Each year brings with it an earlier roll out date of peppermint lattes, Christmas radio music, towers of toys and artificial trees. And with it typically comes a sinking in our stomachs. The holidays are upon us. What on earth are we going to get our spouse and kids? And with whose money?
During the holiday season, I often find myself paralyzed at night with a desire to give my family gifts that are meaningful, unique, thoughtful, and hopefully certifiably organic at a severe discount. What is the one thing my spouse needs to be happiest? What will make him feel affirmed, known, and loved? Should I attempt to read his mind or should I unromantically ask him what he wants this year? Conversely, do my kids really need anything? Won’t our extended families load us up on toys and goodies that my kids don’t even know they don’t need?
In the midst of this conundrum, I want to offer some alternative gift ideas for the holidays that will bring your families closer together and help you spend time this season actually enjoying it—while the peppermint latte is still hot.
Growing up, my family had one rule when it came to Christmas gifts: we had to create them, ourselves. So I spent time writing poems and making collages. There was a lot of crafting going on this time of year in my family, but it was a way to share a lot of personality with one another.
Looking back on this, I reflect on what a gift this custom was in itself. I had to be creative each year, and I had to think honestly about each person I gave a gift to. This also meant I couldn’t put gifts off — I couldn’t rely on ordering something to be delivered in two days. I spent days and weeks in preparation, often working on a project lovingly into the night. I remember sitting with my siblings around the kitchen table on evenings, paper and glue out, scissors snipping, making gifts for our parents in the other room. I look back and treasure these memories, and hope to impart this tradition on my own kids as they grow.
The gift was manifested not only in the final product, but in all the time we invested in it before it was wrapped and placed under the tree. It was a literal labor of love that ended up making both the giver and receiver better people — the giver had been stretched to love a family member in a special and particular way, and the receiver received something meaningful and unrepeatable.
If you’re not the crafty kind, I want to challenge you to think about some options this holiday season that will bring your family closer together, help you have a more peaceful season, and lighten the burden on your wallets. The holiday season doesn’t have to be one of impending doom. Below are a few thoughtful (and inexpensive) gift ideas to not only get you through the holiday season, but to enjoy it as well.
Let’s start by considering our family member’s love languages. Dr. Gary Chapman has defined five “languages” with which we communicate love: acts of service, quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, and gift-giving. Reflect upon how each family member prefers to receive love — I bet you’ll be able to tell if you think about it. By giving them gifts in that language, we can say goodbye to expensive gifts (which most people don’t even really want!) and give our family members gifts that make them feel known, affirmed, and loved.
Acts of Service
- List of tasks around the house that you can take up without prompting
- Date-night ideas for spouse
- Kid-date ideas for one-on-one time with each parent
- Concert tickets
- Massage and spa night
Words of Affirmation
- Collect words of affirmation from extended family and friends to give in book-form
- Write a love letter about all the qualities you appreciate about your spouse or child
- Create a month of post-it notes in an affirmation box for your spouse or child to read each day
- Write and frame a poem
- 1 Month food delivery Subscription
- 1 year of magazine subscription
- A cooking class or adventure class
- Redeemable coupons
- Family photo book or collage