Although there is no other aspect of the holiday season that creates more anxiety than selecting thoughtful gifts for family and friends, the art of gift-giving need not break your bank account or drain your time and energy. Here are a few ideas to help make your holidays artfully simple:
1. Gift Certificates
Gift certificates are always a welcome present. Who would not enjoy receiving the promise of a meal to savor at a favorite restaurant? Your presentation will be even more creative when you wrap the gift certificate with a menu from the same restaurant!
Simply ask for a menu when purchasing the gift certificate. Take this idea further by wrapping gift certificates from video stores in discarded movie posters from the same store (many of these establishments give these away for free, or sell them for fifty cents or a dollar each). Borrow this same strategy for gift certificates to movie theaters.
2. The Gift of Memory
A loving first for older or grown children and grandchildren is to assemble a special book, or recipe box, with a collection of all your favorite family recipes. Don't forget to gather recipes from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so on.
Each year you may add new recipes as well as appropriate sayings and footnotes as to what is most remembered about that particular recipe. This thoughtful gesture will provide a lovely gift that will grow with your children, or offer your grown children a true box of memories from their youth.
3. Adopt a Needy Family
If you exchange gifts at your office you might want to start a new tradition. Instead of giving gifts to one another, jointly adopt a needy family. Gifts of donated money, food, clothing, or toys can be presented to the family in need.
4. Pinecone Bird Feeders
A lovely children’s hour activity during the cold weather season is to convert simple pinecones into gifts for the birds. Lay out newspaper on the table and tie about two feet of strong string to the top of the cone. Using rubber gloves, take a butter knife and press peanut butter thoroughly around the cone. Fill a large empty coffee can halfway with sunflower seeds, add a peanut-butter-covered pinecone, then put the lid on tightly. Have the children take turns shaking the pinecone inside the can.
After removing the pinecone, have the children press the sunflower seeds firmly into the peanut butter. Wrap the cone in waxed paper and tie with a ribbon. The children may wish to give these to friends and neighbors to hang on their outdoor trees--make some for your own trees as well. Be sure to have the children help you tidy the mess! One word of warning: This project works well only in cold climates, if the temperature is above 45-50 degrees the peanut butter may melt off.
5. Practical Giving
One Christmas, a friend of mine gave her elderly parents and in-laws and emergency kit to keep in the car. It contained a first-aid kit, bottled water, enough canned food to last one person for two to four days, a flare, and a thin, insulated blanket bought at a camping store. Packaged in a sturdy plastic box, these are the kind of practical gifts that people seldom think to buy for themselves.
6. Floral Treasures
This past Christmas, my friend Debbie gave me the wonderful gift of a month’s worth of flowers! Each week (or whenever the flowers in my original bouquet became wilted) I was presented with a fresh bouquet she purchased and delivered herself.
7. Recycled Treasures
Monogram a set of vintage stemware for a newlywed couple's first Christmas, have a child's name engraved on an antique silver baby's cup or spoon, or delight a friend who enjoys antique books with one she has long appreciated from your own collection. Gifts need not be new, or purchased, to have value. My mother knew a woman who took an antique clock from the wall and gave it as a Christmas gift to a friend who had always admired it.
Love these ideas? Get more gift ideas!