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Giving Gifts in the Age of COVID-19

Most people would agree that 2020 has been a pretty rough year. Normally at this time, people would be planning big family gatherings and hitting the stores to get their holiday shopping done in earnest. That’s not a good idea this year, though; while hope is on the horizon, there’s still a lot of danger in our current situation. Does that mean that 2020’s final trick is that it gets to play the Grinch and steal Christmas? Of course not.


There are still a number of ways to shop and spread cheer while staying safe during the holiday season. Though some of these will depend on where you live and who you’re shopping for, here are several suggestions on both how to shop and what you can buy to make the holidays merry and bright even in 2020.


Shopping Local

With lockdowns and other restrictions affecting many parts of the country, small businesses have really taken a hit this year. That makes it a great time to buy gifts from local small businesses and independent artists in your area. Keep in mind that you still need to stay safe when supporting local businesses; before heading out to shop, see if the businesses you want to support offer online shopping or if they have storefronts at Amazon, Ebay or Walmart.com. If looking to support local artists, see if they have an online gallery or if they have a shop at Etsy or a similar website. If you do go shopping in person, try to go early in the day when the shops are less likely to be busy to help you avoid crowds.


Online Gift Options

Another option that a lot of people are taking advantage of this year is expanded online sales offered by a variety of major retailers. In most cases, they even have gift wrapping available so that gifts can be purchased, wrapped and sent directly to a recipient without having to have quite as many points of contact between purchase and the recipient. Digital gift cards are also available, letting your recipient pick out their own gift and eliminating the physical contact aspect of giving a gift card completely. Most major retailers also support storefronts put up by smaller businesses, allowing you to choose to buy the same item from a smaller retailer that may be struggling while still enjoying the convenience of using the big retailer’s website.


Custom Gift Boxes

If you want a gift that really shows how much you care, you might consider gift boxes instead of simply buying a single item from a retail store. Companies such as Harry & David (https://www.harryanddavid.com/) and Spoonful of Comfort (https://www.spoonfulofcomfort.com/) offer a variety of care and holiday gift boxes with fruits, sweet treats, gifts and more. You can also choose something really unique like an Explosion Box from Sendacake (https://sendacake.com/) to create a truly unique gift box that will leave your recipient with a great holiday memory even if you can’t physically be there together for the holidays.


Streaming Gifts

While everyone’s staying at home, streaming entertainment services have taken on a new importance. Fortunately, you can buy gift cards or gift subscriptions for the various online streaming services as a way to give the gift of entertainment to friends and family who are staying safe at home. The standard services like Netflix and Hulu have fairly recently been joined by Disney+, Peacock, HBO Max and more, and other services such as the streaming-television service SlingTV are also options. If all else fails, you can also opt for gift cards for a variety of digital movie platforms such as Vudu and Amazon Video as well.


Subscription Kits

One option that’s becoming increasingly popular are subscription boxes that you can buy and spread your gift out into the new year. There are so many of these subscription kits available these days that you should be able to find something for even the most picky of gift recipients. You can send succulent plants from Succulent Studios (https://succulent.studio/), help pet lovers to pamper their furry friends while supporting animals in need with Rescue Box (https://www.rescuebox.com/), treat the pop-culture fanatic in your life with LootCrate (https://lootcrate.com/), or get growth-stage-appropriate gifts for babies and toddlers from LovEvery (https://lovevery.com/). There are even monthly mystery subscriptions, books-of-the-month type subs and other kits designed specifically to support STEM education, foodie lifestyles and cocktail connoisseurs. You set the length of the subscription, then let your recipient be reminded that you’re thinking of them for months to come.


Digital Gaming

Video games are always a top seller around the holidays. Now more than ever before, however, it’s possible to buy games digitally either online or at retail outlets. Most stores offer digital download codes for sale for top games, both on consoles and PC, and it’s possible to buy these games online as well. In addition, subscription services such as Xbox Game Pass (and its related Game Pass for PC), PlayStation Now and EA Play provide access to a large number of games for a monthly subscription fee, letting your game dollars go even further.


Online Donations

If you know that your gift recipient loves making a difference, there are a number of no-contact ways that you can donate in their honor this year. The World Wildlife Fund offers symbolic species adoption kits with donations (https://gifts.worldwildlife.org/), offering plushes and certificates to let you recipient know exactly how the donation is helping animals around the world. Oxfam’s Unwrapped gift series (https://unwrapped.oxfam.ca/) provides donations to a number of services working around the world to defeat poverty. You can also donate directly to respectable charities such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (https://www.stjude.org/give.html) or Ronald McDonald House Charities (https://www.rmhc.org/donate) and make your donation in a love one’s honor.


Safe and Happy Holidays

The 2020 holiday season is going to be a lot different than years past, with smaller gatherings for some and virtual gatherings while staying safe at home for others. This doesn’t mean that you have to forego the spreading of holiday cheer, though. However you choose to do your holiday shopping, just make sure that you’re safe about your shopping and put some thought into your gifts. Fortunately, we live in a time when there are so many shopping alternatives available and so many ways for you to show that you care without having to fight the crowds at your local big box stores. Regardless of what you choose to do, keep yourself safe and have a happy holiday season.

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