In my corner of the world—and many others–December is a season of giving. So what better focus for family fun in December than thinking about gift giving? Aside from creative fun, perhaps some time spent focusing on giving can help abate the commercial-driven craziness that can overtake all of us this time of year. In that spirit, here are 5 sources of gift-giving delight.
Perhaps you’d like to start your gift-giving with the wildlife around you. Particularly in the parts of the world where December is white and frozen, decorating a tree to feed local birds can bring visitors all year long. If you make lots of “ornaments” now, you can add them as winter continues. It is unkind and potentially dangerous to teach birds about a food source, only to have it disappear as the harshest winter weather continues. To give your feathered friends some variety,here are more recipes they might enjoy.
Of course, you are likely dealing with gifts to humans as well. For ecologically-minded gift wrapping, and fun as well, think about homemade wrapping paper. You could try brown paper and potato stamps, original drawings on all manner of papers, or if you want to get fancy, try this recycled paper made of brown bags and used gift tissue. Or if thinking about wrapping paper at all makes your head spin, send your family on a wrapping hunt—how many things can you find in the house that could be used to wrap a gift? Comic pages? Worn out socks? Children’s drawings? You could have the most original-looking gifts around.
What kind of gift is best for a friend or relative who doesn’t need one more thing—particular relatives of the grandparent variety? The creative kind, of course. Who could resist the gift of a drawing, a story or a song? Perhaps a custom song would be the most surprising. You could start with a known melody and add new lyrics (perhaps about all the relative’s fine qualities, or the adventures of her dog). Imagine a song to the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” that starts, “Take me over to Grandma’s. Take me there right away. . . “ Or if you want to try some serious song writing, there are lots of wiki-how instructions. Here’s one of the most basic.
Or perhaps you’d like to create an original game. When I looked online for game-making ideas and resources, most of them designed to create online video games—not surprising, I suppose, but also not the best for families to play together. So think about creating a new board game, just for your family. What kind of adventures would your family like to have? Or perhaps you can create a customized game that reflects your interests, much like Monopoly is customized for different cities. Use a blank template, or draw your own, so that you can progress through all your favorite places. Or perhaps you’d like to create a game unlike any other, invented from any three things you find in the house. What kind of game rules can you imagine that involve one shoe, a cat toy, and a plastic bag?
For the best gift giving of all, engage your family as “service detectives,” seeking out places they might give gifts that require more time than money. My favorite Christmas gift ever was the day a friend cleaned my house, top to bottom. I was teaching school and singing in a large choral concert with an orchestra in another city, requiring long daily drives to rehearsals through the heart of the holiday season. I was just exhausted. Imagine my delight Friday night, when I came home to find a spotless house, warm snacks on the counter, and a lipsticked “Merry Christmas” across my mirror. The power of the gift lay in its precision—she knew exactly what I needed and provided just that. This is problem finding of a very special variety. Does a neighborhood dog need extra walking? A lonely neighbor need a visit? A young child need some extra reading time? If you look, I feel confident there will be needs big and small, just waiting for your family. The joy comes from finding and filling them.
Have a wonderful, creative, and giving holiday season!