If you’re like me, you’re already well into your grudging annual pilgrimage to the boutiques and malls in your area, filled with dread and resignation at the prospect of another season of holiday shopping—spending money on things no one needs and agonizing over the quest for the “perfect gift.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays—spending time with family, an excuse to overeat and sit around watching nostalgic movies and revert to childlike glee at the prospect of egg-based drinks and gingerbread-based confections—but the whole present thing, as I get older, seems more and more ludicrous. Should I really buy my mother yet another handbag? Does my sister really need another pair of boots? Do I, really, need a generous gift certificate to Aesop? (Hint: I do). It just seems that spending and buying for the sake of it is a bit frivolous, a bit selfish. Can’t I be more like some of my friends who have forgone gifts this year in lieu of “quality time” and “saving money”? Seems like the adult, responsible thing to do.
On the other hand, sometimes buying something useless but beautiful is useful in itself. There’s a lot to be said for surrounding yourself with things that you find beautiful, things that make you happy to gaze upon—there’s a reason why we go to such painstaking efforts to make our homes beautiful, and why designers create the most gorgeous hospitality spaces, down to the last little detail: it changes your mood, your entire outlook, when you are in an environment that is comfortable, comforting, and beautiful. And it doesn’t always have to be expensive or wasteful; a simple flower or a favorite book do the trick as well as designer linens or leather goods. When I visited the new Lladro showroom in Manhattan this week (their first in the city) and strolled along the white, minimalist shelves showcasing some of the most intricate, delicate, and beautiful porcelain figures I’ve ever seen, my appreciation for beauty and craftsmanship was renewed. Of course, it’s wonderful when traditionally functional objects—chairs, tables, even televisions— can be beautiful works of art, but art too is functional in how it inspires and effects the moods of those who experience it. Whether it’s an exquisite porcelain sculpture or a beautiful pair of boots, maybe beauty for beauty’s sake isn’t such a silly idea. It is the holidays, after all.
…I guess I’ll save money in the New Year.