Holiday gifts pt 1

The rest of this week is going to be a series about holiday gifts. Today we’ll talk about things you can buy, tomorrow about things you can make, and then Friday we’ll have a guest post from my brother, a carpenter, answering a question someone sent in about making wooden blocks.

I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that we’re all looking for more meaningful gifts than just going to the local big box store and picking something up. It seems like we’re also concerned about too many gifts, and finding gifts that are produced safely and in ways that help (or at least don’t harm) the workers who make the items. The obvious first stop is fair trade.

I’m going to plug my own favorite fair trade catalog, A Greater Gift, one more time. Don’t forget that they have fair trade chocolate Hannukah gelt and also fair trade chocolate Advent calendars.

Deanna, who works with the Fair Trade Federation, wrote in to give me this amazing list of fair trade catalogs and online stores that sell gifts. There’s an entire store that sells beads handmade by women with HIV in Africa, one that sells Vietnamese folk art, another one that sells shea butter and African black soap, one with fair-trade olive oil and other foods from Palestine, and dozens of others. Absolutely worth a look.

Rudyinparis (who’s really in MN–who knew?) writes:

"I would love to give and receive magazine subscriptions this year. After Brain, Child I run out of good ideas. What magazines does this community absolutely love that would be great to give or receive?

I am on the rampage about reining Christmas in (i.e., the amount of stuff we accumulate). What suggestions does this community have that would help make the holidays really meaningful and not just about getting a bunch of items? What holiday memories do you remember from your own childhood that really stand out? Are there specific rituals that you do that are very meaningful to you and your family?

As we gear up for the holiday season, I would love ideas and suggestions from this always brilliant community."

I can tell you the magazine subscriptions I’m getting. My older son is getting Sports Illustrated for Kids, because he loves to read and he’s crazy about sports. My brother is getting Outside Magazine, so he can turn into a mountain man and teach me how to snowboard next year. My mother and I will be renewing each other’s subscriptions to Interweave Knits. (To whoever asked a few days ago if I was a CEO and a knitter: Yes, I am. I am the CEO of, and a knitter.)

As for alternate ideas and traditions, how about this amazing one Jan left in the comments of the Halloween post a few weeks ago:

"I’ve got three brothers, all married, which makes eight of us that
really don’t need anything for Christmas all trying to shop for each
other. We tried drawing names, but that didn’t really feel any better
to us.

For the last few years, we’ve done the same thing. We go to a local
organization that has an Adopt-A-Family program at Christmastime and
ask for a family of four. Each couple in our family is assigned a
member of the adopted family to shop for. We don’t tell each other what
we’re buying.

We have a get-together in early December. The eight of us (and our
kids) get together and WRAP the presents for the adopted family. It’s
amazing how much this feels just like Christmas gift unwrapping.
There’s seeing what everybody got. There’s showing everybody what fun
gifts you found. There’s gift wrap and ribbons everywhere. 🙂

We also buy a gift certificate for a grocery store and usually one
other family gift (zoo membership, passes to movies, depends on the
ages/interests of the family). All told, we usually spend about $300 —
$75 per couple, which is about the same as we were spending when we
were drawing names (two names for each couple).

We still do gifts for the kids at Christmas, but we grownups are so
much happier with this setup. I highly, highly recommend it."

I just love that.

So, any other ideas? We’ll be doing things we can make tomorrow, so hold off on those for now.

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