I took a non-Christmas detour today to participate in the Carnival of Natural Mothering, but if you’re longing for a Christmas post you can find me guest posting over at Life by Ashley Pichea. Ashley runs a couple of great blogs, and has accomplished a lot in a short period of time. I enjoyed meeting her at Bloggy Conference this year, and am excited for the opportunity to write about ways to maintain the right focus this Christmas.
I was trying to have this post up before it was scheduled to go out to your inboxes today, but Noah was all, “Hey! You’re my mom! Aren’t you supposed to feed me, and change me, and generally keep me entertained?!” I felt he had a point, so I put the writing on the backburner for a while.
(Hey, while we’re on the subject, you can get these posts delivered straight to your inbox mostly on time, you know, if you wanna…)
You know, people used to be neighborly, back when we lived and worked in the same community, and didn’t have so much excess we were able to pretend we don’t need one another. And I don’t want to pretend we don’t need one another, because people are literally the only thing on this earth that matters. I want relationship, and I want my neighbors to know they can come to us whenever they need help or a listening ear. But the thing is, being neighborly has gone so far out of fashion it feels awkward to try to start a conversation. And that’s where these fun gift ideas come in handy. Christmas gives us the perfect opportunity to build goodwill among our neighbors and start working on that relationship we value. (A Christmas card is entirely appropriate, but please, resist the urge to include a tract. Don’t let your neighbors think you are trying to sell them something. What they need, and what you need, is relationship. With the relationship will come the privilege to speak Truth into their lives.)
This year we’re hoping to take baked goodies and a spice rub to our neighbors (see below). Click on the images you like to be taken to them on Pinterest.
We Whisk You a Merry Christmas
Apron and Recipes in a Mason Jar
Hot Chocolate Sticks
Candy Cane Marshmallow Stirrers
Merry Kissmas and a Chappy New Year!
Soda-Lighted You’re My Neighbor
Stovetop Christmas Scent
Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds
Cranberry Orange Bread with White Chocolate
Candy Cane Popcorn
When I was growing up we often received a family gift from Santa. It was always something we would enjoy together, and we would often put it to use Christmas afternoon.
The gift was given as part of our pickle tradition (yep, you read that correctly), and that’s the tradition we plan to continue with our family. Our kids aren’t old enough yet, though, so we’ll have to work our way up to it. This year I don’t know that we will buy a family gift for ourselves, but we have requested a membership to the zoo.
Memberships ~ This is a great one to get for another family you love. Memberships might be for zoos, state parks, museums, pools, or amusement parks. You could also purchase tickets for a sporting event or a show (or season tickets, if you’re made of money). Our local orchestra does family concerts, pops concerts, and classical concerts. There are many other arts organizations in the area, as well, including more than one venue for musical theatre.
Board Games ~ This is a big one in our family. We love to play games. We all have our favorite type, of course. Personally, I LOVE trivia games. I don’t particularly care whether I know the answer, I just find trivia fun. There are many different types of games – trivia, strategy, chance, word games. Pretty much anything you might enjoy. There’s even a game called Pass the Pigs, which is ridiculous and pointless, and that’s its charm.
(We just tried this version of Trivial Pursuit, and it’s nice if you don’t have a long time to play, or you have players slightly uncomfortable with trivia games You can earn a pie piece every play, and can even ask another player to help you answer the question.)
Movies ~ Some families have regular movie nights. We didn’t watch a ton of films together, but we had a few things we always loved. We watched several documentaries and war films, and a few years our family gift was a Veggie Tales video. (What? You don’t think those things go together?) When we kids were all older we loved the Lord of the Rings films. We also watched Masterpiece Mystery and British comedies on PBS as a family (Vicar and As Time Goes By are my favorites…but don’t buy them for me, ’cause we already own them). Anyway, the point is each family has their own culture, and it can be fun to find something unique to them.
Books ~ I’m pretty sure everyone knows how good reading aloud is for the developing brain. It’s also great for family bonding. I always enjoyed hearing Winnie-the-Pooh and The Tales of Beatrix Potter as a kid. Any good story can be read aloud, so this is another area where the family culture is important. What type of stories are your recipients most likely to prefer? Do you know of something new you can introduce them to?
Support Their Hobbies ~ Andy and I both enjoy cooking. That means our kids are going to grow up learning cooking is an enjoyable activity to prioritize. For us, something that supports that activity would be a good gift. Perhaps you have friends who particularly enjoy exercising together, or who like to make music or art as a family. Many families have a “thing” you can thoughtfully encourage through a gift.
What is your favorite family gift you’ve ever given or received?
I enjoy trying to find the perfect gift for an individual, so I’ve become fairly skilled at it. Some people are easy to buy for, because they collect something and will be thrilled with anything that fits in that collection. For most of us, though, it’s not so simple. Here are some tips I’ve learned over the years for how to buy the perfect Christmas gift.
Only give items you are comfortable with. Sometimes I receive gift suggestions that I am not comfortable giving. I give gifts to the people I love, and if I love you I am not going to give you something I feel is not good for you, even if you ask for it. It is okay to choose to not provide the thing that has been requested. Do consider the person for whom you are buying, though – don’t just get them something because you like it or think it would be good for them. If you approach gift giving that way, you are giving for your sake, not theirs.
Focus on things you have in common with the person. What things do you both like? What things do you like you feel confident the recipient would also enjoy? What things do they like you think you could get into with them? It’s fun for both of you if you can connect over the gift. Consider the gift a way to deepen the bond between you. (Giving a handmade item is another way to do this, but it won’t be one of my points because I am not crafty.)
Look for gifts that create memories. Instead of giving an item, give an experience. This year we’ve asked for a family zoo membership, and another family has requested a state park pass. In my family we have often given the gift of concert or theatre tickets. An item can be wonderful, but an experience creates a memory. A couple of years ago Andy’s siblings got together and we purchased tickets for all the adults to see Bill Cosby as a family. We kids purchased our own tickets, and provided tickets to Andy’s parents as a gift. We also went out to dinner together that evening. Andy’s dad loves Bill Cosby, and that was a great memory-making experience for us. This year, rather than purchase birthday presents for each other, Andy and I have tickets to see Jim Gaffigan.
Look for nostalgic gifts. What stories does your loved one tell? What are memories you share? One of my favorite gifts I’ve ever given was to a friend, many years older than myself, who had told me in one of our lengthy conversations about a movie she used to love. She now had grandkids, and wished she could share that story with them, but she knew they didn’t make it anymore. Lover of online shopping that I am, I knew immediately I could find that movie for her. I got on eBay and found a used VHS tape. When I gave it to her, she cried. I think I enjoyed giving her that gift more than she enjoyed receiving it.
Give to a charity. If the recipient has absolutely everything they need, and giving an experience is not a good option for you (perhaps there’s nothing that fits, or perhaps it’s out of your price range right now), you might like to give to a charity in honor of your loved one. This can be the perfect gift, if you make it personal to the recipient. For example, I have a passion for orphans and underprivileged children. It would mean the most to me if someone were to donate to an organization that provides relief for mothers and babies or cares for children.
The most important part of choosing any gift is considering the recipient. I promise you, it doesn’t matter what you ultimately give or how much you spend, if it is obvious you were thinking of your loved one’s individuality when you chose their gift.