The most exciting part of the holiday season, no matter your age, is that glorious image of waking up on Christmas day to find shiny gifts heaped beneath the tree. We antagonize for weeks about perfecting our wish lists and finding that ideal present for all our friends and family, but rarely do we take a step back to think about what exactly it is we are giving. This year, I’m going to try to give gifts that really give. Here’s my list of ideas for gifts that have lasting value, purpose, and meaning, so you and your loved ones can continue to experience the Christmas spirit for far longer than 12 days.
1. Give local gifts
This is pretty easy to do in urban areas where you walk by neighborhood stores every day. But in places where things are farther away, make an effort to bring your Christmas closer to home. Instead of driving to the mall, take a walk in a nearby town and pick up a few things from local shops. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what you might find.
2. Donate to a charity (for yourself or a friend)
This might seem like an overdone gift idea, but there are more ways to give to charity for Christmas than throwing a few coins at the Salvation Army collection guy outside the supermarket. The website www.charitynavigator.org is a comprehensive resource for finding the perfect charity for your gift this Christmas.
3. Give Fair Trade coffees and teas
Coffee and teas are classic Christmas gifts because, let’s face it, Christmastime (in most of the United States) is cold. This year, give the bigger gift of helping small farmers and the environment by buying fair trade tea and coffee. The organization Equal Exchange has an online retail store with an assortment of tea, coffee, chocolate, nuts, fruits, and olive oils to choose from. They even have a retail outlet specifically for faith-based organizations to buy products and promote fair trade through coffee hours and fundraising.
4. Give a CSA membership
Community supported agriculture, or CSA, is a great way to get involved in local, organic agriculture. The way it works is that a farm offers shares to the public. Then, those who are interested subscribe and receive weekly seasonal produce in return. It’s a great way to get super fresh, responsibly grown, local fruits, veggies, and other produce for relatively little, all while supporting local agriculture, encouraging sustainable farming, and feeding you well! Find a CSA close to you and give a subscription as a gift. You can also find local farmers’ markets and family farms for other edible gift ideas online.
5. Make your own presents
For those of you that don’t identify as artsy types, this may seem like the worst idea ever. But the truth is, even if you don’t think you have a creative bone in your body, there’s probably something that’s uniquely you that you can give. If you like to knit, make your friends and family scarves and hats. If you like photography, make a collage for your sister of all your favorite memories together. Take what you know you’re good at and apply it to a project for someone special.
6. Give cute stuff made out of recycled other stuff
There are ways to reuse and reclaim materials you never thought possible. I don’t mean you should take that terrible vase your great aunt got you last year and give it over to your least favorite coworker – I’m talking about buying things that were creatively recreated from other objects. For instance, this wine rack made out of old skis. The website www.uncommongoods.com has lots of recycled and handmade stuff to choose from, so you’re bound to find something for everyone.
7. Maybe don’t give gifts this year?!
Yeah, you’ve probably been told this a million times, but it’s true – Giving doesn’t have to be material. Sure, your best friend will love it if you get her that purse she’s been eyeing for months, but why not try to have a gift-free Christmas? The economy is as bleak as the winter, so maybe you can save some money this year by having a cozy, intimate Christmas with those closest to you. Instead of buying presents, have your friends and family give their presence as presents (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). One idea: Host a big potluck Christmas dinner where instead of slaving over the ham until the marinade is perfect, everyone brings their one best dish. It saves a lot of time, effort, and cash and brings everyone together in a way they won’t forget.