November 13th, 2007
Yes, the holiday season is upon us again, just when we are trying to adjust what the government does to our internal clocks twice a year (just to mess with our heads, I am convinced). It’s a time of get-togethers and feasts with family and friends, and the sometimes scary specter of gift-giving that puts such a huge dent in people’s tight budgets these days.
So I thought this is probably a good time to talk about gifts that cost little to nothing, but are always gladly received and mean more than just some trinket you could buy at the store.
Does that sound kind of strange in this era of conspicuous consumerism, where even 5-year olds brag to each other about how much their gifts cost (and how that means Santa must love them more?). Probably not to those of us who have given up conspicuous consumerism and found that we like it. Yet I am talking about gifts that hold enough thought and effort on your part to impress even the richest, most disdainful member of your family, who has always considered you a true failure of Capitalism for your choices in life. In my case that would be Aunt Edna and Uncle Francis.
Strangely enough, both Edna and Francis have come to look so forward to whatever I’ll come up with this year that they don’t even tut-tut my homemade Christmas stockings, kudzu-vine wreath or duct-taped tree anymore. We usually cut 2 or 3 scraggly scotch pines from the property, duct tape them together, then trim them to tie up against the wall in the corner from floor to 15′ ceiling. Even tape filler branches where necessary, then decorate. Doesn’t last but about 3 weeks, but it burns big and bright on New Year’s Eve in the back yard fire pit. Works for us!
If you’ve got a few seasons in on the homestead garden and are getting pretty good at putting up foodstuff, gifts of your homemade jellies, jams, fruit compotes and butters are always welcome. I make a brandied blackberry concoction my sophisticated older sister thinks is the most gourmet thing ever – she saves it for ‘important’ occasions and spoons it onto French vanilla ice cream, and has told me at least three ambassadors have begged for some to take home! You can dress up the jars with fabric circles under the rings and ribbon around the neck. Holiday hostesses like this sometimes better than wine! Of course if you make wine – or wine vinegars and herbed vinegars – these are also most welcome hostess gifts.
Gifts fresh from the kitchen are also popular. I bake huge batches of Christmas cookies and brownies in wide variety to send out to distant family and dear friends, including the younger set serving in the military. I also cook up nut brittles (including hickory nut brittle – you can’t believe how good it is!) and fudge. Chocolate fudge, cherry vanilla fudge, pumpkin fudge, peanut butter fudge, chocolate mint fudge, maple sugar fudge. This is also individually wrapped. I collect holiday tins which are great for the cookies and candy you’ll be keeping at your house for guests, or to go ahead and send to loved ones. You can pick up these tins in all sizes for pittance at garage sales, neighborhood yard sales and second-hand stores.
If you like to sew, making quilts and comforters can go quickly if you use the machine for most of it, and these can be baby or lap size to king size depending on what old clothes, blankets, sheets and such that you have on hand to recycle into it. If you knit or crochet, hats, scarves and mittens are nice to get.
You can even get the kids in on the act and let them help you make homemade Christmas cards with scrapbooking goodies – very fun – as well as gifts for their own friends, family and teachers. Sand candles are always fun to make, sachets, artwork and picture frames, sock dolls, painted flowerpots, cute cell phone covers… the list is endless.
Check the ideas in some of the links below, see what you’ve got to work with or can get easily, and start setting aside days on the weekends for family gift-making projects. There are dozens of great ideas there, with links to full instructions for each of them. The kids will get into the spirit in no time, and the holiday season will seem less like a consumerist nightmare while becoming a time of heartfelt giving. It’ll be fun again!