Gift-giving is fun, but it can be stressful as we try to find the perfect thing for everyone on our list. I love giving presents, but I generally don't want to spend the almost $900 the average American spends on Christmas presents every year. I'd rather give simpler, less expensive items and reach out to more of the important people in my life.
To be honest, I'd rather give no gift than a token gift. I want to give things that are meaningful and loved, not that serve only to allow me to cross someone's name off my list. I try to listen for good ideas all year long and during my travels so I'm not pressured into shopping in December, but I also like to make presents for people. In fact, for my closest friends and family, I often prefer it, especially if there's nothing specific they've been wanting.
I'm not talking about ornaments made out of beads and puzzle pieces—at least not anymore. (My mom has several of those that still hang on the tree every year.) I'm talking about things that are a joy to create and, at least from what I've been able to gather, have been joyfully received and appreciated. Instead of thinking, “Oh, that will take so much time,” I think of that time as almost meditative. Instead of alone time doing something else, I use that me time to create something for someone.
This is a list of various items I've made and given, or have been made and given to me or someone I know, over the years. I hope it helps inspire something for that hard-to-shop-for person in your life.
I've given this twice, and both times I was told it was the best gift they'd ever gotten. I did it for a birthday and for a wedding, but it would work for the holidays as well, with messages of love or support.
I contacted the recipient's friends and family and asked them to write me a few sentences they'd like to say to the couple/birthday boy. I collected these messages and hand-wrote them all in fancy small notebooks.
I've given several of these over the years. I like to choose scrapbook albums rather than just photo albums, so I can add notes and graphics as well. I've organized them by theme, event, time frame, and more, depending on the recipient and my history with that person. It's easier than ever to collect photos since everyone has them all on Facebook! I think this gift is even more special now, because not very many of us are taking the time to print our photos and gather them in a book. At least for me, there's still something very special about leafing through a photo album that I just don't find when I scroll through my Facebook albums.
These are fun if you spend time with the recipient throughout the year, because in addition to the main photo for each month, you can mark special dates or funny memories throughout the calendar.
This is brilliant if you know a busy family. I made this for my brother and his wife this year (shhh...don't tell them!). They've got three kids and have mentioned to me several times about how they've talked about creating a monthly meal plan but they never find the time to do it.
I included shopping lists, recipes, and ideas for leftovers in addition to the calendar, and I put it all together in a binder for them. I've spent enough time with them that I know what they like and what's available in their grocery store, so I feel pretty confident that they'll be able to use it.
I'm all about healthy eating and healthy treats, but when I bake for other people I don't hold anything back. I grew up with wonderful homemade breads, cakes, and cookies (not all the time, but when it happened, it was gooooood), and I remember how those things made me feel. I like to do that for others.
I make cookies occasionally throughout the year and share them, but when I bake something as a holiday gesture, I like to choose something a little more special, maybe something that takes a little extra time that people wouldn't normally do for themselves.
Do you give (or have you received) homemade gifts at Christmas? If so, what?