No matter what holidays you celebrate in December, you will probably need to provide one or more gifts this month. You may need gifts for your entire family, or you may want to bring a gift to a party as a thank you to your hosts. Buying gifts can become a financial burden and source of anxiety, so why not break the mold this year and get creative? What’s that you say? You don’t have any time, aren’t crafty and have no artistic talent? Fear not! We’ve got you covered.
Note: Several of these gift ideas involve glass jars, which you may find at local thrift stores. You’re likely to find canning jars without lids, but you can buy them separately. Craft stores, grocery stores, big box stores and specialty storage stores are other sources for containers and bags, or you can look online.
Bake. Home baked cookies or breads (carrot, zucchini) are traditional at the holidays. If you are good at baking, this can be a great gift. Instead of traditional holiday cookies, make regional favorites (only two states have official state cookies – Massachusetts and New Mexico). Alternatively, make an easy but sophisticated savory treat like cheese twists or parmesan crisps. For packaging, you can go the decorated tin route, or look for clear or colored cellophane bags and tie them with a ribbon.
No-Bake. There are some food gifts that may involve chopping, crushing, melting and mixing, but no baking. Like what? How about chocolate bark or infused olive oil? You can make chocolate bark (white, milk or dark chocolate) by melting the chocolate in a bowl over simmering (not boiling) water, spreading it on parchment or waxed paper on a cookie sheet or baking pan, and sprinkling it with chopped nuts or crushed peppermints. Refrigerate until set, break into pieces, package in a tin or cellophane bag. Done! For infused olive oils, you don’t need to buy expensive oil or ingredients. You will need to heat the oil and let the chosen flavoring steep for about 10 minutes. Presentation in a glass bottle with a hand-lettered tag will wow your recipient.
Mix It Up. If you don’t want to do the baking (or other cooking), give handcrafted mixes with a recipe card. Examples include hot chocolate mix, soup mix, muffin mix, or an overnight oats mix. (For the overnight oats, mix up a batch of dry ingredients [such as rolled oats with chia and/or flax seeds], include small bags of nuts or dried fruits, and add recipe variations.) Presentation is key for these gifts. If you want to mix everything together, a resealable paper bag with ribbon and/or a gift tag will work nicely. If you want to show off your concoction, use a canning or resealable glass jar.
Bath Time Luxury. We love the idea of decadent scented baths, but who wants to buy those goodies for themselves? How about making bath salts and packaging them in small glass containers? This gift requires several components, but is easy and impressive. (You made bath salts? For me?) If you want to go all-out, make fizzy bath bombs. If this is your first time making them, the experts say to start small. Think ice cube size rather than baseball size. After all, good things come in small packages. Here’s one more personal care idea: Cinnamon sugar body scrub. This is easy to make and it smells terrific.
Walk The Dog. Personal service coupons have been popular since, well, forever. Ideas include dog walking, house sitting, babysitting, lawn mowing, snow shoveling, and litter box cleaning. Cooking dinner would be welcome – as long as you do the dishes! Coupons make a great gift for children to give, too, with your help to make the service age-appropriate and suited to the recipient. You can make your own coupons or look for design ideas online.
Holiday Décor. There are so many beautiful decorations at this time of year, how can you compete? Create the unexpected. Make a simple faux boxwood wreath that will last for years to come. The recipient can dress it up or enjoy its natural elegance. Beeswax candles are perfect for the season, easy to make (good activity for kids), and smell delightful. Tie a ribbon around them and you have an instant gift. In keeping with the theme of light, you can make a simple lantern (or omit the wire handle for a table top light) with a canning jar. Be sure to include an LED tea light for safe illumination.
Hand Crafted – By Someone Else. At this time of year there are art and craft fairs taking place all over the country. Watch for announcements from colleges, churches, schools and service organizations. You may find anything from a hand-knitted throw to avant-garde earrings made from recycled soda cans to rustic pottery. You might even find crafts made from cat hair. (I am not making this up. There’s even a book about it.) Even if you don’t make a gift yourself, buying something handmade will support local artists and show your creativity and thoughtfulness.
If none of these ideas inspires you, or you feel like it’s too late to get started, don’t worry. There’s always next year!