots of multi-coloured little lucky stars onto a garland to hang across the fire place – you could even make some origami ornaments for hanging straight onto the Christmas tree!

You can never have enough food at Christmas time, and people love to receive edible gifts. Instead of going down the predictable Thorntons box of chocolates route, why not whip up a batch of cupcakes in Christmassy flavours such as cranberry, ginger or cinnamon – head to Bibi’s bakery for some inspiration (a taste test is highly recommended). For something more substantial, bake the recipients favourite pie, or for a really festive treat on a cold winter’s night, make a selection of hot chocolate spoons – simply melt some chocolate and dip a wooden spoon in. Cover with delicious combinations such as marshmallows, chopped-up nuts or fudge, and when stirred into warm milk, the chocolate will melt into the best hot drink ever.

Winter woollies – Holly Hardy

Christmastime often means either wrapping up to face the icy weather outside, dressing up for an evening of festivities or avoiding both altogether and taking advantage of the Christmas rom-com repeats. Whoever you’re buying for and whatever their winter schedule looks like, St Andrews is abundant with great additions for any outfit.

Women

If the girl you’re buying for tends to mix and match her ensembles, a pair of knitted leggings from Jack Wills will make the perfect addition to her pyjama collection. If, on the other hand, she’s a lover of all things co-ordinated, a brilliantly garish fleece pyjama set from M&Co. will go down a festive treat, and for a proper winter night spent indoors, Fil de Joie socks from Pretty Things are guaranteed to keep feet warm either during commercial break trips between lounge and pantry. To brighten up miserable days when enduring the weather is necessary, the umbrellas at Fred’s Emporium offer cheery prints and colours, but if the forecast is for snow then Superdry mittens come in a range of colours and could withstand even the most aggressive snowball fight. For post-mitten removal compliments, though, a statement ring from Matthew M. Henderson is the perfect gift, and might even match one of the glittering party dresses on display at Shmooz. As for footwear, the ballet flats from Elisabeth May are both pretty and practical, especially if mulled wine’s on the menu. However, if the recipient of your generosity is far too busy to change for Christmas soirees, give her a sparkling brooch from Jewel, which once pinned, will dress up any outfit instantly.

Men

A White Stuff flannel shirt should keep any man warm on a winter outing, and paired with a James Pringle patterned scarf from The Edinburgh Woollen Mill, will almost guarantee that he’ll steer clear of catching a winter cold. Unfortunately, as most of us know, this is sometimes impossible but while a set of three Barbour handkerchiefs from Manifesto doesn’t offer a cure, it certainly offers a stylish disguise. For making cosiness look manly, a chunky knit P. G. Field jumper from Pitlochry is in order, but for moments of boyish fun, Jack Wills’s brightly-coloured bobble hats are ideal for snowman-building and later, snowman-decorating. Further, the Duchamp socks sold at Manifesto are fantastic if your aim is to make a much-groaned about present actually quite exciting, and although the lining of the slippers from D. E. Shoes is so thick that no socks are required, the two together would surely make for a delightful combination. For a man of the world, a passport holder from Paperchase makes an excellent gift and could be used on any January getaways, but for those who plan on staying in the UK at least until the Boxing Day sales, a tweed wallet from Joules will come in very handy (and if he’s a real tweed enthusiast, Lara Platman’s Harris Tweed: From Land to Street is currently waiting on the Waterstones bookshelves.)

Christmas jingles – Jonny Elswood

Whether you’re the kind of person who starts wearing reindeer cardigans and drafting their Christmas list in early August, or a total anti-festive scrooge towards the whole affair, the crimbo tunes are inescapable. Like it or not, as December approaches, the ugly commercialism of this otherwise lovely holiday invades our lives once more. By mid November, the Christmas restaurant offers are already coming through the letterbox. Soon December hits, and the shops all explode in unison with paroxysms of tinsel, snowmen, and unnecessarily Christmas-themed snacks.

Religious or nay, Christmas for the vast majority of us is a period for relaxing and spending time with those close to us – i.e. not working unless we have to. So why on Earth would somebody spend time and energy making a Christmas album? We all know the answer. Money. Big fat piles of cash. I’d be happy to bet my Christmas lunch that not one of the big names out there pumped out their Christmas album out of festive cheer or as a ‘gift’ to their fans, or even for charity.

So what’s the industry coughing up this year, in its inevitable bout of crippling flu? Out already is John Travolta’s unsettling collaboration with fellow Grease star Olivia Newton-John. Cee Lo Green is releasing his take on the seasonal classics in Magic Moment, and Sufjan Stevens has given birth to a fifty-eight-track belter, including all the big numbers. His is the most original of the lot, offering genuine charm as well as talent to the pile, which almost disguises the fact that it’s all a bit too much.

These projects always reek of fraud however; behind the forced jolly smile on James Taylor’s face on the cover of James Taylor At Christmas, lies the decaying lust for wonga, and there’s no way Bob Dylan’s producers ok’d his Christmas In The Heart abomination, without serious turnover in mind. Christmas In The Heart is Dylan’s worst album, and far from being jolly or fun, each song seems to push his voice further away from the state of acceptability. It’s impossible to take seriously.

Of course, some artists make no attempt to hide their intentions and there’s bound to be a couple of joke releases each winter. Up there with the best of these is We Wish You A Metal Xmas And A Headbanging New Year by various heavy metal artists, headed by Alice Cooper, Ronnie Dio of Black Sabbath, and Dave Grohl. It’s wicked listening, but the whole project is clearly in jest. If you’re not into long greasy hair and thrash guitar, perhaps Christmas Dubstep might take your fancy. Nothing improves the post-gorge Boxing Day afternoon more than some heavy wub-wub-wub over Silent Night.

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