Friday

Giving Meaningful Holiday Gifts

My family has always been heavily invested in giving gifts at Christmas. It's the biggest outlay of cash we spend all year long. The gifts themselves are sometimes practical, occasionally silly and always carefully planned to please. Finding the right present and watching the happy reaction when it's opened is pretty darned satisfying, even if it can get pricy. I have to admit that in the past I've spent more on holiday gifts than I could comfortably afford. When I started making herb and cooking related gifts, that stopped to a degree, though.

Taking Some of the Commercialism out of Christmas

This was around the time I began to consider the possibility that Christmas was becoming too commercial -- for my taste, anyway. It's funny, because I recall my mother expressing this same sentiment a few decades earlier. That was in reaction to seeing community Christmas decorations going up the day after Thanksgiving. Nowadays, they're up before Halloween. Some internal reckoning changed my perception of Christmas. I'm not even sure what brought it about. Maybe waiting in line behind surly Christmas shoppers and dealing with overworked sales clerks made me feel sad and discouraged. I know that watching mall visitors raging at one another over parking spaces made me question the virtue of a holiday that can make some people (good people, too) so uncharitable, while espousing the virtues of joy, faith and fellowship. Well, this is all old news -- the commercialization of the holidays.

Christmas Gifts to MakeThat's when I decided I wanted to make gifts instead of buy them (mostly). Once I began preparing herb wreaths, flavored vinegars, scented candles, soaps and other homemade crafts for gift giving, I realized that for a few years I'd just been going through the motions. Most of the delight was absent -- smothered by all the commercialism and silliness. It's hard to imagine any reasonable person feeling anything but chagrin at the prospect of spending hours wrapping presents only to have the paper ripped off in a frenzy and summarily discarded. (I'm an advocate of reusable fabric wrapping.)

Making Christmas

This is my way of saying that sometimes 'making' Christmas instead of 'buying' Christmas is the best solution to the holiday blues. It'll put you in touch with your inner merrymaker. It'll remind you that "made by hand" is still the most intimate and touching way to give a gift. If you start now, you'll have time to make some great holiday gifts this year. You might decide you really like the handmade-homemade approach and start using it for year round gift giving, too. I hope so.

Over the years, I've posted lots of craft projects that make good gifts. Most use herbs, but even if you don't grow and dry your own herbs for winter use, you can buy dried lavender, vanilla beans, calendula and others on the internet or at your local craft store. In almost every case, you can create a batch of homemade gifts less expensively than you can purchase them. Think of the task as employing the economies of scale to buy the raw materials for multiple gifts. You'll be making presents, enjoying the process (I am certain of it), and saving money -- all at the same time. It's a Christmas miracle.

Christmas Gifts to MakeChristmas Herb Projects to Make

These past posts will give you some ideas, but there are thousands of ways you can make Christmas more personal and satisfying by crafting gifts yourself. One year long ago, my Godfather gave my family a miniature fence he'd made of interlocking twigs designed to go around the base of the Christmas tree. It looked rustic and perfect corralling a big pile of presents. That little fence was one of the first homemade gifts I'd ever seen. I found it mesmerizing that one could pick little twigs up off the ground and fashion them into something useful. Who knew? It was an Aha! moment for me, and one you can share with your own family.

A simple way to start is to mix homemade spice or sugar blends. Add some matching jars (and maybe colorful labels) and you'll have a gift that will provide good value and tasty meals for months. These recipes will get you started:
If some people on your Christmas list think cooking is for fools who don't appreciate the value of takeout, try putting together a lavender sachet or try these other options. They make pleasant gifts and go together pretty quickly:




If you start now, you'll have time to mix together a tasty dill vinegar too. In a decorative decanter it will make very nice hostess gift.

I'll add more suggestions as I recall them, but a couple of these will help to get you in a holiday mood.

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