It's that time of year again: stores are hanging up wreaths of holly, people are stringing Christmas lights and taking their menorahs out of storage, and you're scrambling around the city, without enough money or time, trying to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list and cursing mindless consumption. Before you renounce all things holiday themed and decide to hide under the covers until January, though, check out our ideas below, which include small local businesses, nonprofits, charities, and other organizations that give back to society. As corny as it sounds, by shopping at any of the places listed below, you're not just giving to your friends and family; you're giving to the community as a whole while reducing your own consumerist guilt. And after all, isn't feeling good about giving what the holidays are really all about? (Well, that and copious amounts of eggnog.)
FROG HOLLOW FARM
If you love supporting local farmers but hate jostling your way through the crowds at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, why not order a package of Black Forest ham and Gruyère turnovers ($24 for six) or a seasonal fruit sampler ($38 for six pounds of hand-selected fruit) straight from Frog Hollow Farm's Web site? An organic farm just an hour outside San Francisco, Frog Hollow will ship baskets of fresh fruit, olive oil, chutneys, and pastries to whoever your lucky recipient may be a friend, a family member, or even just you (now that I know I can get cherry galettes and pear, Gorgonzola, and walnut tartlets delivered straight to my house, I'm not sure I'll have enough money to send any packages out this year). Plus, this way you won't feel guilty for forgetting to bring your reusable canvas bag to the market, again.
SAN FRANCISCO ZOO
Don't lie: your childhood dream of having an elephant or a monkey for a pet never completely went away. Unfortunately, it's illegal in the state of California to own such exotic animals, but that doesn't mean you can't adopt! The San Francisco Zoo offers Adopt-an-Animal gift certificates, which include a personalized certificate, a framed photo, information about your adoptee, and an invitation for two to the zoo's annual Zoo Parent Day. The recipient gets to select his or her own animal, with options ranging from the traditional (polar bear, alligator, penguin) to the unique (laughing kookaburra, Nigerian dwarf goat, Mexican red-kneed tarantula) to the endangered (snow leopard, Magellanic penguin, Siberian tiger). All animal adoptions cost $50, which helps support all zoo residents of that species for a year.
(415) 753-7117, www.sfzoo.org
CREATIVITY EXPLORED'S ANNUAL HOLIDAY ART SALE
If you're gifting an art lover but lack the cash to buy a piece from an expensive gallery, visit the Annual Holiday Art Sale at Creativity Explored, San Francisco's premier gallery showing work by artists with developmental disabilities. These virtuosos, whose work has been called some of the most imaginative, original, and sophisticated art in San Francisco, include not only painters and sculptors but also T-shirt designers and pillow makers. And even if you have less than 10 bucks to spend, you'll walk away with something special. Check out the selection of blank note cards, which come in sets of six or eight, cost between $7 and $12, and have names like "San Francisco Icons," "The Sky Is Falling," and "Bottlecap Ferris Wheel." Half of the proceeds go directly to the artist, so no need to feel guilty when you tell your significant other that his or her new piece of artwork is "priceless" it may have been cheap, but it was for a great cause.
Dec. 530. Opening-weekend hours: Dec. 5, 69 p.m.; Dec.