Sunday, November 30, 2008


It is terribly materialistic of me, but one of my absolute favorite things about the holidays is giving thoughtful gifts. When I am out and about and I see something that one of my loved ones will adore, it is so fulfilling to get it, wrap it up, have the anticipation of seeing their reaction, actually seeing their reaction, and knowing that they get the underlying message: I know you well, and I love you dearly. My partner is a no nonsense, get-what-is-on-the-person's-wish-list kind of shopper. That gets the person something they want and will love, but the surprise factor, the "I know you so well" factor, is lost. Over time, I have fallen more and more into the wish list category as life with kids has made shopping (and life) more chaotic.

This year, there is a much bigger issue than how to shop. It is that we can't shop. We just don't have the funds to spare for anything extra. We just can't give like we have in the past. I knew it was coming, so I have been making as many gifts as I can. I am really excited about what I am making. But, when I am out and about and I see something one of my loved ones would adore, I feel a physical pang at passing it up. Like I cannot afford to give the love I so want to share.

I know it is really about the love, not the gifts, but in my family, the whole tradition of surprise is huge.

There was the year I got a watch (a Swatch, remember those? that I REALLY wanted) in a 4 by 3 by 3 box... that's feet, not inches. There were rocks and bottles half full of water and all kinds of things jammed into the huge box to make it more confusing when shaken. By my much older brother. Who taunted me with it. Daily.

Many years, someone got a gift consisting of a card with a clue that lead you to search all over the house for more clues until you finally found your gift. One year my dad kept jokingly telling me all he wanted for xmas was a Rolls Royce. So I got him a key to a Rolls Royce and a clue describing where to find the car. Several clues later he found it. A 6 inch Rolls, in white. He didn't mention what size Rolls he wanted...

There was the time that I gave a riddle of a toy car and a deck of cards, and not until the riddle was solved would I give the real gift (a copy of Wheeler Dealers. get it?).

Yes, most of these were in the halcyon days of childhood, but still, they hold a mystical power over me.

Thoughtful gifts say something that words just can't. I have been working since August (maybe July?) to hand make presents for the people I love because I knew we would be pretty broke this year. I didn't anticipate that all this crafting work still wouldn't feel like enough. I know, I know, it is really about the connections, the love....

As I reflect on how I am feeling, I can see that it is the magic of the holidays... the magic the ADULTS created, that I miss the most. Buying gifts was the way I could help make magic as a child and I have never moved beyond that method. I really miss having adults to create the magic. What? I have to be my own adult? sigh. (We still haven't even decided whether to believe in Santa in this house. We do some crazy agnostic version, where they get presents from Santa but when asked, we say we don't know if Santa exists but we believe in the spirit of the holidays. yeah, yeah, I know.)

In reflcting on this, I can see that I have been amazingly creative in my gift giving for most of my life. Now I need to apply that spirit to my whole holiday, finding ways to bring the magic into it, sans money. Looks like I need to get out the lights and string up some magic.


  1. Thanks for putting into words a feeling I have also been having. We decided to forgo gifts this year in my family, and even though I am all for not consuming more things a part of me is sad. It is that part that enjoyed finding just the right gift for people. I think it is the magic -- the desire to want people to know how special they really are to you. Maybe this year it is time to tell them in words this time!

  2. Once again, there is so much I can relate to in this post. What are we? Soul bloggers?
    I'm a pretty practical gift giver, but, make most gifts (because finances are also tight.) I do however love the magic you describe, and as you revealed at the end, the magic was pretty much done on the cheap.
    If you can create that mystery for your kids inexpensively, I actually think you're giving them the best gift of all. They're expectations aren't being built around materiallistic things, so when they do get something fancy, they really appreciate it.
    We were not going to hype the Santa, but, they've never asked, they've just inserted Santa as a given.
    Not sure what we'll do when they ask, but I assume, similar to you.

  3. I can really relate to your post...thank you for putting into words something I hadn't even realised was missing in my life. It's the magic. I do love the idea of the Wish List... it's nice to grant the wishes of family, particularly overseas members but there is much lacking when we don't take the time to really consider the other person, what would they really like, what treasures can I find to bring joy to their hearts? It's so much easier to say "You are impossible to buy for, why don't you just TELL me what you want?!" Where's the love?? Where's the KNOWING. It's a wonderful feeling to be KNOWN by someone. You've really opened my eyes tonight. Thank you.

    What really wonderful gifts you made for your family with the treasure hunts and such... what wonderful magic.