Photo by Hillary Ehlen
‘Ts the season for so many things! From Christmas cookies and eggnog to The Elf and Secret Santa, to carols of faith and hope as we remember Jesus’ birth, and to the brightness of a menorah in the dark of winter, we scramble to figure out a safe way to celebrate traditions and create new ones. Stress and overwhelm seem expected traditions as well.
Maybe this is the year to distill even further the essence of the season. For me, the truths that define these days are giving, love and light. These truths can also be a verb: Giving love and light. Gift-giving can be a way to bring these truths to life if done within our means. And the accompanying card might be the most important facet of the gift if you are able to share a bit about why you chose the gift for that special person and their significance in your life.
These are my favorite gifts:
Books: Browse through Zandbroz downtown and marvel at the gorgeous window displays and vast array of gifts and books. Some of my favorite authors to give are Danielle LaPorte (White Hot Truth, Desire Map,) Bob Goff (Love Does, Everybody Always, Dream Big,) Bob Burg (The Go-Giver) and Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts, The Broken Way, Be The Gift). Barnes and Noble is also a haven for book lovers, and even though it’s not a local company, we can support our friends who work there.
I like to give books that I’ve already read. Sometimes it’s a new copy, sometimes a re-gift. The ultimate gift would be to meet for tea sometime down the road and use the book as a springboard for conversation.
Cookbooks: Recipe collections are often accompanied by great stories, with each dish serving up a special memory. When we cook together, food becomes part of our own story. As I write, I’m looking at a stack of cookbooks destined as Christmas gifts for my outdoorsmen brothers: The Meat Eater and Buck, Duck, Moose. I gifted a copy of Josh Hanson’s Spanky’s Stone Hearth Cookbook to my parents this summer. We had many special meals there over the years they owned a cabin nearby on East Spirit Lake. My sisters are getting Molly Yeh’s Molly on the Range cookbook for Christmas.
I’ve gifted Cal Peternell’s Twelve Recipes to recent high school and college grads. Peternell is Chef of the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in California and wrote this book for his children as they grew up and became independent. His hope was that they would nourish themselves and others through good simple food. I’ve also gifted books on making snack platters and cheese boards, though none could be as beautiful as ones created by Megan Lewis of MilkMade! And I am wondering when our local food heroes Eric and Sarah Watson will publish a cookbook?
If I’m feeling particularly flush, I sometimes add a cool kitchen item from Stabo Scandinavian or Zandbroz or Creative Kitchen at West Acres Mall.
Candles: I love giving and receiving candles. I spent seven years in Seattle for residency training and locally made hand blown glass candle holders called GlassyBabies were the rage. They are filled with tea lights, so the glass holders can be used indefinitely. The colors were gorgeous and had a special name and intention, such as Soul, Courage, Celebrate, Gratitude and Silver Lining. There are hundreds of colors now. The company donates about five percent of each GlassyBaby sold, and they have donated over 10 million dollars over the past 20 years.
Locally, you can find great candles at Unglued, Do Good Adventures, Grateful Cratefuls and SCHEELS, where I discovered my first WoodWick candles, that crackle as they burn.
Going along with the candlelight theme, I love to give gifts for lakeside bonfires and cozy wood-burning hearths. It seems that conversation and closeness are enhanced by the flames.
Experiences: I love giving experiences, such as a Wine and Paint night, a floral class, a picnic, a joint pedicure or a play. My friend Hope and I have a tradition of going to the Plains Art and Architecture tour together. We were able to do this safely distanced this fall, but so many other experiences are out of the question. I’m praying for lots more togetherness by this time in 2021!
These gifts of knowledge and food and flames exemplify love and light, literally and figuratively.
I love how previously mentioned author Ann Voskamp tells us how we can salvage 2020:
“Love the people who don’t like you. Be wildly kind to the people who aren’t your kind of people. Be love so the world learns to love each other again. Be a light so lovely that all are drawn to the flame of such love. Be a light so lovely that injustice withers away.”
We are the gifts and the givers.