Though the holidays should be focused on love, faith, family and togetherness, they can be quite stressful when we feel compelled to find perfect gifts for every person on a long list.
With holiday retail advertisements blasting from every corner and shopping in full swing, we thought it was a good time to look at the creative and positive ways people in our community show their appreciation for loved ones during the holidays.
The Gift of Time
There is actual research that reveals the value of experience over things. Cornell University’s Thomas Gilovich shares: “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods … You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
As our Facebook followers are some of the most creative people we know, we thought we’d ask them for ways to give the gift of experience.
- Lory O: We play cheesy games like Bingo, Pictionary, five-second rule — anything appropriate for kids/adults/grandma. Prizes vary: Last year’s prizes were re-purposed gift cards. Any denomination from any provider. Just grab what you’ve already got in your wallet.
- Dennis M: We share experiences with our family instead of presents that end up in a closet or drawer. We’ll be attending things like the Comstock Cowboys at Piper’s Opera house, visiting Nevada City for the Christmas lights and the Buttcracker at the Bruka Theater.
- Barbie M: We take a trip together.
- Lauren H: I recommend people to take tie dye classes together. I had one family show up with pizza, sodas and a game to play along with taking the tie dye class.
- Vicki M: This is our second year we aren't doing gifts for our kids but have planned a trip. They don't know yet, but we're taking them on a little cruise in January. Don’t tell them!
- Lora E: We take a trip since we have all we need and adding things to my world causes great stress.
- Michelle R: We spend the week at our house in Tahoe!
- Patricia R: I call my aunt on Sundays because I know it’s a long day for her. It’s a gift I give to her and to myself because I feel better after the conversations. I call throughout the year and renew my commitment during the holidays.
- Laura H: I do gifts for my kids but with extended family, we plan an outing instead.
- Joy V: When the kids were younger, we would make Aebleskiver on Christmas morning.
The Gift of Giving Back
Volunteering almost always makes us feel better, but it can be especially rewarding to do it as a family. CreateTheGood.AARP.org shares: “Volunteering can be a dynamic, rewarding way to bring everyone together. Whether you’re organizing a food or clothing drive or cleaning up a street or river, volunteering as a family amplifies your impact on the cause — and gives you some quality time together. Service can get everyone thinking positively and prioritizing what’s important. Plus, you’ll make some great memories!”
Here are just some of the ways our Facebook friends integrate community service into their holiday traditions:
- Liz M: We don’t do gifts for the adults in my family. Last year I gave everyone a wallet with 20 bucks in it so that they could give it to someone they see is in need. They loved that. In past years I gave them socks to pass out to someone who needed them.
- Stacey P: We give money to kiva.org, which is a way for people to better themselves through low-interest loans. Each year we add $100 to our portfolio, which allows us to fund four more loans. It is wonderful to watch their success stories.
- Barbie M: We do a day of volunteering.
- Francine H: Our daughter’s big gift is an animal adopted from World Wildlife Fund that she gets to choose.
- Joy V: Days before Christmas we would adopt a single parent through social services. It was fun to shop for gifts, decorations and cut down a tree.
- Kaitlin Y: We love donating to a non-profit in the gift recipient's name!
The Gift of Your Creativity
Making gifts allows you to share your creativity along with your love. And your recipients get something unique! Here are some fun ideas.
- Camilla D: I always write a special poem and use upcycled material to create a work of art that can be hung.
- Christine C: My family exchanges ornaments. I try to make everyone something and not just buy stuff.
- Brianna S: Last year, I gave my grandma StoryWorth for her birthday. In a few weeks, she'll wrap up the writing and I'll handle the editing, formatting, and adding of photos so we can get copies printed for everyone.
- Patricia R: When the kids were younger, I arranged or purchased music for them to play a concert before and after Christmas dinner. And this year I’m writing a piano piece and sharing it with my college friend for the relationship we’ve had over the years.
- Christine P: For the adults in the family we mostly exchange items that are either homemade, used or consumable — food, homemade food mixes, homemade soaps, etc.
- Joy V: When the kids were home we drew names and had a $5 limit. They had to be pretty creative — make something or find the perfect thing at the thrift store or give something of their own.
- Sandy I: I found a children’s book, Guess How Much I Love You, that I gave my daughter on Christmas 1996, with an inscription. I found it recently and mailed it to her with a new inscription, noting that she can now read it to her three little foster boys that she will adopt next summer.
- Jackie R: Our extended family is quite large, so we do a White Elephant gift exchange and then something homemade that we give to everyone. Last year we gave stovetop potpourri and one year it was a box of conversation starters.
The Gift of Practicality
Buying gifts becomes infinitely easier when you don’t have to guess what they’d like or need. Here are some creative ways to do that.
- Kurt H: Everyone buys a gift for themselves, wraps it and puts it under the tree — unlabeled. Gifts are opened randomly, and we have fun guessing which gift belongs to which person. This way everyone gets something they want, and no one spends more money than they can or want to.
- Barbie M: We give a bag of groceries, toilet paper, paper towels and clothes to our adult son.
- Christine P: A few years ago I bought a bunch of great used books for my stepdad and a cute little artsy plaque for my mom from the thrift store and they both loved their gifts and used them. For kids we still do presents but I always ask the parents what the kids want or need. For our daughter, we stick to one or two large items and clothes and or books.
- Michelle R: We take each member of the family on a shopping trip to pick out the gifts they want.
- Erin F: We’re doing a book swap this year! Bring a book that means a lot to you.
These are just some of the fun ways to mix it up this holiday season. What does your family do to make it positive and memorable and just a wee bit stressful?