On a recent Saturday, local potter Rusty Spicer was outside Santa Fe Clay (545 Camino de la Familia, 984-1122), selling his beautiful ceramic bowls ($20-$45). Spicer recounted a story of a woman who bought one for her daughter, who lived in Paris. One day, the daughter returned to Santa Fe and found Spicer.

"She told me that every day, when she uses my bowl, she feels like she's enjoying a little piece of Santa Fe," Spicer said. As luck and small-town living would have it, the very same woman sauntered up as Spicer and I were talking, and she laughingly confirmed the story.

"See? It really is a little piece of Santa Fe," Spicer said, grinning. And isn't that just the kind of gift you want to give?

In addition to Spicer's work, Santa Fe Clay sells a range of artistic yet utilitarian pieces. Next door, the weekend artists' market at the Santa Fe Farmers Market (1607 Paseo de Peralta) boasts an array of colorful, homegrown gifts: bright yellow beeswax taper candles ($6-$12 for a pair); a rainbow of hand-dyed wool ($18 for a skein); and vibrant ristra wreaths ($20-$50) from Gonzales Farms. Second Bloom Farm, located in the Jemez Mountains (secondbloomfarm.com), sells its Cowboy Goat Milk Lotions ($5-$16) there, along with soaps in scents like Spanish anise, mountain sage and lavender ($7).

But what are gifts without a tree to stash them under? At Santa Fe Place (4250 Cerrillos Road) and De Vargas Center (corner of Guadalupe St. and Paseo de Peralta), purchase garlands, potted plants and Christmas trees from the Delancey Street Foundation, which empowers formerly incarcerated or substance-addicted people by giving them meaningful work (delanceystreetfoundation.org). Head downtown next, because nothing says holiday cheer like an ornament-buying spree inside Susan's Christmas Shop (115 E Palace Ave., 983-2127) and The Shop: A Christmas Store (116 E Palace Ave., 983-4823). If it's dark by the time you finish, you'll get to see the colorfully lit Plaza in all its glory.

There's a myth that nothing happens in Santa Fe once it gets cold, but it's completely unfounded; upcoming events offer great opportunities to treat your loved ones to an early holiday present. The Lensic (211 W San Francisco St., 988-1234, lensic.org) has a slate of exciting shows this month, including a free holiday concert (Dec. 17), China's Golden Dragon Acrobats (Dec. 20-22), a Christmas Eve concert with 11-year-old piano prodigy Emily Bear, and a New Year's Eve celebration with the Harlem String Quartet. In case you've missed all the hype about the Mayan calendar, the world's supposed to end on Dec. 21, so The Palace Restaurant & Saloon (142 W Palace Ave., 982-9891) is hosting what's sure to be a wild, apocalypse-ready party that night. If you survive said apocalypse (HINT: look for survival tips in next week's issue of SFR), hit up the magical Canyon Road walk on Dec. 24.  

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