Years before navigating the complexities of integrated communications here at The Martin Group, we were all just kids, spending our Decembers waiting for the gifts the holiday season would bring.
Enticed by catalogs, colorful ad campaigns or grassroots fervor that boosted the allure of everything from weird-looking dolls to tradable discs, we devised lists full of things we hoped to get. We spent nights giddily anticipating the arrival, the unwrapping, the euphoric surprise. When the days came, gifts appeared—but there were some that stood apart from the rest.
Each of these gifts is more than a toy or game or stylish piece of clothing. Each is a memory, filled with anticipation, excitement, and an aftermath of enjoyment that lasted days or years. The thought of these presents can still bring a smile to our faces and take us back to that time of childlike exuberance, when the holiday season was so much more than dates on a calendar.
As the incomparable Andy Williams says, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
This year, we’re celebrating some of our favorite holiday gifts and the memories around each that made them so special. Here you go:
Easy-Bake Oven® for Sarah Warner
After a full-family Christmas Eve sleepover—with all nine of her cousins—Sarah found a time-tested favorite waiting for her under the Christmas tree. Produced by action figure titan Kenner and perfect for those eager for their first taste of baking, the oven elicited pure elation for our new business advisor—even if it didn’t turn her into a cake boss.
Says Sarah: “It was great for cooking up mini vanilla cakes, but the experience didn’t translate into lifelong baking skills.”
The Nutcracker for Shannon Brown
Every memorable gift doesn’t drop on the actual holiday date—but in Shannon’s case, her moment does involve an actual drop. Following a pre-Christmas letter from one of Santa’s elves (her mother), our senior social media manager heard a thud on her back deck. When she and her brother ran outside, they found a hardcover copy of the holiday tale, The Nutcracker, dropped from the sky—but actually tossed from a window by her stealth-operating mother.
Says Shannon: “My brother and I truly never believed in Santa, his elves, and Christmas magic more than we did in that moment.”
10-speed Huffy Mudslinger for Brendan Kennedy
When he was about 10 years old, our public relations manager made an announcement: He longer believed in Santa Claus. Nevertheless, he still had hopes for a Huffy from whomever doled out the gifts. Thankfully, his parents refused to turn the holiday into a matter of cold transaction. Instead, they made Brendan think all his gifts were wrapped and waiting on Christmas Eve, stashed the bike at a neighbor’s house, then rolled it in on Christmas morning—leading to an emotional surprise that still holds meaning.
Says Brendan: “The lengths my parents went to make the magic of Christmas last a bit longer left an indelible mark. It’s a memory I cherish, and it has inspired me to create similar magical moments for my own family.”
Buffalo Sabres Open Practice tickets for Amy Moritz
Some gifts are so good, they’re given every year. For our public relations manager, that present was tickets to the Buffalo Sabres’ annual open practice. Held in the old Memorial Auditorium the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the occasion gave Amy and her brother—who’d both go on to become sports reporters, the former covering her hometown Sabres—a chance to sit close to the ice, watch eventual Hall of Famers have fun, and most memorably, get autographs from their on-ice favorites.
Says Amy: “Players were stationed in different sections around the arena, and my brother and I would run around the halls looking for our favorite players. It was truly the best time of the year.”
American Girl® for Caitlin Tracy
Was the aughts’ American Girl craze a consumer-fueled phenomenon? Yes. Was our strategy specialist swept up in this mania? You bet. Her all-time favorite holiday gift was her first American Girl doll (named Samantha Parker), and it wasn’t a moment that came and went. It merely lit the fuse for a youth spent entranced by the American Girl brand, their books, and associated merch; and it provided a formative experience that Caitlin can still connect to.
Says Caitlin: “I went to the American Girl store for the first time in NYC at age 22 and was embarrassingly excited by the experience and nostalgia the brand and dolls still offered 15 years later.”
PRE skis for John Jiloty
Though our Senior VP of Growth and Business Channels is now a downhill expert (who still daydreams about conquering the K-12), he was once just an 11-year-old kid walking by the window of his local sporting goods store, longingly staring at a pair of white, PRE 120 skis he wanted to be his first. That year, he got them, along with a pair of Chicago Bulls-red rear-entry ski boots. It was all perfect, except for one thing: there was no snow outside.
Says John: “That didn’t stop me from putting my new boots and skis on in our living room more than once in the warmup to ski season.”
Sweet jean jacket for Kate Chokshi
The style of our tweens is frozen in time, captured in stacks of photos or still living on social media. For our Senior VP of Account Service, her early 1990s fashion apex may have been reached with a most-cherished Hanukah gift: a Gap bomber jean jacket, with tan sleeves complementing the denim. That year, it was the number one gift on her list. Thankfully, her grandmother—a historically superior gift-giver—delivered the goods and gave Kate enough cool to carry into her teens.
Says Kate: “I was excited and thankful in an awkward 12-year-old kind of way—and then wore the hell out of that jacket for the next two years.”
He-Man® action figure for Michael Tsanis
Our Senior VP of Creative has spent much of his childhood (and adulthood) in the company of Jedis, Ewoks, Wookies, but none of these characters can claim to deliver his most significant holiday gift moment. In 1983, a muscle-bound hero arrived on Battlecat to both vanquish the evil Skeletor and win a starring spot in Michael’s action figure saga. That man was He-Man, and by the power of Grayskull, he transformed a boy’s life forever.
Says Michael: “All my other action figures felt a bit like child’s play when faced with all that muscle. Years later, He-Man still holds a special place in my heart. And though I no longer have his green tiger, you can find a version of him proudly displayed on my desk today.”
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