In my family, expensive gifts were always frowned upon. The holidays were not about how much you spent but how much you cared. So a gift made with your hands was highly prized. It showed not only talent and time spent on someone else, but also thrift.
My family is very fond of lists. Every birthday or Christmas you were encouraged to write a wish list of things you needed or wanted so gift givers could at least have a few clues. My husband considered this crass when he first married into my family. But he quickly saw the kind of things you could get without a list, and got over his squeamishness.
We were never too outlandish or greedy with our lists. We would write “nice knee socks” and “mixed nuts” and other things that could fit any budget. We would also write down what books we would like. I remember asking for “books I could read to my dolls” and getting adorable miniature Beatrix Potter books from my mother. But I think for years we always put “a pony” as our number one choice, just in case.
I was always shocked to see what Christmas was like in other people’s homes: boxes of electronics, leather jackets, guitars, multiple matching outfits… So much stuff that everyone seemed to go numb. It didn’t matter anymore. It didn’t seem to mean anything anymore. And then everyone was left with the bills to deal with in January.
I love that moment in How the Grinch Stole Christmas when the Grinch, having stolen everyone’s presents, discovers that all the townspeople have come out to sing and greet Christmas with great joy. I don’t remember the gifts of bathrobes and knee socks and stationary as much as I remember all our Christmas traditions. Telling stories of Christmas past: the time my grandmother made all of us flannel nightgowns, or the one time it snowed, or even the time it was seventy degrees.
May everyone have a joyous holiday, and create the most lovely of memories with their families! And may you give (or receive) that perfect gift.
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