Experiences as Christmas gifts: Here are 10 ways

Pia Ranada
Experiences make the best Christmas gifts

HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Those smiles will be bigger if you take them somewhere new. Image from the Santa Claus Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – So used are we to the idea of beribboned gifts under a Christmas tree that we sometimes forget that experiences can make better gifts than material possessions. 

Studies conducted by psychologists from Cornell University and San Francisco State University found that the happiness people get from experiences last longer than happiness derived from material objects.

While the joy from acquiring or receiving an object may diminish over time, experiences resonate because of our longer-lasting memories of them.

Satisfaction from experiences is also much deeper because experiences often include other people, thus fulfilling our need for bonding and belonging (read the full CNN story on the subject here).

So before you go ahead and buy that bracelet, iPad or designer bag for your loved one, consider these 10 gift suggestions that may not be gift-wrappable but are sure to be memorable:

1) Watch the latest hit musical

With so many restagings of well-loved musicals and so many theatrical productions by both foreign and local theater groups, you won’t have a problem finding one you’re sure the entire family will enjoy.

It’s a great treat for kids (if the theme is child-friendly) and for music-loving couples. Plus, you can all enjoy dinner out together with the musical as the main topic for conversation!

For a list of Christmas-time musicals, check out our list.

2) Get tickets to a concert

Whether it’s your mother’s favorite tenor or your teenage sister’s favorite rock band, concert experiences are always made memorable by their favorite song sung acapella or the Facebook photos of them posing with the musical act they’ve been dying to see live.

Even the days leading from Christmas Day to the night of the concert will be a part of the experience, a countdown to a night they’ll always remember and thank you for.

For a list of Christmas concerts by Filipino and foreign artists, check out our lists. (J.Lo will be in Manila on November 26, Monday!)

3) Treat them to a relaxing day at the spa

A day of oil massages, foot rubs and aromatherapeutic bubble baths are just what your stressed-out mother, boyfriend or best friend needs this Christmas to prepare for the challenging new year ahead.

Spas offer entire packages with a variety of full-body oil massages plus sauna and even one-hour yoga sessions! For the ultimate VIP experience, get your loved ones private rooms in the spa.

To enliven the experience, get the package yourself and go together, then head to a healthy restaurant for some organic dishes to end the day right.

4) Go for a photo shoot

Sure, everyone with a D-SLR camera can take a family portrait in the living room, but there’s nothing like a studio photo shoot session to make it even more of a bonding experience.

Photo studios all over the city offer packages for all sizes of photos, all beautifully taken by their in-house photographers. They also provide wacky costumes and themes all of you can enjoy playing along with.

This gift would be perfect for families (come in matching outfits!), couples (whether nearing their first monthsary or 20th year wedding anniversary) and barkadas (whether young or old). 

There are some studios that specialize in baby photography and even think up cute, whimsical themes for their toddler subjects. Imagine babies dressed as angels, rock stars, bumblebees and stars! This would make a great gift for couples with new-born babies. And best of all, they get to take home the photos, frame them and admire them for years to come!

5) Treat them to an all-you-can-eat buffet somewhere swanky

Great for acknowledged foodie friends and family members, buffets are a fantastic way to indulge them in their greatest joy.

Choose somewhere a bit pricier than regular buffets to make it a pig-out session to remember. Plus, it’s always fun to dress up.

Just make sure you don’t wear anything too tight around the waist!

6) Sign them up for a class they’ve always wanted

Has your girlfriend always cherished a secret desire to be a fashion designer? Does your brother have dreams of becoming a chef? Is your father really an Oscar-winning actor in the making?

Why not jumpstart their dreams yourself? Get them a course on whatever it is they want to learn whether it be a new skill, hobby or language. Not only will you be giving them an experience that’s fun, exciting and novel; you’ll be giving them the best gift of all: the gift of knowledge.

And if they don’t end up becoming a chef or an award-winning actor, at least they can say that they tried.

7) Go on an outdoor adventure

Nothing like hiking up a mountain, zip-lining across a forest or jumping from a waterfall to make wonderful memories.

Sign your family or friends up for a trek to the crater-lake of Pinatubo or a boat-ride to Pagsanjan Falls. Many adventure groups out there offer group packages that come with transportation, food, guides and even photographers.

The change of scenery will do them good and the shared achievement of conquering a mountain or jumping from the top of a waterfall makes for stronger, happier friendships. (Let’s not forget those gorgeous jumpshots on Facebook.)

8) Make your own gift

Several stores now provide their creative customers a chance to make their own stuffed toys, shirts, vases, even slippers using their own materials.

Take your kids to a toy shop where they can choose their teddy bear’s fur color, stuffing and clothing.

Teenagers will prefer making their own flipflops, combining their choice of strap, base and decorative pieces. 

9) Get them a pet

Pets in themselves are a great experience. Choosing a name for them, feeding them, taking them out for walks becomes a web of cherished moments you and your loved one can share.

But rather than surprising them with one on Christmas Day, visit the breeder together and pick one together.

It will be 10 times more memorable and fun if the choice comes from them and they get to bring the pet home. 

10) Fly them off to somewhere new

Obviously, these are for people with time and money. Secretly buy tickets-for-two to your loved ones’ dream destination and ask them to block off certain dates for a surprise.

On Christmas Day, gift-wrap luggage with the tickets inside.

For the super spontaneous, try to get tickets for departure on Christmas Day, pack their luggage for them and be ready to leave in 20 minutes! – Rappler.com


What Christmas gifts are you getting for your family, your friends, your officemates, your self? Tell us on Twitter @rapplerdotcom. Use the hashtag #RapplerXmas.

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.