For the past seven years of our marriage, Heather and I have given alternative gifts for Christmas. Usually we make donations to non-profit organizations in the name of friends and family. This year, we’re adding home crafted items to the mix. Heather is making tasty treats, we have quite a few bottles of homemade raspberry wine, and I have some home roasted coffee and homebrew that will be given out.
It’s not that we’re anti-capitalist or don’t believe in the spirit of Christmas. Gift giving is an important human ritual that solidifies relationships and strengthens bonds. We also haven’t gone native and decided that a hipster Christmas is better. I just believe modern American gift giving is redundant in our instant gratification society. My friends pretty much have everything they really NEED, and within my modest budget, they already have everything they really WANT. I also don’t want to add to their “stuff.” (Which I am decidedly against)
That’s why donating money to deserving organizations was a no brainer. We take the money we would otherwise have spent on stupid stuff and allow that money to make the world a better place. It’s like paying Christmas forward. Our intent is to honor our loved ones with a gesture of charity. This year, we’ve chosen three organizations which we believe are making positive contributions to our home in Seattle, our home in Las Vegas, and to the overall world.
The crafted items for this Christmas happen to be byproducts of where we live. Seattle inspires people to make local, and the more homemade the better. While we are far from knitting beanies sheared from our backyard herd of sheep, it’s pretty awesome to give a bottle of wine made from raspberries grown in our garden, fermented in our home, and bottled in our kitchen. (Hopefully the wine is good–it won’t be ready to open until August 2014!) I’ve also been making some pretty decent homebrew and I haven’t met a coffee drinker who doesn’t like fresh roasted coffee. The best part is, we made these things by hand: we’re not only giving a product, but our time and passion. Now THAT’S love.
My belief in gift giving works both ways, too. There are only a few things I really want for Christmas. First, I want people to donate. It doesn’t have to be in my or Heather’s name. Just do it. Find a great organization you believe in and drop them a Benjamin or volunteer some time. I will enjoy that a lot more than any DVD or collector’s edition velvet Elvis. If you MUST get me a thing, then get me something I can eat or drink. Small batch craft spirits are a great choice, but so are rare beers, coffee, and chocolate. Heck, make me a tray of smoked chocolate coffee cardamom brownies.
Really, make me some of those brownies. Pretty please. With sprinkles.
In any case, just rethink your gift giving. Consider what you REALLY want/need. The world is already filled with too much stupid crap and there are too many people who need things like food, shelter, clothing and most importantly, love. Which is what this season is supposed to be about, right?