I love Christmas (surprise… so counterculture of me). And I love my friends. But somehow every year when I start thinking about bringing the two together… I end up overwhelmed. I want to get everyone something awesome, but–like so many things in life–the easiest way to suck is to try to do too much at once. I was thinking about this problem this morning and had an idea. It’s been growing on me all day so I thought I’d share it.
Instead of making all of my friends feel marginally loved… like “whooo hoo, I made it onto the Starbucks card list” kind of loved… I think as a group we could make one another feel really deeply loved by doing a love-focused version of a traditional gift exchange. We’d all draw (or assign?) names. And each person would fill out some standard info so that we have a place to start (maybe take the love language assessment, list their favorite things, etc). Then instead of getting something for each person, we’d each focus on doing something really epic for the one person we were assigned. That’s the first key… narrowing the focus. Here’s the second key: putting some real time and thought into the best possible way we can think of to make that specific person feel loved. I know as well as anyone that it’s easy to fall into the trap of just looking for something that will be good enough. Kate likes wine, right? Okay, I’ll get her this wine. Check. Cross that task off the list. I think we can do better than that. I want to make people feel seen and valued. With a little extra thoughts, I think we can come up with gifts that do that. And that are way more fun to give!
Here are some ideas I came up with:
- Give their friends postcards w/ stamps on them and have them each mail one throughout the month… so the recipient will suddenly start getting nice notes every day or so all month long.
- Knit them a scarf. Chunky cowl scarfs are perfect this time of year and nothing says I love you like hours of knitting. Unless you’re me. In which case, hours of knitting is code for “lesson in humility” because everything I make turns out wrong. So I won’t be knitting you a scarf
- Arrange to do something with them that you know they’ll love. For example, my dad and I both love weird, cool food. So I take him out for dinner at a foodie-type restaurant every year. We both enjoy the quality time more than he’d enjoy a new set of socket wrenches or some other material thing I could think of. I have a friend who loves tea and am taking her to high tea for Christmas.
- Write a poem about them. Seriously.
- Sign up to watch their dog / kid / angsty teenager while they go on vacation.
- Write them a check. Sometimes people are going through a hard time… and Christmas is an especially painful time to be short on cash. If you have a friend who is out of / between work, sometimes cash really is the best gift. Get your friends to each pitch in $5 and write a check for the total. There’s nothing quite like knowing you’re going to be able to pay your rent when you thought it would be close. It’s not about the money… it’s about the fact that you saw their need and responded to their situation specifically.
- Etch some glass for them. You can buy glass etching gel at any craft store for about $10. Then get something glass–wine glasses, mirrors, etc.–and etch something personal into them.
- Make them a journal for their quiet times.
- For family: Get other family members to help you write a family history. Everybody can take a chapter. Then you can edit and compile and present it to a parent / grandparent.
- Make personalized stationary for them!
- Make them a modern “mixed tape” (ahem, CD). Write something about why you chose each song for that person.
- Get them a book by their favorite author. Again, it’s not about the book. It’s about knowing them and what they love.
- Love-language based gift. I’m a fan of the simplicity of that 5 love languages test… In my experience it’s been pretty accurate and useful. See my post about it here. You could look at someone’s primary love language and come up with a gift based on that. For example, if someone’s love language is physical touch, you could arrange with some of your other friends for everyone to hug them every time they saw that person for the entire month of December. That would be awesome!
- Make a video… informally tape interviews with your friends and ask them about the person. What is their favorite memory? What is their funniest habit? What are their best qualities? Then edit the responses together into a video that shows the person how loved they are. This would be a great gift for someone whose love language is words of affirmation!
- Take a comic book about a super hero and paste in new words… about how awesome your friend is. Have your other friends send you their favorite memories, etc.
- A surprise party/event doing something they would love. Get all your friends together and go do something you know that your friend would love to do. For example, skydiving! Okay, maybe not in december. Maybe a masked ball then? The person gets to do something they’ve always wanted to do without having to organize it. At the exchange their gift can be a mysterious invite saying the date and time and dress code, but not revealing what the event is.
- A homemade christmas gift/craft accompanied by a nice letter telling them why you love them.
- Make a sweet necklace… get each of your friends to contribute a bead and write a little note about why they chose that one / what they love about the person. Then string them together and give them all the notes too.
- Steal their car and detail it. Or break into their apartment and clean it. Clearly this would involve some coordination with roommates / family. Unless you’re handier with a lock pick than I am.
That’s just what I can think of off the top of my head. Wouldn’t this be cool?