5 Christmas Gift Ideas Pope Francis Would Love

Sustainable presents to feel good about this season

gifts pope francis would approve v1Looking to purchase gifts for loved ones this Christmas that even Pope Francis would approve of? Not sure where to begin? Well, “Laudato Si” spells out some of the pontiff’s top priorities — caring for creation, respecting the dignity of workers, building a culture of solidarity and encounter, to name a few — and it’s not hard to roll those themes into your holiday shopping.

So, how can we care for creation when shopping for grandma? How might the office Secret Santa be an experience of global solidarity? I’ve got five suggestions that will increase your consumer consciousness, decrease your eco-footprint, and take you on a brisk walk through Catholic Social Teaching.

#1 Fair Trade Wine
Tired of buying Dad that same old bottle of wine? Maybe you need a good conversation starter at a holiday party — and you were asked to provide the drinks. In any case, check out this selection of fair trade wines. With every sip, you can be assured that the grapes were farmed in a sustainable, eco-friendly way that would make Pope Francis proud, and that the workers were paid a just wage.

My personal favorite: Goats Do Roam from Fairview, a winery in South Africa. Then buy this to hold all your wine.
(And if you want an epic overview of what it means to care for creation, watch this.)

#2 Alta Gracia Apparel
You’ve probably heard a lot of talk about the minimum wage — whether it should be increased or left alone. You might be well-versed in just wages and fair wages. But do you know what it means to pay a living wage? Now’s your chance to find out — and discover a new way to respect the dignity of work and rights of workers. Head over to Alta Gracia Apparel’s website, a fair trade clothing producer in the Dominican Republic, where the workers don’t just get paid enough to survive; they get enough to thrive. You’ll definitely find more than ugly Christmas sweaters.

(And if you’re feeling like a super theology nerd with way too much free time this Advent, read Pope Leo XIII’s groundbreaking encyclical on the rights of workers, Rerum Novarum.)

#3 Gifts of Time and Kindness
Pope Francis calls us to encounter those on the margins, so why not reach out to your local homeless shelter and see what needs the residents have this holiday season? You might want to cook a homemade meal or bake some Christmas cookies. Socks, blankets, coats, and other pieces of clothing can help keep the shelter’s residents warm during cold winter nights. Maybe you just want to give a little of your time to serve a meal or spend an afternoon with those at the shelter. Whatever you do, be sure you ask what the shelter and residents would like this season. You want to meet real needs, not your own assumptions.

(Get inspired to help those in need with this awesome video.)

#4 Manger Scenes From Around the World
Whether you call it a crèche, a manger, or a nativity scene, use that image of Christ’s birth to encounter communities from all corners of the globe. Take a look at some of these — you’ll quickly discover that these scenes are far from cookie-cutter; they really lift up the local realities and priorities of the communities from which they come.

What might we learn in reflecting on Jesus being born in Indonesia? Or Peru? Or maybe Kenya? Such questions should definitely give you something to talk about during Christmas dinner.

In Sollicitudo rei Socialis, St. John Paul II wrote: “[Solidarity] is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”

#5 Sustainable Food Gifts
In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis encourages us to eat responsibly. That doesn’t mean dieting; that means being aware of where our food is coming from. So, this Christmas, why not encourage your loved ones to do the same? (After all, fruitcakes aren’t the only food gifts available this time of year.) Consider getting them a “farm share” from a local farm. CSAs — Community Supported Agriculture — is a great way to eat healthier and support farmers in your area. This will get you started.

And while you’re thinking about purchasing food that gives back, check out the coffees, teas and chocolates over at Equal Exchange. They’re delicious — and support farmers around the world.

Want to learn more about why supporting local farmers and artisans is important? CRS Fair Trade has the information you’re looking for.

Have other ideas? I’d love to hear them. Share in the comments below. Here’s my 2014 list of gifts that give back for more ideas.