For the past several years, my family and I have changed the way we do gift-giving. Whether it is someone's birthday, a certain holiday or even a present given "Just because", we have decided to change how we approach each gift.
Before we re-evaluated our gift-giving habits, we lived with constant unspoken rules such as "So-and-so always gets a DVD box set for such-and-such TV show". "Your mom gets something crafty, from Michael's." "My mom gets anything to do with tea, whether it is purchased at Chapters, Distinctly Tea or even Winners." "So-and-so always gets clothes or jewellery." It was starting to get monotonous, boring, not to mention just plain expensive.
I forget who brought it up, but one day in random conversation someone in my family made the confession that even though DVD box sets are nice gifts to receive, there isn't very much thought put into the giving of the gift itself and it was a pity that so much money got spent every year on gifts that weren't fully appreciated. It's so darn EASY to just order a bunch of DVDs or books online and to even have them sent to various family members, pre-wrapped... Sure, it's easy, but is it special?
After a few of us had discussed this, we got together a few months before Christmas and decided together that from now on we would exchange only hand-made gifts. At first I admit I felt a little scared and disappointed with this decision, because I like getting electronics and jewellery or other store-bought items as gifts. It didn't take me very long to realize though that a lot of the time I actually just buy those types of things for myself, and I tend to know more precisely which necklace I like the most or which DVDs I already own or don't own. As we got closer to Christmas, most of us had gotten over our inital panic about having to actually be creative and make an effort, and were starting to get excited about what we were planning to create.
My family is big on inside jokes, and as luck would have it, I have a lot of creatively talented people in my family. I could hardly wait to give my brother in law (I had drawn his name) the framed pictures of images by an artist our whole family has made fun of for years (my hand-painted take on his art-work, anyway). I knew what my husband had decided to get for my second brother in law (a big gift bag of home-made Christmas treats, a framed picture of our little niece and a coupon for a weekend of free babysitting) and I was so excited to see his reaction when he opened his gift.
It's funny how much our attitude changed towards christmas morning in the rest of the time leading up to it. Normally we would have been worrying that we hadn't purchased the right thing for so-and-so, or if we had spent too much or not enough on their gift. Usually we had a feeling of relief that we had been to the mall enough times to purchase everything needed for gift-giving in time for the big day... or, panic, knowing we wouldn't be able to pull it off in time. I know for me personally, I would normally wonder what I would get this year, and I selfishly hoped that so-and-so hadn't bought me a certain DVD box set that I had recently purchased for myself, because it is such a pain to drive to the mall to exchange gifts these days.
We were actually excited to see the reactions our loved-ones would show in opening their gifts from us. This was our main focus... we couldn't help it! We had put so much effort and thought into what we had chosen to give. I couldn't wait to see the look on my brother-in-law's face as he opened the framed picture from me. It was going to be priceless, I just knew it... and nothing beats the feeling of knowing you spent actual creative-power and thought deciding on a gift for someone.
Christmas morning was a great success. There were beautiful hand-made shelves for the younger kids, a sewing storage board for my sewing room (which has been SO helpful to me), lots of beautiful or funny framed pictures of family members or other images to do with inside jokes shared with my family, wonderful homemade snacks and goodies, and hand-painted items such as breakfast trays or pictures to display. Crocheted throws and clothing items were passed around.
You could feel the pride and appreciation in the room. It was a truly special morning, and ever since then we have agreed that home-made is the way to go.
I didn't even touch on the most important part of all this: how excellent this approach to gift-giving is on being eco-friendly! Each gift was quite inexpensive to put together. No money was wasted on useless plastic or styrofoam packaging that would either require recycling or just simply being thrown out because of being un-recyclable. Many of us reused certain items in our homes as items used to create the gift. Baking home-made snacks was a great approach too, because we knew exactly what ingredients were being used and those of us with diet-considerations (such as gluten-free or dairy-free) didn't have to worry one bit.
All in all it was a worry-free, waste-free, joy-FILLED occasion. And I highly recommend it!
Mark's reaction as he opens his home-made gift from me on Christmas morning!
Annie - dick&jane Cloth Diapers