As Thanksgiving is swiftly approaching, so also is the commencement of the most overwhelming time of the year for many folks. Black Friday. Holiday shopping sprees. Making a list and checking it twice. Jolly-making and money-spending. And so on and so forth.
The standard hullabaloo has become increasingly unappealing to this high-strung mama. (If you don’t think I’m high-strung, just spend more time with me.) All that shopping takes too much money and time, and it creates too much stress for all of us. We have found that the more gifts the kids receive the less grateful they become for what they have. What’s more, all that consumerism is a major distraction from why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.
Over the years, we have been trying to move a simpler, quieter version of the Christmas gift-exchange tradition. In our own family, one main gift (or sometimes a small collection) is given to each person. We can’t and don’t spend a lot. We try to make our gifts thoughtful and meaningful, since each of us is only opening a couple at most.
What are a few of my favorite things?
Homemade gifts are my favorite. From my mother’s beautiful hand-sewn wall-hangings and quilts, to my mom-in-law’s delicious baking and secret spaghetti sauce, to carefully-crafted trinkets from my nieces and nephews- homemade gifts make my heart happy. I know that whoever made it put in their time, effort, thought, and love with every stitch or paint stroke or flour scoop. And that, to me, is priceless.
I also enjoy making gifts to give away. Most of my Pinterest projects usually deserve a “Nailed it!” caption, but I can make some mean baked goods and wow everyone with my amazing ability to put food into a sealed jar. Homemade jams are high on my giveaway list each year, and this year most friends will be getting a jar of our home-tapped maple syrup. (Sorry to spoil it, folks.) We also get the kids involved in homemade gifts, like painted flowerpots, laminated watercolor bookmarks, or footprint art.
If you’re looking for more homemade gift ideas, you can follow my Pinterest board here:
Locally sourced gifts are a close second favorite. I love to use holidays and birthdays as an excuse to support local businesses and give back to our regional economy. I think it’s fantastic to give a unique gift while supporting someone from your own neighborhood. The source makes the present all that much more special!
If you don’t know what you would purchase locally, go browse the small shops in your town. Where you live will determine what kind of gifts are available, but you may be surprised by the wealth of possibilities. Food, drink, arts, clothing, home decor, practical gifts, or even ingredients for homemade treats… many of these can be sourced locally!
Read this article for several reasons why you should buy local whenever you can-at Christmas, and all year round.
Support small businesses whenever you can. While local businesses usually are small businesses, sometimes you may not be able to find what you are looking for in your own town. If you’re going to order something from far away, better to do it through a small business than a big box store when possible.
This is where sites like Etsy are phenomenal- you can buy from a small business owner easily, even if they live across the country from you. While they money isn’t going back into your own local economy, at least more of your money is supporting an individual family, rather than throwing it to large corporations.
Some of my own friends are small business owners, including Oak Street Studio
(lovely accessories, scarves, and all things pretty), None of Your Beeswax (natural health care and baby products), and Belluzzi Beads/Bitty Belluzzi (classy costume jewelry and super cute girl’s pieces). Don’t forget that many bloggers are small businesses too- by shopping via our affiliate programs and sidebar ads, you are also supporting our families.
Even shopping small and locally, however, can still suck you into a frenzied mindset. So take a deep breath. Promise yourself that you’re not going to stress over buying the right things for the right people at the right price.
This year, keep it simple. You don’t need to go overboard on spending- it’s okay to step back and participate a little less in the shopping madness. Try making some gifts, or get creative with free activities instead. When you do shop, keep it local or small whenever possible. You’ll be sourcing uncommon gifts, strengthening a diverse economy, and backing individual families.
And remember- it’s not about the presents, really. Right?