November 26, 2010
Think outside the (gift) box
For the best ideas, imagine yourself in the recipients’ shoes.
Traditional holiday gifts aside, there are endless choices when it comes to giving presents with unique twists. And alternative gifts just keep on giving, like the matanah (gift) of the miraculous one day’s worth of shemen zayit (olive oil) that lasted eight days and eight nights.
You’ll find that the best alternative gift ideas come to you when you put yourself in your recipients’ shoes, considering what sorts of things they most enjoy.
“The story of Chanukah and the Maccabees is one of a battle between religious traditions and modernism. Holiday gift giving shouldn’t be about us buying into Christian values, making Chanukah like modern-day Christmas, giving toys, money and chocolates,” said Prof. Haskel Greenfield of the University of Manitoba.
Independent Nikken Wellness Consultant, Amichai Bakerman, agrees. “It’s about giving a gift the other person will benefit continually from, something lasting,” he added. “Why waste money on things that are only temporary?”
A different sort of gift giving can be something as simple as giving the gift of yourself – offering your time, babysitting hours, a massage, freshly baked bread, a home-cooked meal, yard work or a dinner spent together with family and/or friends. This has real personal value, reflecting the intimacy, love and caring between the giver and receiver.
If you are artistically inclined, you can give a self-painted or photographed picture, hand-made pottery, knitted scarf, candles or a self-written song or poem.
Another gift option is a cultural membership, like one to a museum or art gallery. Membership to the Manitoba Museum, for example, gives access not only to that institution but free entrance to any Canadian science centre and some other museums.
“When it’s minus 25 degrees outside on a Winnipeg winter weekend, the museum’s a great place to visit, learn, enjoy and stay warm in,” said the Manitoba Museum’s Javier Schwersensky. The same could be said for a rainy Vancouver day, when an indoor art or cultural exhibit would be just the ticket.
Giving a gift membership is a repeating gift. The individual or family can enjoy using the membership whenever they desire.
As a globally conscious present, you could send a gift (i.e. chickens, blankets or radios) to a developing country in your recipient’s name through Oxfam or buy a Peace Bond for them from the Nonviolent Peace Force – when the bond has reached maturity, a large international team trained for nonviolent conflict intervention can be sent to the desired country through nonviolentpeaceforce.org.
If a health-conscious gift is one your recipient would appreciate, you can go with passes or a membership to a fitness centre (like the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver) or dance studio, exercise equipment (like a starters’ yoga kit), gift certificates to an online healthy food store (like eatit.ca) or a consultation with a wellness expert. Some people might also enjoy the gift of a charitable donation in their name to an organization such as the Ladybug Foundation, Alzheimer’s Society, Jewish Family Service Agency, TB Vets, etc., etc.
For someone who loves creative cooking, you can create a hand-made recipe book; perhaps a collection of old family recipes from your and your friends’ families. You can also put together a personalized photo album or photo calendar for a friend or family member.
If you have animal lovers on your gift list, you can adopt a World Wildlife Fund polar bear, snow leopard or giant panda in the name of your recipient.
Finally, although there is a negative connotation to re-gifting, it is a great way to part with your unused items that others would consider to be of great value. You can share a love of reading by giving away the last great book you bought. Another route is to shop thrift stores in your area or online for unique items for the special people in your life.
Try thinking about how you feel about gifts and how you go about expressing yourself to the people to whom you give gifts. It all boils down to relationships, expression, feelings and, of course, thinking outside the box.
Rebeca Kuropatwa is a Winnipeg freelance writer.