Nine years ago, the vexatious tradition began. In the spirit of the season—both Christmas and Hannukah for this mixed family—the adults in our family agreed to give each other only homemade holiday gifts. Kids were excluded, which allowed Grammy and Papa to continue the custom of showering the kids with presents galore.
That first year, creative juices flowed among my sisters, mother and me. There were heritage cookbooks, hand-sewn silk pillowcases, crafted body scrubs and lavender candles. My kids presented a holiday piano recital with beautifully colored programs. Oh, the praise we heaped upon each other for our ingenuity could have buried a skyscraper. Papa however, immediately broke the rules, feeding his catalog shopping addiction and generous nature by dispensing gift cards and tchotchkes to daughters, sons-in-laws and grandchildren alike.
Year two, with the creativity bar set high, sisters and Grammy rose to the occasion like prizefighters going in for a second round. We produced hand dyed t-shirts, decorated sweater hangars, delicious cookie mixes and pressed-leaf stationery. The cost of self-manufacturing these individual items, in both money and time, was burdensome. But who cared—the gifts were homemade!
Fast forward to last year, year eight of this tradition. The ideas began to run low, causing bizarre results. Highlights included a clever postage-stamp dispensing contraption closely resembling a paper-clip, faux-fur infinity scarves and an eco-system in a jar. Plus, unused gifts began to accumulate, such as my sister’s “tasty” spice mixture (I’ve used two packets already, but have 13 more to go). And sorry sister number 2, I must not tell a lie: I tossed the remaining peppermint muscle ointment when we moved out of the house.
Truly, the homemade gift tradition has chomped a big chunk of consumerism from our holidays— and it often produces a good laugh! Who can forget the looks of surprise when the family opened pillows in the image of our family dog? And then there was the time my husband pulled out his rusty high school trumpet to join the kids in their holiday recital gift. (They played “Up on the Rooftop.” Can you say “Ho ho ho?”)
With year 10 just around the corner, fresh blood has entered the ranks. My daughter, age 13, has amassed YouTube tutorials for everything from hand-painted coasters to mason jar lanterns. I applaud her giving spirit and her excitement! In fact, I may whole-heartedly pass on the gauntlet, allowing her to generate all the family gifts. Hmmm… I could pay her… Don’t all 13-year-olds need spending money?
If you choose give a handmade present this season, have fun with it! The fruits of your dedicated labor may eventually go by the wayside, but the memory of creating that token of your love will stick around way longer than any store-bought gadget ever could.