Simpler Gifts for a Richer Christmas

Reader Contribution by Lyndsay Dawson Mynatt
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Christmas, a joyous season that excites the young and old, is here. The excitement is contagious: drinking cocoa by a warm fire, decorations illuminating the tree, and sharing time with family and friends. It really is the most wonderful time of the year, well, except for the bombardments of advertisements that tell you what your dearest one needs, the expectation of giving, of needing to make a list for others to buy for you, etc., etc. I feel like Charlie Brown this time of the year, cheapened by the dark side of the holiday, the commercialization that steals the joy of Christmas.

As I attempt to live more simply, I find that the modern Christmas norms juxtapose my belief system on gifting. How do you express love without gifts, and how do you lovingly say no to those who lavish with presents? This has been a delicate subject that my husband and I have waded through with our families each year, as we attempt to set out desires for our lifestyle to be de-cluttered by more and more “stuff.” The conversations are not always easy, but they are beneficial as a tool to discuss lasting values and impacts.

What is the hardest part about even breaching this topic? Feeling spoiled with a “first world problem.” In some ways, yes, it seems ungrateful, but when something challenges the values that you seek, take it into careful consideration. When you have people in your life that express their love in gifts, it is hard to ask them to change. Fortunately, our families are patient with us, and over time have listened to our desires. We forgive them when they overdo it (who doesn’t enjoy occasionally being spoiled), and best of all, we have found an avenue to fully express our appreciation for them, homemade gifts.

Canned Gifts for Readymade Meals

My go-to gifts are canned goods that I have made in the summer and fall. Canning takes lots of time and energy, especially if you have planted the seeds in the ground.

It is such a pleasure to watch the transformation from garden to table, and to be able to share that warmth with your loved ones during the coldest time of the year. Now all that needs to be done is to decorate the jars with cute holiday fabric, bows, and ornaments. Voila — instant gift. Gift baskets with a sampling of your canned flavors make quick decadent presents.

If you haven’t been canning this year, don’t despair; you can assemble gifts in a jar, like the Oatmeal M&M Cookie mix here.

How to Make Wooden Ornaments

Another simple project we worked on this year is stamped wooden ornaments. Supplies for this include: thin wood slices (also called tree cookies), stamps, ink, and eyehooks. We made our own tree cookies by cutting a small branch 1/4-inch thick, sanded each piece, then added a layer of clear varnish for the finished look. When dry, they are ready to be stamped. Be careful to let the ink dry before touching, else it will smudge. The last touch is to add the eyehook. Rustic and beautiful, here is another quick and easy homemade present to be proud of.

Be creative. Choose something that’s inspiring for you and meaningful for your loved one.  Take up a new hobby in 2015.  Projects are great ways to force you into learning something new, like this knitted scarf for my niece.

It is far from perfect (that’s why you get the distant view), but I know she will cherish the energy that her aunt put into it far more than a toy from the store.

May we enter Christmas with a spirit of gratitude for the special ones in our life, and the upcoming year to choose more wisely and sustainably. Nothing says “I love you” like spending time on someone.

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