Anyone can pick up a gift card and call it a day, but it takes special skill to come up with the perfect present for your loved ones. Not only do you have to dream up a brilliant idea, you have to nail the execution. It makes ideal gift deliveries rare and special.
I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t have the best track record — not when there was that Christmas in elementary school when I fished presents for my parents out of my junk drawer for lack of better ideas (sorry, Mom and Dad!). As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve learned to appreciate how great it feels when you just know that you got it right.
In fiction, gift-giving is easier. Characters don’t have to battle long lines, try to track down a product that’s sold out all over town, or worry over whether a package will arrive by Christmas. The author can decide on an idea, and bam, make it happen. Even with that advantage, though, not all fictional gifts are created equal; some are still worlds better than the rest.
Here, 10 Christmas presents given in fiction that everyone should aspire to top. Hopefully you made out as well as these characters did.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
A Christmas Breakfast
The March family was by no means wealthy, but after receiving their spoils on Christmas morning, they felt pretty fortunate — so much so that they walked their Christmas breakfast down the street and gave it to a family that was truly in need. Their generous gesture was later rewarded when another neighbor sent a meal over to them. Obviously, they started a trend.
The Princess Present (The Princess Diaries Series) by Meg Cabot
Collectors’ Items (and Sacrifices)
Great minds think alike, and apparently great couples sacrifice alike. When Mia and her boyfriend, Michael, shared their first Christmas in Genovia together, they each tried to get the other a special gift. Mia sold off one of her Buffy the Vampire action figures so that she could buy Michael a 1977 Star Wars movie poster. In a crazy coincidence, it turned out that Michael was the seller of the poster; he’d sold it so that he could buy Military Xander, an action figure that he believed would complete Mia’s Buffy collection. And it would have, if only she hadn’t already auctioned off that other one to be able to afford his present. Still, the sacrifice on both sides made it all the more meaningful.
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
When a seemingly never-ending blizzard kept trains from getting to town, supplies were running low. And we’re not talking “use less salt” low; we’re talking “oh, crap, we’re almost out of our essentials” low. The Ingalls family hoped that a Christmas barrel sent by a family friend would arrive before the holiday, but there was no such luck. Still, Pa made the day special by surprising the girls with Christmas candy. Instead of melting it down to use as sugar as other families had been doing, he saved it to make Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace’s day a little more festive.
Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas
An “Impossibly Rare” Book
After once mentioning that Gulliver’s Travels had been one of her favorite childhood stories, Amanda found a copy of the original printing wrapped and left for her in a carriage by her love interest and book publisher, Jack, to open on her way to his holiday party. He knew the way to her heart, recognizing that the gift would make her happier than “a king’s ransom in jewels.” Those courting book-lovers should take note.
Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery
A Long-Distance Phone Call
Stuck at her cold and bitter grandmother’s house for most of the year, Jane’s long-distance phone call from her father was probably not just the highlight of her Christmas, but of her whole winter. “Three minutes over a thousand miles” was the perfect for a girl desperately missing her real home.
About a Boy by Nick Hornby
An Invitation to Lunch
Without a family of his own, Will was looking at spending his Christmas alone, just “watching a few hundred videos and smoking a few thousand joints.” Luckily, Marcus invited him to lunch, thus saving him from all of that — for the day, anyway. Apparently Will really didn’t want to spend the day solo, because going to lunch meant facing Marcus’s mom, who definitely wasn’t his biggest fan.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
A Fashionable Dress
When Matthew realized that Anne’s dresses were different than the ones the other girls were wearing, he decided to do something about it. Without any help from Marilla, he got the dressmaker to create a puffed sleeve dress (the height of fashion, of course). When he handed the present over to Anne on a snowy Christmas morning, she actually cried happy tears over it.
Baby-sitters’ Christmas Chiller (The Baby-sitters’ Club Series) by Ann M. Martin
When Stacey went to her dad’s for Christmas, she was excited to catch up with her crush, Ethan. Although he acted strange at first, it turned out it was because he’d been working on a sculpture of her to give her for Christmas. The gift was sweet, and even better, she realized he wasn’t the one who’d been leaving her creepy notes.
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
A Special Surprise
After months apart, Isla would have been happy to see her boyfriend, Josh, anywhere, but he pulled out the big guns and arranged for them to privately visit the Temple of Dendur and the reflecting pool in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With that backdrop, he had her open her present: a drawing he’d done for her. Teenage boys were definitely not this smooth when I was in high school.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
A Weasley Sweater
Getting a lump of coal from Santa would be better than spending the holidays with the Dursleys, so Harry made the smart choice and stayed at school. On Christmas morning, he didn’t expect there to be anything for him under the tree, but his friends proved him wrong. Even more touching, he received a Weasley family sweater, knit with love by Mrs. Weasley. For a boy who hadn’t felt like part of a family for as long as he could remember, it was quite a gift.