How to give gifts from the heart

Image by Darrien Funk

Powered by corporate greed and childhood gluttony, holiday gift giving forces the hands and pockets of  parents into spending an uncomfortable amount on unethical garbage just to keep their temperamental children from assaulting them with the severed head of the dolls that now need replacing.

Or maybe I’m a cynic.

Christmas is supposed to be about family. About uncomfortable dinners with cousins you can’t name. About kissing your unaffectionate father on the cheek forgetting that isn’t something twenty-year-olds do.

Christmas is about getting a little too buzzed off cheap chardonnay and cursing for the first time in front of your Catholic grandmother.

Christmas is about seeing those who you have no excuse to make an effort for any other time of the year. And Jesus, I guess.

That being said, it’s often an expectation. Two straight weeks of rapidly increasing guilt capped off with Christmas morning.

Maybe one sibling opens a PlayStation. Good for him. But maybe the next kid’s gift is an undercooked scrambled egg loosely strained into a grocery bag. Now little Jebadiah’s suspicions that his parents do indeed “hate his guts” is only confirmed and the holidays are ruined! Christmas equality is impossible!

So in an attempt to avoid such a tragedy, take these tips in creating some original yet inexpensive gifts for the holidays:

Homemade Gifts

What’s more sentimental than a homemade gift? Something to showcase your originality while spending next to nothing on materials. I recently sent a friend on a lengthy scavenger hunt for his birthday.

I’d carefully dissected numerous kinder eggs, replacing the toys with clues prompting him towards other memorable locations throughout the Waterloo region. Not to my surprise, his first question after completing the scavenger hunt was if I’d kept the toys from inside the eggs. I hadn’t.

It’s easy to come up with original ideas simply by taking a couple laps of the dollar store. Slap a picture of you and the intended on a glass flour jar, fill it with candy and boom! Sentimentality at its finest.

Throw a few things together, glue a ribbon on it and call it art. Nick Moore got away with it for years.

Picking a theme

Two years ago for Christmas I’d bought my father the ultimate Hairspray fan package. I’d individually wrapped anything I could find that had to do with the musical: t-shirts, posters, DVDs (including the BlueRay) and by noon on Christmas morning he had all the musical theatre merchandise a father could ask for.

To my knowledge, he’d never seen the movie nor expressed any interest in musicals whatsoever. Sure, he might have hinted at that book we’d been glancing at on the display or mentioned he’d been running low on warm socks for the winter but what says ‘I love you’ more than John Travolta cross-dressing in high-definition?

None of these items were relatively expensive but due to their eccentric display and numerous packages my father thought I must have maxed out another credit card.

Pick a theme to centre your gifts around. Maybe your mother’s a germophobe like mine. A box of latex gloves is three dollars. Throw in some antibacterial soap, a few surgical masks, maybe a little iodine and you’ve got a pretty cost-efficient little basket there.

Get personal with it. Find things your family members will use and disguise your frugality by dressing these elementary household items in a cute little floral arrangement of ballpoint pens and hand lotions.

Joke Gifts

Every year for Christmas, I get my brother a card in a different language.

He has trouble reading English already — I can’t imagine he does any better with Dutch. My personal inscription remains the same, but the pre-generated holiday greeting is usually in Cantonese, German and once, Yiddish.

Joke gifts are typically easy and inexpensive depending on the route you take. My little card routine costs me less than eight dollars a year. Throw in a box of stovetop stuffing and that’s a happy boy.

I always find mothers are the hardest to shop for.

Not once has my mom laughed or even giggled at one of my joke gifts; she had nothing good to say about the poem I wrote her about why she is solely responsible for all my emotional shortcomings.

A mother will never tip you off on what she really wants, and on the off chance she does, it’s often unattainable. “I can’t wrap Henry Cavill, Nancy. You’re getting a scarf.”

Often mothers will ask for altered behavior, reliability in regards to household chores and the most frequent in my house: peace and quiet.

In reality, you could gift your family a can of lentils and a barrel of roadkill, it doesn’t change the holiday.

Have some fun with gift giving and don’t stress about breaking the bank for your family.

They’ll appreciate a jar of paint thinner just as much as an industrial food processor. It’s the thought that matters, not the price tag.

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