A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

In Search of the Perfect Gift

Posted on: December 17, 2012

Sometimes the Christmas season is stressful. Not only because we worry about dividing our holidays between various branches of the family or serving a wonderful dinner, but also because we want to find the perfect gift for everyone on our shopping list.

Crocheted doll

The doll Nan made for me

While we can control whether we stick to a gift budget, we can’t control how people will react to their gifts. As I know too well. The story goes that when I was little, my great-grandmother crocheted me a doll. As much as I treasure her now, I said, “She’s beautiful,” and threw her over my shoulder to move on to the next gift. Clearly, the fact that you’re a cheerful giver doesn’t mean you’ll have a cheerful recipient.

To reduce our seasonal gift-giving stress, we need to remember that God showed his love for us by sending us Jesus and that we give gifts to others as just one of the ways we express our love for them.

I pray this season that we can all be cheerful givers (and, when we need to be, patient ones too). And if you’re still working on your Christmas list, I have a few simple, budget-friendly suggestions to share:

A Christmas tradition. Each year, my mother bought or made my brother and me a new Christmas ornament. I relive memories of past Christmases when my family decorates the tree with these and other decorations I made as a child. This is a tradition I’ve carried on with my son so he’ll have his own set of ornaments when he leaves home.

Another tradition of mine is baking fruitcake and cookies using recipes passed down to my mother. It’s a gift of my time that my family looks forward to receiving. And I think my relatives would be happy I still use their recipes.

Here are some other traditions I know of:

  • giving your kids a new set of pyjamas to lounge around in on Christmas Day (like my brother and his wife do)
  • cooking a big Christmas morning breakfast (like my husband’s family did when he was growing up)
  • attending a sing-along performance of the Messiah

This year is a great time to start a family tradition of your own!

A bit of your time. I love to hear and jot down stories about my grandparents who passed away when I was young. Your nieces, nephews or grandchildren might enjoy hearing your memories on a CD or having you read them a story virtually with a recordable storybook.

Another idea is to transfer home movies to a DVD or create a photo slide show of family pictures, like my in-laws did for my husband. Family members might also appreciate an album or photo book containing precious family photos.

Homemade coupons for a movie or game night, a video game challenge or a favourite meal can be a great way to commit to spending time together if you have a busy schedule that doesn’t allow you the family time you’d like. My son has enjoyed redeeming these kinds of coupons and making his own on the computer.

A gift that keeps on giving. Charities such as Compassion, International Needs Network and Plan Canada let you donate items from their gift catalogues. You could do this in honour of someone else. In some cases, you can send people a gift card to let them choose the item(s) they’d like to donate. My son received a card one year that let him donate chickens and a rooster, for example.

Another idea is a Kiva card. Kiva provides microloans to small business owners around the world. Individuals can lend as little as $25. A Kiva card lets the recipient choose the borrower based on criteria such as their country or type of business and use the loan repayments to fund another loan. It can be hard to choose just one of the borrowers, but it’s a wonderful opportunity to help someone else achieve their goals.

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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