With the holiday season approaching quickly, stores are filling with red and green trinkets, hilarious Santa Clause cards, and even some gelt and menorahs for my people. I’m not too big on the winter holidays. Hanukkah was always a really simple holiday in my family and Christmas has always been a nuisance to me. Each year (earlier and earlier, may I add) all the radio stations and retail stores play Christmas music on repeat to get people in the “holiday spirit,” everything commercial is Christmas-themed, and don’t even get me started on Black Friday. That being said, I do appreciate a few things about this pre-holiday season: everyone seems to be in a better mood, people start to focus on spending more time with family and friends, and the candy is fabulous.
Each year I debate whether or not to get involved in holiday gift-giving. I don’t celebrate Christmas, I am normally broke around this time of year, and Hanukkah is always long-gone by the time people are lighting their Christmas trees. But, I am American and anyone who is anyone (in America) likes to give flashy gifts in December. I try to come up with a creative gift idea for my friends and I always settle on some kind of baked good. Thanks to Pinterest, Craftgawker, and all the other online time-wasters, people have access to an unlimited amount of homemade holiday gifts that won’t break the bank. And because it’s trendy to give gifts in mason jars, it’s totally acceptable to handmake your holiday gifts this year.
I’ll be keeping it simple this year with a collection of cookie tins and boxes my friend and I found at Big Lots. I’ll also be limiting my gift-giving to a small group of people that I either work with or share an office with. That way, I won’t be forgetting anyone who I interact with on a daily basis. My other friends will be getting a lot of free hugs (and possibly the leftover baked goods). I will be keeping my budget around $60 for 35 people. I believe that is an acceptable budget for a college student and non-Christmas-celebrator.
Based on my (let’s be honest) limited experience with gift-giving and 20 minute Google search, I have compiled a list of…
Jane’s Top Ten Hippie-Dippie Holiday Gifties
1. Gift Baskets
Baskets cost about $0.50 each at a thrift store. Fill it with homemade cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, and a homemade card. Wrap it with cellophane and ribbons and blow dry it until the cellophane shrinks around the basket. Altogether, the gift basket will cost around $10 and it will impress anyone who receives it.
In my opinion, ornaments are small items with a string attached. I know you Christmas people believe that there may be more to it, but let’s be real. I could make an ornament out of just about anything small. One great thing about DIY Ornaments is that they can be as personal as you’d like. You can go to the Dollar Store and get a cute, tiny frame, place a photo of you and a family member or friend in it, drill a small hole in the top of the frame, attach a string or ribbon through the hole, and you’re all set. You have a $1.00 personalized ornament.
You could also go cheesy with this idea and find an antique-looking key (they sell them in almost all thrift stores now, but also in craft stores). Attach a cute string or ribbon to the key and string through a small piece of cardstock with a saying like, “You have the key to my heart. Christmas 2012.” Too cheesy? Go back to the first idea: find a thing-a-ma-bob, who-zit, or what-zit and attach a string to it. You have yourself a DIY Ornament.
There are so many different ways to make homemade candles. There’s practically an entire aisle in every craft store. I’ll let you all Google your favorite ways, but here are some keywords/basic ideas to get you started on your journey: bottle cap candles using crayons, beeswax candles, mason jar candles, and old candle wax candles. Now go on. Make your friends and family melt this holiday season.
4. Personalized Stationary
If you have a lot of time on your hands (or if you want to avoid all of the things you actually need to get done), handmade stationary is a fabulous gift. All you need is cardstock, glue, and scrapbook paper for the basic stationary. If you add in lace or fabric, buttons, stickers, and a glue gun you have seriously up-ed your game. My method is pretty simple:
- Pour a tall glass of local wine
- Cut all of the cardstock to the same size
- Fold all of the piece the same way (hotdog or hamburger)
- Choose a color scheme
- Start gluing down pieces of paper
- Pour another glass of wine
- Continue gluing
- Allow the stationary to dry and then press them in a heavy textbook
- Check your designs once you’re sober the next morning
5. Cookie Kit
This idea has been all over so many blogs lately. I don’t have a fabulous recipe, but that’s where your expertise will come in. Use a family recipe or one you find on-line and put the exact measurements of the ingredients in a large mason jar with instructions on how to create the cookies. Attach the instructions to the mason jar using cardstock and a cute ribbon. Normally all the gift recipient needs to complete the recipe is an egg and some milk.
If you are not interested in measuring anything, hot chocolate is a fabulous alternative that requires almost no effort. Simply buy a bulk supply of delicious hot chocolate and some marshmallows and put them in a large mason jar. You can even supply your friends or family with mugs to go with the hot chocolate (see #7).
Homemade jewelry has evolved a lot since the days of noodle necklaces (although those are still totally Mommy-chic). I am lucky to live in a city that still has locally-owned and operated bead stores. These stores are filled with amazing beads that I can purchase to put together the most amazing custom jewelry for my friends and family. If you are not so lucky, take a trip to a craft store and I guarantee your satisfaction with their selection also.
Some pieces are as simple as buying the supplies and stringing the beads together and some are more complicated. A few of my favorite pieces are the cheapest and easiest I’ve ever created (and so cute):
- Multi-colored bead wrap bracelet: purchase a thin, stretchy string, small multi-colored beads and start stringing! It is really relaxing, but very time consuming.
- Wire-wrapped stone necklace: find a pretty rock, wrap wire around it, fashion some type of loop for the chain, and find a cute way to wrap it for whoever you are gifting it to.
- Foam square stud earrings: choose a color foam, cut the foam into tiny shapes (I used squares), draw a design (or not) with a toothpick or fine tip Sharpie, hot glue the foam to an earring. In the photo below I also made matching beer bottle cap necklaces and a pin.
This project takes little to no artistic talent, but definitely gets nicer as your abilities increase. The basic steps are as follows: buy a white mug from the dollar store (or find one at a thrift store), find a stencil set with letters small enough to fit on the mug (about 2 1/2 inch tall letters will do), use a Sharpie to stencil the letter of the first name of each recipient of a mug, bake the mugs at 350 degrees for 30 minutes in the oven. Done. Simple, adorable, and useful for everyone who you give one to.
8. Wall or mantle art
Holiday-themed wall or mantle art is all the rage (according to no one… but I said it, so please accept it). But those wooden signs that you can buy at every craft store, Target, Walmart, etc. are probably made in a factory thousands of miles away. There’s no love in a gift made by a machine. So, make it yourself! Find a few frames around the same size, use festive scrapbook paper as the background, and print or stencil words like: joy, family, love, season, Christmas, etc. This is an especially great gift for a new home owner with less holiday decorations than the average family.
9. Hat, scarf, gloves
Okay, so I admit that I cannot knit. But, I would learn if I decided to give all my friends hats, scarves, or gloves for gifts. I mean, all ladies need to learn it eventually, so if you think it’s a fabulous idea to give the gift of warmth this season then take a lesson that will impress your friends and give you a reliable hobby for when you are living with all of your cats.
I love the idea of up-cycling and repurposing. One great way to incorporate that concept into holiday gifts is to find small trinkets to repaint and redecorate either to hold another gift that you plan on giving (jewelry, chocolate, etc.) or to give as the gift itself. Thrift stores have entire aisles of small wooden boxes and other treasures that are just waiting for a creative hippie to take home and turn into the perfect gift for a friend or family member. Just be sure to get quality paint and a good type of seal so that the up-cycling will last.
Happy green gifting, everyone.