I’m a sucker for gifts. Big gifts, little gifts, expensive gifts and those of the it’s-the-thought-that-counts variety. So, several years ago, when my brother and sister and I had become our own respective units and when the next generation had started to emerge, we had that inevitable discussion about keeping Christmas from breaking the bank. Drawing names is a popular option, but then each person only gets one gift. Scrapping the gifts altogether is also common but that, sorry to say, is just no fun.
It’s not greed that’s motivating me – honest. If I had to define it, I think I would say it’s the pursuit of the Christmas ideal. It’s a room full of shredded wrapping paper and ribbon (not to be trashed until the last gift is unwrapped). It’s the excitement of tearing off said paper to discover some little treasure, and of watching someone you love do the same.
I was a fan of the Little House on the Prairie books and TV show when I was young, and will never forget the pleasure Mary and Laura had opening a stocking (I think it was) full of nuts and, on a good year, a Mandarin orange. No Xbox or iPod or fancy stereo system. It was something so simple, but it was the treat of the year, and brought so much pleasure.
With this in the back of my mind, I stumbled upon a book called Hundred Dollar Holiday, by Bill McKibben. The tagline is “The Case for a More Joyful Christmas,” and it addresses the crazy consumerism that has taken the holiday hostage.
One key thing I got from it was that to be fun and peaceful and spiritual, Christmas needs to be simple. I’ll spare you the diatribe, but sufficed to say it was a turning point in the gift giving of my family.
The rule, now, is that everyone gets to give and everyone gets to receive, and each gift must be less than $10. Even if you win the lottery and have more money than you know what to do with. You won’t get the gift of your dreams, but you are guaranteed a fun, frivolous time opening presents and watching loved ones delight in what you found for them. No pressure, no annual bankruptcy.
I can’t speak for the rest of my family, but I love the creative push this requires. I’ve received such treasures as a pretty teacup, French café-style coasters and clothing on sale. The most memorable gift was 10 lbs of white sugar, close to 10 years ago now, from my brother-in-law who complained that I never had sugar on hand when he came over for coffee.
This year, I’m taking the tradition a step further and trying to make as many gifts as I can. On the list (spoiler alert here for family members!) is knitted coffee cup cosies, clay ornaments, napkin rings and maybe a knitted scarf or two. Not everyone will get something homemade – after all, the gift has to suit the recipient – but it’s just another way to make things more personal and fun.
I’m having a holly jolly time doing it, and I can’t say I’ve missed the craziness down at the mall.
For those interested in trying an easy homemade gift, here’s one easy pattern I made for a coffee cup cozy (the one, above, in blue):
Knit Coffee Cup Cozy
Cast on 46 stitches
Knit 18 rows (give or take, depending on how wide you want to make it), with a knit 1, purl 1 pattern. Each row should start with a knit and end with a purl.
Cast off, sew the two sides together and attach buttons or other decorations for character.
– Words and photos by Lori-Anne Poirier