Happy holidays! I hope the season is one in which you find great delight, even with our current covid limitations. It can be an exhilarating time of year, with colorful decorations, extra-special meals and treats, and fun gatherings with loved ones. And gifts, of course!
Gift-giving has been a popular custom for hundreds of years. Initially, small gifts to help the poor were given at this time of year across many religious traditions. Unfortunately, this compassionate practice that epitomized holiday spirit has been all but lost; somehow, receiving gifts has become more important than giving. It is my prayer that this perception is changing as a result of the plight of those who have lost their jobs or homes due to covid. (Approximately 4 million Americans have been out of work for at least 6 months.) The winter holidays are a perfect opportunity to share the love in our hearts with everyone we know. By tapping into Nature’s abundance, we can give extraordinary, heartfelt gifts to those in need as well as friends and family without breaking the bank.
Experiences, in my opinion, are so much better than things in most cases. Give the gift of fun! Take a long, scenic drive together, an epic hike, a trip to the local arboretum or state park, take a picnic lunch and go fishing at a nearby lake, visit a butterfly garden, or create an itinerary for a post-covid trip! Camera and binoculars in hand, this might just be the holiday gift that never stops giving.
Home-cooked meals and baked goods make lovely gifts. Although I was expecting the opposite due to the pandemic, fewer and fewer folks seem to be preparing their own meals. Home-cooked dishes are superior in quality and taste to frozen, pre-made, and oftentimes, restaurant food. One of the delights of the holiday season (in normal times) is going home for a meal made by Mom or Grandma, right? I’ll bet you know someone who seldom – or never – eats a home-cooked meal. What could be a better gift for them than a prepared-from-scratch soup with some freshly baked bread?
Another beautiful food gift is a home-assembled fruit basket. Dress up a reusable basket with ribbon, glitter, paint, or whatever you have, and fill with your choice of oranges, pears, apples, wine or mineral water, small bags of nuts, cookies, or good-quality chocolate. Wrap it all up in cellophane (or don’t!) and remember to include a card!
Nature photo gifts are a winner, as well. Create a calendar, make some greeting cards, or put together a small photo album or scrapbook of a natural area your loved one wants to visit. Collect actual photos and cut-outs from online sources and magazines, including the articles, and add quotes and colored stencils to jazz it up! A great way of communicating heart-to-heart without speaking a word.
Finally, the best-smelling gift: a chai simmer pot kit! Gather the aromatic ingredients for chai, add a beautiful, fat orange and some fresh cranberries for color, print out the recipe (or write on a small card), and tie it all up in a clear bag with a festive bow. The tea tastes marvelous, and the kitchen will smell like the holidays after it brews!
Homemade gifts are often appreciated beyond measure. Pouring your love into something for the benefit of another is what giving is all about. This holiday season, show your heart to your neighbors in need, friends, and family with simple gifts of Nature that communicate the true reason for the season.