Tis Better to Give


While babysitting young Sophie for Gidge, I was watching the snow fall and thinking about the coming Christmas gift-giving. Luckily I come from a family that has never been big on giving lots of gifts. With such a large family, it was pretty much essential that we draw names and set spending limits and focus on homemade gifts. I have always had a strong preference for homemade gifts because they are often so much more creative and fun to give and to get. While reading folks on plurk worrying about how to afford Christmas gifts and all, I thought it might be fun to share some of the things that can be given as gifts.

Babysitting fits in the first category of gift – gifts of service. You can make up a small coupon with five meaningful tasks you can do for the recipient. That can range from babysitting, cooking a meal, housecleaning or perhaps something using your special talents such as taking a family photo or altering a dress.

Food gifts are always popular. You could make a Dobos Torte which looks much more difficult than it really is. One year I made seven of them to give as gifts. A very popular gift I have given year after year is vanilla sugar. You need one vanilla bean for each gift. You put the bean in a pretty jar, pour sugar in with it and it will be ready to gift in a week.


Not everyone is talented in the kitchen. Perhaps you are good with photoshop. I used to have a roommate and when her first niece was born one of the things that was often lamented was that her grandfather died so long before she was born. My roommate asked me to photoshop a photo of her father with her niece. I thought it sounded a bit creepy at first, but I added some clouds to make it a bit ethereal and angelic and it turned out quite beautiful – and according to my former roommate, was the best gift of the season.

You could scan old family photos and clean up the dust, scratches and blemishes of time and print new ones for family and put them in inexpensive albums. With a large family that can never get together all at once, you can make a composite family photo with all the siblings, nieces and nephews all together on paper if never in person.

One of my favorite gifts I ever received was a calendar made from construction paper, pictures cut from magazines and the poetry of Charles Bukowski penned with the photos in fabulous collages. One year, I gave my former roommate a story book featuring an invented biography of her dog, who went to the moon, won Ms. Barkiverse and served on the Supreme Court – all with photos that I pasted the dog’s head on the face of pictures cut from magazines. All it took was some construction paper, glue, old magazines and a roll of film used to take pictures of the dog from all sorts of angles and lots of giggling as I typed up silly stores about the dog.


Stories are also a wonderful gift. One year I interviewed my mom, dad and aunts and uncles for stories about their parents and typed them all up and made photocopies. I got simple paper report binder and bound the stories, gluing copies of photos of our grandparents on the cover. Another year, I gathered stories of my parents and aunts and uncles childhood and did the same. Another year, I wrote down the stories my uncle would tell about his adventures as a lumberjack and gold miner, etc. Another year, for my sister, I made a calendar with my favorite poetry and quotes – typed out in pretty fonts and printed up.

Every family has stories that should be saved and gifting your relatives with them is always a great gift. If you don’t have faith in your own writing, send out a questionnaire and collect them all together and make little fun charts and graphs such as 35% of the family thinks Lutfisk is the devil while 55% think it is the best holiday treat and 10% have never tried it.

Do you ever make Christmas gifts? What kinds of gifts have you made?

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