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Consider meaningful ways of gift giving this holiday season

Christmas celebrations have included the exchange of gifts for hundreds of years, although the tradition of holiday gift giving has changed a great deal through the centuries.

The birth of the Christ began to be celebrated in December in the early 300s and historians believe this is when gift giving became part of the holiday. The practice was connected to the three Wise Men who gave the first Christmas gifts to the baby Jesus: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Early modern Europeans had a tradition of wassailing, in which lower-class citizens would visit the homes of gentry to ask for handouts. During the Victorian period, gift giving shifted to children. This is when the story of Santa Claus became widespread.

Today, it can sometimes feel as though the commercial aspect of Christmas overwhelms the religious celebration. If you’re looking to simplify your gift giving this year, consider a couple of alternative ways to express your affection for your friends and family.

Homemade gifts

An informal poll of our residents and staff found that many favorite gifts were not purchased in a store but were instead made with love.

One treasures a tissue cover that her 5-year-old grandson decorated.

“It doesn’t match any décor in my home, but I don’t care,” she said.

Others treasure a cozy, homemade blanket or a collage of family photos.

If you enjoy crafts, a homemade gift may be a delight for you to make — and a special remembrance for the person who receives it. DIY gift experts recommend sticking with a craft you feel comfortable with and starting well in advance so you’re not rushing to finish before the holidays.

Gifts of Charity

Do your friends and relatives complain about having too much stuff? Another way to honor a gift recipient is to make a donation in their name.

If your gift recipient is active in their church, crazy about their alma mater or a committed volunteer to a nonprofit organization, then choosing an appropriate vehicle for your gift couldn’t be easier.

If you have to think a little harder about it, you might donate to a cause important to your loved one. What are their interests and background? If they grew up with horses, an equine rescue might be a good choice. If they worked in education, perhaps they would appreciate a donation to a scholarship fund.

Whatever your gift-giving strategy this holiday season, we hope you feel blessed as you bless others.

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