Holiday excitement hit early in these parts. We started our annual Christmas puzzle in October (I know, I know) and have gone through no less than three sacks of flour since. The garden rosemary is dwindling; the cinnamon restocked twice. For two weeks now, I’ve passed the hallway and smiled at the quiet glow of Bee’s room as she sleeps next to her own personal Christmas tree.
I have, in the past, felt Grinchy about Christmas. I’ve never been a shopper or an entertainer or a caroler, and I’m certainly no hustle-and-bustler. I’m ever-prone to the winter blues if the sun goes into hiding for more than a few days, and it’s often felt as if the season called for a different version of myself than I could offer.
But this year, I started early. Eased into it. Gave myself some time to think about the things that do come naturally to me: affirming words, creative gifts, thoughtful interactions. Eating pie.
(Christmas doesn’t sound so bad this year.)
And behold, a short list of gift-giving ground rules emerged that I can’t help but notice are infusing this particular season with more magic than years past:
No More “What Do You Want For Christmas?”
When it comes to extended family, I’ve always asked for specific gift suggestions from my sisters on what to give their kids. We’re not lucky enough to live closeby, so the ins and outs of their daily lives are mostly lost on me. Is he a Pokemon guy, or is Legos his thing? Does she prefer sparkly lotion or craft supplies? Both? Neither?
But inevitably, their helpful suggestions turned into a simple search on Amazon, a click of a button, a quick fix in cardboard. The whole process felt neither loving nor thoughtful, and now that the kids are older and gift cards are their main request, I’ve lost the will to dole out envelopes like a far-removed ATM.
And so, the new question for my nieces and nephews is simply this: What are you loving lately? What are you into? Where do you go in your free time? What do you like to do with your best friend? Tell me about you.
It has brought back every ounce of fun in the gift-giving department, and I have an inkling it’ll do the same for the gift-receivers, as well.
No More Online Crowd-Sourcing for Ideas
No Google, no Pinterest, no blogs. The best ideas are the ones born out of our own uniquely complex scenario. The best tools are in our own shed; the best supplies in our own junk drawer.
Last week, I burned two candles down to their melty wick and re-purposed the jars (I know I said no blogs, but this gal’s simple method was foolproof for removing that pesky wax). I’ve been saving them for neighbor gifts to fill with my favorite candied pecans “recipe,” or perhaps tiny star-shaped sugar cookies.
I know there’s no shortage of suggestions or ideas. And yet: no one knows your 82-year-old neighbor from Georgia who, whilst mowing his lawn, witnessed those treacherous sounds the day you gave birth in your bedroom (sorry, Bob) quite like you do. There isn’t a gift guide in the world that could contain the many personality quirks of the beloveds in your life.* Go at it alone first. If (and only if!) necessary, call in reinforcements from the rest of us strangers.
*One exception: I’ve yet to meet a young kid who does not find endless delight in this.
No More Gift Comparisons
Bee’s getting a handmade gift that Ken’s been working hard on for the past few weeks, so while inexpensive, it’s fairly special and of high worth. But the same sort of gift doesn’t translate for our dear boisterous Scout, who wants little more than to push buttons on old remotes, put lids on sour cream tubs and chew on vitamin bottles.
So we’re going with it. Scout’s grandparents are hard at work saving bottles/containers and I’ll be scouring thrift stores for old rotary phones, remotes or all things button-y. Sure, Bee’s gift is more sentimental this year, but they’ll both be getting precisely what they love and what they’ll use.
Yes, More Random Generosity
Many of our gifts are creative and homespun within our own family, so there’s room for some wild extravagance elsewhere. Last year, Bee and I delivered a number of random gifts to everyday strangers, like hot coffee for jovial crossing guards and gift cards for kind grocery clerks. I love how it teaches both of us to stay attuned to the joy of others, to be on the lookout for a daily miracle, a need fulfilled. Manna passed along.
And I suppose that’s the heart of it: that I’m thinking less about the wisemen who traveled afar toting riches and gifts, and I’m thinking more about the innkeeper. The one who quietly served those nearest, day in and day out, and who – in the end – stretched out a bit of creativity to make room for something altogether lovely.
Tell me, do you stick to any gift-giving rules in your life? I’d love to hear!