The holiday season is nearly upon us. But there’s speculation about whether people in the UK will be able to travel abroad due to the increased worry of coronavirus variants spreading and cases rising.
This uncertainty, along with COVID-19 restrictions, is turning more people towards domestic holidays to visit the British coastline, country parks and smaller towns and cities.
In accordance with UK government guidelines, hotels, bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) and other shared accommodation in England are allowed to open on May 17. This is the same date that international travel can continue.
While self-contained accommodation, which requires no shared facilities between guests, can reopen on April 12.
Insider spoke to a range of hotels, holiday parks and B&Bs, which are preparing for guests to come back and how their facilities will be run differently.
Travelodge, an independent UK chain hotel, which has more than 570 hotels across the UK, currently only allows keyworkers and those who need to travel for work to stay in its hotels, a spokesperson told Insider.
When asked if Travelodge will make the vaccine mandatory for guests, the spokesperson said: “We will continue to stringently follow government guidelines and policy in regards to operating in the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Currently, the government does not require hotel guests to be vaccinated.
The situation is similar in holiday parks. Centre Parcs, which has five short-break holiday villages across the UK, will open on April 12 and have the same COVID-19 safety measures it had in place last year, spokesperson Simon Kay told Insider.
“In line with government guidelines we will not be requiring guests to have been vaccinated,” he said.
Haven Holidays, another chain of holiday parks in the UK, told Insider it’s planning to reopen all of its locations on April 12. A company spokesperson said the government haven’t sent Haven any details about COVID-19 passports and declined to comment on the implementation of them.
Hazelwood Farm B&B in York, in northern England, will also be carrying on with coronavirus measures. The owner, Annette McAnespie described making the vaccine mandatory as a “Catch 22 situation” and could be “construed as discriminatory.”
“I am lucky in that most of my gorgeous guests are retirement age so the stats are that most of them would have chosen to have had the vaccine and would have had their first jab, if not their second one too, by the time I can reopen,” McAnespie said.
At the other end of the country, the Penellen B&B, based in Cornwall – a popular holiday destination in south-west England – will open on May 17th with COVID-19 practices that were in place last year.
Paul and Barbara Goldingay, owners of The Penellen, told Insider that they are not making the vaccine mandatory because it would be too difficult to police.
Face masks stay on and social distancing remains
Travelodge said, like many other chain hotels, its safety measures include wearing face masks indoors, social distancing, contactless payment and checkout, and no housekeeping teams in guests’ rooms during their stay.
The Penellen and Hazelwood Farm’s coronavirus measures both include wearing face masks.
McAnespie is using two out of the three rooms available on Hazelwood Farm. She plans to steam-clean the curtains and remove cushions from the bedrooms as part of the B&B’s coronavirus policy. She told Insider she hopes to see the back of restrictions in September.
Center Parcs has had a surge in bookings recently, especially from the summer onwards, according to Kay.
COVID-19 safety measures in its holiday parks include fewer guests on-site, wearing face masks where necessary, social distancing in all areas including on beaches and a frequent and improved cleaning regime in the villages.
Haven Holidays, which owns 40 parks across the UK, will bring back the Clean and Safe Charter that it introduced in July. This includes a contactless check-in process, social-distancing measures in all public places, and cleaning teams in the parks.
Eating and dining in accommodation
Guests staying in Travelodge hotels won’t be able to dine in the restaurants or bars until June 21, when the rest of hospitality is allowed to open, per the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Hazelwood Farm B&B in York isn’t offering its usual breakfast buffet. McAnespie told Insider guests’ cold breakfast orders will be taken the evening before and hot breakfast orders will be taken the same morning with the waitress, Nettie, standing at a distance.
She said the B&B will try to stagger breakfast times for the three rooms as there are only two tables in the dining room with the option to also sit outside. Continental breakfast can also be delivered to the room, as well as any other takeaways from local pubs in the area, McAnespie added.
The Penellen said it will also be serving guests at the table, rather than offering a buffet service.
Holidays parks such as Center Parcs and Haven Holidays offer self-catered accommodation so guests can cook for themselves.
Other restrictions in place
Center Parcs’ Book with Confidence guarantee offers guests free cancellation and a full refund within six weeks of the arrival date, if they decide to no longer go on holiday to the village. They can also change the dates of their stay.
“It is clear that people want reassurance about the flexibility to cancel or change dates,” said Kay.
As part of Haven’s Caravan Cleanliness Guarantee, a specialist team member checks each holiday home after its been disinfected using virus-killing products and seals up the door. Guests are entitled to a full refund if the holiday home isn’t cleaned to its standards, the company said in a statement to Insider.
Similar to Center Parcs, the company’s Coronavirus Book with Confidence Guarantee means guests can cancel their booking between three and 28 days prior to arrival at no cost and be fully refunded, Haven said.
Paul and Barbara from The Penellen said the majority of bookings for this year are rescheduled from last year.
Their “main worry is people from the UK going on holiday overseas and then returning carrying a new variant,” they said.
“In our opinion, all borders should be closed for non-essential travel for the time being,” they added.
We’ve all been there – holidays and birthdays are just around the corner, your schedule starts getting more chaotic, and suddenly celebrations are closer than you thought and you still haven’t picked out a gift!
Whether it just slipped your mind to prepare ahead of time or you decided to give a gift impromptu, we’ve got you covered. This list proves last-minute gift ideas can still be thoughtful and unique, from clever subscriptions to useful gift cards and everything in between.
Do you know someone with a baby on the way? Gift them a monthly supply of Honest’s premium diapers and wipes in a flexible bundle subscription. The bundle features three diaper types: everyday, training pants, and overnights, with custom sizes based on weight and age. If in between sizes, Honest recommends sizing up. Each pack includes over 100 diapers each. Plus, they can personalize the diapers with a number of cute design options.
Nothing beats holding a physical issue of their favorite magazine. A subscription service makes sure it lands in their hand without the extra trip to the store. Choose from magazines like Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Women’s Health, and more, that cost just $5 for an entire year.
Even the most novice green thumb can build a thriving garden with The Sill. Each month, the houseplant subscription delivers a easy-care hand-potted plant in a sleek ceramic planter. It’s the perfect opportunity to cultivate their own at-home plant nursery.
Rent the Runway’s innovative model means they no longer have to waste money on clothes they’ll wear just once or twice. It’s perfect for the fashionista in your life and let’s them rent something new for any occasion — whether it be WFH, date night, or staycations.
Send the best of Murray’s cheese and satiate their hankering for a good gouda or creamy brie with a Monthly Clubs subscription. Whether they’re a cheese aficionado or just looking for a yummy snack, they’ll enjoy getting fresh cheese delivered to their door along with detailed guides to the flavors and suggested beverage pairings for each.
Choose from options like Classic Cheese of the Month for newbies all the way up to Cheesemonger’s Picks of the Month. You can pay for a month-to-month subscription, or pre-pay for a three-month option.
A 12-pack of wine from an independent winemaker for under $100
Looking for a last-minute gift that’s perfect for just about anyone over 21? We recommend a few bottles from NakedWines.com. Every winemaker on the platform has been “funded” by “Angel” customers, meaning you feel like you have a more direct stake in the wine you gift — and they’re all affordable and high-quality.
For a limited time, you can get an assortment of wines for even cheaper. New customers who sign up using their email get $100 off their first box of 12 wines. Insider Reviews reporter Mara Leighton tried the service and found it to be a great value. Read the full review here.
Send beautiful bouquets on a regular basis at the rate of your choosing — weekly, every two weeks, monthly, or every two months. Choose from a variety of floral themes, from farmers’ market fresh blooms to gorgeous rose arrangements. This new twist on a classic gift is one that’ll keep on giving.
Gifting just got a little bit sweeter. You choose the number of treats, and Sugarwish takes care of the rest. The recipient chooses which treats they want to receive once they redeem the gift, so it’s the perfect last-minute item for a picky eater.
This year has been full of anxiety and uncertainty, which makes a gift that includes soothing meditation options extra thoughtful. They can listen to narrated meditations with a Buddhist monk, get tips for handling stress from videos with cute graphics, or leverage wind down guided exercises to enjoy better sleep.
For the uninitiated, MasterClass is an e-learning platform that provides an array of classes taught by well-known celebrities and industry leaders. Users can find everything from television writing classes taught by Shonda Rhimes to a style lesson with Tan France.
The gift of Amazon Prime is always one that’ll be met with extreme appreciation given that it is both practical and thoughtful. If the recipient already has a membership, the money will convert into a gift card that they can use on anything they want from the site.
An e-gift card to Everlane for anyone who appreciates the basics
Everlane is our go-to for all things considered “closet staples” — from cozy cashmere to classic button-downs, comfortable cotton tees to casual denim. We can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t be able to put an Everlane e-gift card to use, especially when they can start shopping as soon as they open the e-gift card confirmation email.
Hulu, like Netflix, is a must-have for TV fiends. Whether or not they already have a membership (which you may or may not mooch off of), this gift card can be used to sign up or pay for their next few months with the service.
An Amazon Kindle for book lovers who travel frequently
Kindles make the perfect last-minute gift for voracious readers. Even if the recipient swears by the feeling of a real book in their hands, once they see how much easier it is to travel with one thin tablet instead of six thick novels, they’ll be grateful you introduced them. The Paperwhite has a backlit screen with zero glare, so they can read it as easily outside as in bed with the lights out. Another plus? It’s waterproof.
If the Kindle just isn’t their thing, the Book of the Month Club might be a perfect alternative. The subscription service narrows a selection of new releases down to five options, and the recipient will be able to choose which hardcover book they’d like to receive each month. If they don’t like any of that month’s selections, they can also opt to skip and wait until next month’s choices come out.
A gift card to their favorite music streaming service
Sometimes the simple, practical route is the way to go when it comes to last-minute gifting. If they’re one for spontaneous at-home dance parties or often found screaming their favorite songs in the car, a free month of their go-to music streaming service can prove to be just as thoughtful as a gift that’s purchased weeks in advance.
If they never quite outgrew this favorite childhood snack (or if they’re just one for sentimentalism), this box full of Oreos, Golden Oreos, Chips Ahoy, and Nutter Butter cookies will have them feeling like they’re back in the good old days in no time. Prime members can receive one-day shipping on this item depending on what time of day they place their order, so if their big day is tomorrow, we’ve got you covered.
You may not be able to make them breakfast in bed, but you can still ensure they have a sweet morning with this donut and cake pop bouquet delivery. All of the mini treats are dipped in either dark or white chocolate and topped with chocolate drizzle and candy toppings. Best of all for last-minute shoppers, express shipping can be applied to this gift.
An e-gift card to Warby Parker for the daily glasses-wearer
Glasses have become a means of helping people to express their individual sense of style, a trend only bolstered by stylish online glasses retailers. Warby Parker has managed to make prescription glasses affordable (a baseline pair starts at just $95, including lenses), but even if your giftee doesn’t wear prescription glasses, the company also makes non-prescription sunglasses that are equally as good-looking. Digital gift cards are delivered to your recipient’s email immediately.
A wine subscription for new bottles delivered right to their door
Winc is a wine delivery subscription that brings the good stuff right to your recipient’s door. Users take a quiz and share information about their taste preferences before receiving expert recommendations about bottles they may like. They can choose what to include in their box, and since each bottle is priced individually, they can control the cost of each delivery. Gift cards can be emailed to the recipient and used toward the cost of a box (or a few, if you’re feeling extra generous).
A BarkBox subscription for anyone who’s just a little too obsessed with their dog
Whether they just got a new puppy or they’ve had one for a while now, you can’t go wrong with a BarkBox subscription for any dog parent. To give it as a gift, simply input the name of their pup and its relative size (small, medium, or large), and select a one-, three-, six-, or 12-month increment. You can send the box directly to their house or purchase a digital gift card, which can be redeemed immediately.
A coffee subscription to help them stay caffeinated
Atlas makes some of our favorite coffee out there, and it fresh roasts each batch before sending it out so you know the coffee you’ll get hasn’t been sitting on a shelf for six months. Any caffeine fiend will love receiving beans or grounds direct to their door each month, giving you extra brownie points each time.
Everyone appreciates having a beautiful frame for their photos, posters, or artwork — but no one actually likes paying for it themselves. They’ll enjoy the chance to custom frame something for her home with Framebridge. Bonus points if you also print and send cute family photos for her to frame.
A fun and convenient way to freshen up their wardrobe
It’s natural to settle into a dressing routine, but if you sense that they’re no longer excited by their closet, a Stitch Fix gift card is the perfect solution. Recipients can try out different brands and styles that they wouldn’t ordinarily buy, and it’s easy to return pieces with the provided prepaid shipping labels.
A travel-planning service that does all the work for them
For the person who is currently dreaming about where to go post-pandemic, this gift card will help ensure their next trip is stellar. Airbnb has thousands of listings for private home vacation rentals around the globe and across the US. They can choose from premium Luxe listings like a villa in Malibu, find a location close to a national park for outdoor exploration, or opt for a unique getaway like a tree house rental.
Ordering a piece of luggage that best suits them will take too long if you’re strapped for time, plus you might not know exactly what they like. You’re better off giving a gift card so they can choose from plenty of fun options. From confetti to marble patterns, CALPAK offers suitcase designs for every traveler.
If you have at least one days’ worth of foresight, the new Echo Dot is a great last-minute gift that won’t require much effort. Whether you know for a fact that they have just started outfitting their home with smart capabilities, or you at least have a suspicion that they’d enjoy the convenience of having Alexa around to answer questions and play games, the Dot is a great pick.
A Birchbox subscription for beauty and skin-care lovers
There’s a reason Birchbox is so popular — it’s a super affordable way to find and learn about new beauty, skincare, and grooming products without the risk of spending too much on full-sized options the recipient might not like. For $30-$45, you’ll be able to gift three months’ worth of boxes right to their door. For a more substantial option, you can gift six months for $84, or 12 months for $156.
Blue Apron’s meal kits are the perfect last-minute gift for anyone who enjoys cooking but lacks the time or foresight to do the planning and prepping involved. It costs $47.95 for two servings of two recipes each week, so they’ll save time shopping and prepping meals, which is arguably worth more than the price of the subscription.
You know the type — always orders a charcuterie board, could survive on prosciutto, prefers savory over sweet. Spoil your giftee with a salami delivery, and hope they invite you over for a dinner party soon when we can all get together again.
They’ll get fired up for this quarterly delivery of small-batch hot sauce, which is curated by Fuego Box and filled with gourmet picks from all over the country. Each box contains three five-ounce bottles.
A company is nothing without its employees. Whether you manage a lean team of five or oversee thousands across offices nationwide, you know that your employees are invaluable to the success of your business – and perhaps you want to thank them beyond simply paying a salary.
Skip the tired and cheap corporate gifts and surprise your employees this year with these elevated, thoughtful, and useful options instead. Some come from our favorite startups, while others are just a click away on Amazon. Go the extra mile by customizing them with company colors, a logo, or a personal touch that truly shows your appreciation. Whether or not your company is working from home, it’s our hope that these gifts will allow you to stay connected to both your business and each other.
Here are 29 corporate gifts sure to wow your employees:
This list includes a Sponsored Product that has been suggested by Crowd Cow. It also meets our editorial criteria in terms of quality and value.*
Many folks are missing the company snack bar now that lots of offices are closed, and nothing says I appreciate you quite like a box filled with delicious snacks. Why not make your their day with a custom snack box from NatureBox. NatureBox’s SnackPass box allows employees to choose their preferred snacks and get them sent directly to their houses. NatureBox offers a wide snack selection and its corporate gifting program allows you to send a customized snack box after simply providing some basic information.
With all of the hand washing and sanitizing we’re all doing due to the pandemic, there’s no better gift than this set from Bath & Body Works, which includes a hand sanitizer, hand lotion, and hand soap. While you can order quantities up to 25 directly from the site, Bath & Body Works’ corporate gifting program allows you to order larger quantities of gift sets as well as gift cards. Use this contact form, to get more information about Bath & Body Works’ corporate gifting program or to make large gift orders.
Our pick for the best chocolates you can gift, Vosges offers gift sets that are sure to impress your employees. Not only is each set beautifully packaged, it also includes high-quality chocolates. The Chocolate Bar Library is a great gifting option as it includes nine unique chocolate flavors, including banana coconut, matcha, and raw honey, in a keepsake box. Aside from this very giftable set, the Hazelnut Praline Bonbons set and the Champagne Truffle set are great gifting options. Vosges also offers a corporate concierge which can help guide you through personalizing your chocolate selection with your company’s branding and help coordinate shipping to multiple addresses.
There’s a reason that these bite-sized but flavorful cupcakes are a go-to gift for many. Baked by Melissa’s Latest & Greatest pack includes customer favorites such as red velvet and cookie dough as well as new seasonal flavor additions. Purchase these cupcakes in large quantities directly from the product page, or if you would like a more customized experience for your giftees, check out the brand’s corporate gifting information here.
In our current times, face masks are an incredibly useful gift. Vistaprint, which is typically known for their customizable business cards, clothing, and more, has added masks to its extensive product lineup. Customize masks for your staff with your company’s logo or choose from one of many pre-existing designs. Submit a request for orders of more than 1,000 masks here.
While many of us no longer have the option of working from coffee shops, Starbucks gift cards are a great gift to help your employees switch their morning routine up. With locations all over the country, Starbucks gift cards are great if you have employees spread across many locations. Starbucks’ corporate sales program has options that range from physical gift cards, branded gift cards, or digital gift cards delivered directly to your recipient’s email. You can also set the value of the gift cards to anywhere between $5 to $500. Learn more about Starbucks’ corporate sales program here.
You can never go wrong with gifting delicious baked goods. With an option to narrow your search by region, Goldbelly’s corporate gifting program allows you to send local eats to your employees no matter where they’re located. It offers everything from organic mixed fruit baskets, to Magnolia Bakery’s World Famous Banana Pudding. Every order also helps support small or minority owned businesses. For bulk orders of 15 recipients or more, you can email email@example.com.
When it comes to gifting clothing, one size does not fit all. Luckily, L.L.Bean’s business gifting site offers a wide range of inclusive sizes, from XS to 3X. Its fitness fleece quarter zip jacket is available in five colors and can be customized with a logo. The retailer also has a selection of other customizable products such as beanies, blankets, and duffle bags. You can place a corporate order here.
Whether you’re sipping on a hot or cold drink, YETI’s stainless steel, double-wall insulated tumblers never fail to keep your beverage at the optimal temperature. Employees can keep them on their desk or bring them along to the trails on their days off. You can fill out a corporate gift form at YETI here.
Part of Bombas’ appeal, other than the obvious differences in fit and feel, is that it donates a pair of socks to a homeless shelter every time someone buys a pair. This philanthropy doesn’t stop if you take part in its corporate gifting program. It can work with your company’s current charity partner, or help you find the perfect donation recipient. You can fill out a corporate gifting form at Bombas here.
Crowd Cow specializes in high-quality, eco-conscious seafood and meat, all the way down to its 100% carbon-neutral packaging. Crowd Cow’s curated list of gift bundles provides plenty of options, but you can also opt to work with a dedicated corporate gifting representative who can help customize a package based on your budget and company size.
These waterproof nylon totes hold 50 pounds of stuff, fold down to a fraction of their size to fit in your back pocket, and can be customized to let your employees flaunt where they work. As eco-friendly practices become more than a passing trend, you’ll only see more of BAGGU’s stylish yet functional bags out on the streets. You can request a custom quote at BAGGU here.
Something to write with can always come in handy, be it for to-do lists, doodling, or anything in between. These custom pencils come in a set of 12, are available in four colors, and the message can be anything from a company name to a fun joke that coworkers share.
Chocolate covered strawberries from Shari’s Berries
A dash of greenery on their desk or in their room will make them happy — make it low-maintenance and nearly impossible to kill, and they’ll be even happier. Choose from single succulents or mini gardens, then customize the rest of the box to create the perfect plant gift. You can learn more about custom gifting at Lula’s Garden here.
Sticky notes are a productive gift that you know they’ll make great use of, whether jotting down assignments for the day or using them for out of office tasks and grocery lists. Add a custom touch to this office staple with a team photo, company logo, or personal text. Zazzle allows for orders of up to 500 packs at a time, and bulk ordering can save up to 60%.
Regardless of your office dress code, fun socks will always be appreciated. You’ll have difficulty narrowing down the final choice from Happy Socks’ large selection of colorful, quirky patterns and prints. Custom designs with the company colors or logo are also available for orders of 6,000 pairs or more.
Send employees a beautiful, full-grain leather accessory like a luggage tag, business card case, or keychain. For an extra special touch, add a debossed monogram or logo. Though leather goods sound like a premium gift that could be out of your budget, Leatherology sells its bags and accessories without the markup, so customers don’t have to spend so much for a touch of luxury. You can fill out a corporate gift inquiry form at Leatherology here.
Sunglasses are a common gift or employee freebie, but they’re rarely worn because they’re plain or cheap. Sunglass Hut offers top brands and stylish options that everyone will actually want to wear. A perk of ordering through Sunglass Hut is that anyone can go to a store to receive a free personalized adjustment if the glasses don’t fit well. You can learn about corporate gifting at Sunglass Hut here.
Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day aren’t the only occasions where a bouquet of flowers is appropriate. Welcome new employees and remind current ones they’re appreciated with The Bouq Co’s farm-fresh flowers, which are always arranged and designed beautifully. Business customers can get up to 25% off regular prices. You can learn more about corporate gifting at The Bouqs Co. here.
PopSockets PopGrips are the small, simple, and affordable phone accessories that your employees will wish you had gifted them earlier. These round buttons stick to the back of their phone and expand whenever they need a grip or a stand. They can take photos, text, and hold their phone without worrying about dropping it, or prop it up to stream content and video chat. You can order custom PopSockets PopGrips here.
Our team loved these tiny magnet toys a lot more than we expected to. Less obnoxious than fidget spinners, they’re immensely satisfying to play with and build with as you work through a problem or concentrate on a task. The set includes 512 rare earth magnetic balls, metal building base, plastic splitter card, 16-page starter guide, and carrying case.
There are plenty of candles out there, but few quite as giftable as Otherland’s. These premium candles are available in many scents to suit the different personalities of your employees, and they look great on any tabletop (office, bedroom, or otherwise). You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about corporate gifts and place a large order.
A well-executed idea doesn’t happen overnight. Help your employees hatch the next big idea with this cloth-bound notebook that’s organized into three sections: Conceive, Incubate, and Hatch. Although there’s no automatic option for bulk purchasing, the Etsy shop owner typically responds to messages within 24 hours and should be able to accommodate larger orders.
From luxurious hand creams that are sold every three seconds around the world to nourishing soaps and shower oils, L’Occitane offers many options to pamper your employees. You can combine multiple products to create mini gift baskets or distribute them individually. Email email@example.com to learn more about its corporate gift program.
Tickets for around-the-world cruises are selling out years ahead of their departure date as travelers anticipate the end of lockdowns and travel restrictions.
When Viking Ocean Cruises released tickets for a 136-day world cruise for late 2021, they sold out in weeks, Bloomberg first reported Monday. The same happened when it announced in December a second cruise to take place at the end of the year, Viking told the publication.
The ships for the two cruises – Viking Star and Viking Neptune – carry 930 passengers each but have left some rooms free for potential quarantine measures, the company told Bloomberg.
The company said it was planning another world-cruise itinerary for 2023, per Bloomberg.
“We are looking to open the next opportunity as quickly as we can,” Richard Marnell, the executive vice president of marketing for Viking, told Bloomberg.
The luxury cruise line Seabourn sold out all penthouse spa and premium suites on its 450-passenger Seabourn Sojourn for two world trips in 2022 and 2023, a company representative told Insider’s Brittany Chang in a statement Sunday. Couples are paying up to $500,000 for a five-month cruise, and the company had to recently open waiting lists, Bloomberg reported.
Oceania Cruises also sold out its 2023 “Around the World in 180 Days” cruise in 24 hours on January 27, Insider reported previously. The Insignia ship, which accommodates a maximum of 684 passengers, travels to five continents, including Antarctica, and 61 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Bob Binder, Oceania Cruises’ president and CEO, said in a statement that its quick sale time was due to “pent-up demand.”
Insider has reached out to Viking and Oceania Cruises for comment.
The soonest any major US cruise is scheduled to operate is May. Carnival Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Disney said they would resume sailing after May, while P&O Cruises has stopped all trips through April.
Holiday shoppers in the US spent 3% more than the previous year, led by online spending spikes on furniture and home improvement.
As might be expected, online retail boomed as in-person lagged, according to data released Saturday by Mastercard.
The company said online sales in the 75 days before Christmas jumped 49% from the same year-earlier period.
The biggest bump over last year came in home improvement, continuing a yearlong trend. As people stayed home during the pandemic, they spent more on making their surroundings comfortable. Online home improvement sales soared about 80%.
“American consumers turned the holiday season on its head, redefining ‘home for the holidays’ in a uniquely 2020 way. They shopped from home for the home, leading to record e-commerce growth,” Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard, said in a statement.
Holiday shoppers seemed to be focused on nesting, as online furniture and furnishing sales climbed 31%, and electronics and appliances climbed 6%.
A rise in overall holiday spending – even by just 3% – will likely be met with cheers from retailers, many of which have had a difficult year bringing customers in.
“And, consumers shopped earlier than ever before. Across our expanded 75-day holiday shopping season, sales were up 3.0%, a testament to the holiday season and strength of retailers and consumers alike,” said Sadove in a statement.
The holiday shopping season is marked off differently by some firms, but for many, it begins on the day after Thanksgiving, so-called Black Friday. Foot traffic on that day in US stores had fallen 52%, while online sales climbed 22%, according to Sensormatic Solutions. Mastercard said on Saturday that sales that day fell 16% year over year.
But “Thanksgiving weekend through Cyber Monday remained a key time for shoppers, with Black Friday being the top spending day of the 2020 holiday season,” Mastercard said in a statement.
In-store retail sales for items that are usually holiday staples slipped, as expected. In-person clothing sales dropped 19%, while luxury items dropped 21%, according to Mastercard.
In-person jewelry sales slipped 4%, while online sales rose 45%, according to Mastercard.
Overall, in-person department store shopping fell 10%, but rose about 3% online.
“Buy online, pick up in-store as well as technologies like contactless were key for retailers this season,” said Mastercard.
About 38% of US shoppers had planned to spend less this holiday season, according to a study from Deloitte.
Not long to go now before many of us get to spread some good tidings and joy as we celebrate Christmas.
The main ways we understand and mark the occasion seem to be rather similar across the world. It’s about time with community, family, food-sharing, gift-giving, and overall merry festivities.
But while Christmas is ostensibly a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus, many of the rituals and customs come from other traditions, both spiritual and secular.
The first Christmas
The journey of Christmas into the celebration we know and recognize today is not a straight line.
The first Christmas celebrations were recorded in Ancient Rome in the fourth century. Christmas was placed in December, around the time of the northern winter solstice.
It is not difficult to spot the similarities between our now long-standing Christmas traditions and the Roman festival of Saturnalia, which was also celebrated in December and coexisted with Christian belief for a period of time.
Saturnalia placed an emphasis on the sharing of food and drink, and spending time with loved ones as the colder winter period arrived. There is even evidence that the Romans exchanged little gifts of food to mark the occasion.
As Christianity took greater hold in the Roman world and the old polytheistic religion was left behind, we can see the cultural imprint of Saturnalia traditions in the ways in which our well-known Christmas celebrations established themselves across the board.
Turning an eye to the Germanic-Scandinavian context also provides intriguing connections. In the Norse religion, Yule was a winter festival celebrated during the period we now roughly associate with December.
The beginning of Yule was marked by the arrival of the Wild Hunt, a spiritual occurrence when the Norse god Odin would ride across the sky on his eight-legged white horse.
While the hunt was a frightening sight to behold, it also brought excitement for families, and especially children, as Odin was known to leave little gifts at each household as he rode past.
Like the Roman Saturnalia, Yule was a time of drawing in for the winter months, during which copious amounts of food and drink would be consumed.
The Yule festivities included bringing tree branches inside the home and decorating them with food and trinkets, likely opening the way for the Christmas tree as we know it today.
The influence of Yule on the festive season of Northern European countries is still evident in linguistic expression too, with “Jul” being the word for Christmas in Danish and Norwegian. The English language also maintains this connection, by referring to the Christmas period as “Yuletide”.
The poem was very well-received and its popularity spread immediately, going well beyond the American context and reaching global fame. The poem gave us much of the staple imagery we associate with Santa today, including the first ever mention of his reindeer.
Santa’s evolution carries echoes of not only Odin, but also historical figures such as Saint Nicholas of Myra – a fourth-century bishop known for his charitable work – and the legendary Dutch figure of Sinterklaas that derived from it.
The idea of connecting Christmas to winter festivals and drawing in customs makes the most sense in the colder months of the Northern hemisphere.
In the Southern hemisphere, in countries such as New Zealand and Australia, the traditional Christmas celebrations have evolved into their own specific brand, which is much more suited to the warmer summer months.
Christmas is an imported event in these areas and acts as a constant reminder of the spread of European colonialism in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Celebrating Christmas still carries the influence of European contexts, being a time for merriment, gift-giving, and community spirit.
Even some of the traditional foods of the season here are still indebted to Euro-British traditions, with turkey and ham taking center stage.
Barbecues and beach days are prominent new traditions, as borrowed practices co-exist with novel ways of adapting the event to a different context.
The wintry Christmas puddings are often exchanged for more summery pavlovas, whose fresh fruit toppings and meringue base certainly befit the warmer season to a greater extent.
The transition to outdoor Christmas celebrations in the Southern hemisphere is obviously locked in common sense because of the warmer weather.
Nonetheless, it also shows how both cultural and geographical drivers can influence the evolution of celebrating important festivals. And if you really want to experience a cold Christmas down under, there is always a mid-year Christmas in July to look forward to.
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Despite all the festive cheer and time away from work that usually come with the holiday season, it can also be a stressful time if you plan on buying gifts for everyone in your life.
Every year, Insider Reviews creates dozens of gift guides to help you find the best Christmas, Hanukkah and general holiday gifts out there – for any budget, hobby or interest, and person. You can find all our holiday gift guides on this page, but to make it even easier on you, we’ve also rounded up and categorized them below.
Consider this your ultimate cheat sheet to knocking out your last-minute gift shopping for the year. Click on a link below to jump directly to all the gift guides in that category.
Trees have long been used to decorate homes. Ancient Chinese, Hebrews, and Egyptians viewed evergreens as symbols of eternal life. European pagans “decked the halls” with evergreen branches to bring in life during the dark days of winter. But, medieval Germans are credited with starting the Xmas tree tradition. They brought fir trees inside on December 24. The trees were decorated with wafers, candles, and red apples. These “paradise trees” symbolized the Garden of Eden.
17th-century German settlers brought the tradition to North America. The tradition didn’t catch on with most Americans until Queen Victoria popularized it. In 1846, Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert, put up a Xmas tree. They decorated it with toys, candy, popcorn, and cakes.
Once word spread, the popularity of Christmas trees took off. It became a tradition throughout England and North America. Now, they can be found all over the world.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in November 2018.
Nothing can stop the cold weather from coming, but a classic holiday movie always makes the chill feel much cozier. Thankfully, Disney’s streaming service, Disney Plus, has plenty of heartwarming holiday films to choose from.
Whether it’s a nostalgic nod to Christmas mornings years ago, a kid-friendly choice sure to become a new holiday tradition, or a wintry original exclusive to the streaming service, Disney Plus’ holiday movie selection includes options for every age range, genre, and level of Disney admiration.
We’ve rounded up our top 15 holiday movies on Disney Plus below. Our picks have been selected to appeal to different audiences with a mix of animated movies, live-action films, specials, classic titles, and newer releases – but be sure to check out Disney’s full movie selection to choose your own favorites.
If you haven’t purchased Disney Plus yet, we broke down everything you need to know about the streaming service here.
Here are the top 15 Christmas movies currently streaming on Disney Plus.
Kevin may be forgettable to his family, but “Home Alone” is unforgettable to its fans. Watch the shenanigans that unfold when a young boy’s family accidentally leaves him at home during their family’s Christmas vacation. All three “Home Alone” films are available on Disney Plus: you can view “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” here and “Home Alone 3” here.
This Disney Plus original from 2019 is the perfect opportunity to start a new family holiday tradition. “Noelle” follows the story of Kris Kringle’s daughter (Anna Kendrick) as she searches for her brother (Bill Hader), Nick, in an attempt to save Christmas.
While the original film version of “Annie” may not be a Christmas movie, the 1999 edition follows everyone’s favorite redheaded orphan as she spends Christmas in Oliver Warbucks’ luxury mansion. I grew up watching this version of “Annie,” so I’m a bit biased, but dare I say it’s better than the original. Plus, this version features plenty of musical theatre stars, including Audra McDonald, Alan Cumming, Kristin Chenoweth, Victor Garber, and Kathy Bates.
Contrary to Elsa’s belief, the cold definitely bothered me anyway. However, “Frozen” is a heartwarming family film to remedy even the coldest of days. When Elsa’s powers unintentionally freeze the city of Arendelle, she and her sister Anna strive to save the city from an endless winter.
The 2019 sequel, “Frozen II,” is also available to stream, as is the 2017 spinoff short film, “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure,” which takes place during the Christmas season.
Star Wars fans old and new will appreciate this walk down memory lane for the franchise. In an effort to learn more about the Force, Rey joins BB-8 on a journey that highlights epic moments of Star Wars history, along with the iconic characters that completed them.
If Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade left you feeling nostalgic, “Miracle on 34th Street” is a great holiday movie fix. Kris Kringle’s stint as a Macy’s Santa Claus leaves everyone wondering — including the audience — how strong their belief in Santa Claus truly is.
Though some may say this spooky special is technically a Halloween movie, it does have Christmas in the title. Watch as Jack Skellington’s attempt to hijack Christmas goes awry in this Tim Burton classic.
‘High School Musical: The Musical: The Holiday Special’
Last year, the ever-popular 2000s movie “High School Musical” was revived with a gen-z twist: The Disney Plus series profiles fictional attendees of the infamous high school that’s home to the original film. The holiday special spotlights several of the key players from “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” as they discuss their own holiday traditions and perform their favorite songs of the season.
It’s hard to be a Scrooge while watching anything that Mickey’s involved in. This version of “A Christmas Carol” sticks to the usual storyline, but the Disney twist makes it both fun and family-friendly.
Disney Channel original movies are at the heart of Disney Plus nostalgia. Such is the case with “‘Twas the Night,” which profiles a boy and his uncle as they try to assume Santa’s role on Christmas Eve.
This is the perfect Christmas movie for West Coasters who dream of a snowy holiday season. Two LA-based friends team up to create a snow day for their school, but they have to think on their feet when the machine goes awry.
“The Muppet Movie” was a favorite of mine growing up, so I was thrilled to see the Christmas iteration available on Disney Plus. Similar to Mickey’s take on the classic, this movie takes the same plot as the original version of “A Christmas Carol,” but Kermit and Miss Piggy add a bit of extra fun.