We may not be dashing through the snow to Grandma’s house. There may only be two places set for the holiday feast. The family photo on the Christmas card may include masks. But one seasonal tradition isn’t budging because of the pandemic: gift giving. In fact, it’s actually taking on new meaning for many of us. If ever there was a time to find creative ways to express love and share joy with the most important people in our lives, this is it.
Of course, like always, how you select, wrap, bedazzle, and bestow your presents will be a matter of personal preference and style. A quick survey of Street Level Studio team members about their gift-giving experiences revealed a range of approaches … and results!
The out-of-sync exchange
Even before O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” told us about the possible consequences of being out of sync with the recipients of your holiday generosity, gift-givers have always made errors in judgment. Kent and his wife Michelle have never been big on giving each other presents, even for Christmas. And when they did, there was likely to be misalignment because the recipient wasn’t really expecting anything—and certainly not anything big. Early in the relationship, Kent bought Michelle a shiny new iPod for Christmas. She gave him a plastic sled. Though they “coordinate better” these days, it’s interesting to note their daughter now delights in riding the sled on snowy days, but the iPod has been relegated to the junk drawer. As Kent put it, “plastic outlasts technology.”
The labor of love
Just as you’d expect from a bunch of creatives, giving heartfelt handmade gifts is especially rewarding for SLS team members. James is an amazing artist who shares his own gift by giving his paintings as meaningful—and “hopefully memorable”—presents to those closest to him. Jennie goes a step farther, wrapping her handmade presents and the beautiful baked goods she’s famous for in paper and origami trimmings she also makes herself.
The thought that counts
Then there are the well-meaning DIY gift givers who probably should have bought something at the store. When Diane was 11, she decided to surprise her aunt Jeanne by “fixing up” an antique upholstered stool she found in Jeanne’s attic. Diane streakily painted the hand-turned legs and beautifully carved seat with some old white house paint she found in the garage and replaced the faded hand-stitched needlepoint seat cover with a piece of flowered fabric from the bottom of her mother’s sewing basket. Jeanne raved over the gift but, if we’ve learned anything at all from Antiques Roadshow, was probably mortified!
The more blessed to give than receive
Children often lead the way in this category. Eight-year-old Amy wanted to get her mother something very special using her own money. When she opened a Marshall Field’s flyer in the Sunday paper, there in all its glory was a glass Christmas platter etched with a wreath. She could think of nothing her mother could possibly want more. But at $15, this item of perfection was beyond her budget, so she petitioned her sister to go in on it with her. They “tricked” their mom into taking them shopping—doing their best to distract her during the secret purchase. Mom opened the gift with well-feigned surprise and many oohs and ahs on Christmas morning and used it to serve the family’s Buche de Noel cake that night. Amy still remembers how good that felt. A classic case of the giver receiving more than the recipient.
The truly priceless
Finally, the true essence of why we give is evident in those tokens of love that express our feelings more eloquently than even the most extravagant item. When Brian worked at CDW, he won an overseas trip. He invited his mom to join him, since she had never been out of the country. Like every tourist, Brian took a lot of pictures of their travels. Several years later, as he was backing up photos, he came across one that captured a special moment during their trip. Brian got the photograph enlarged, had it framed, and gave it to his mom for Christmas in 2018. She still talks about that picture as one of her best gifts ever.
The gift of giving
Whatever your gift-giving approach or style and no matter how your holiday traditions may have been altered, this year calls for stepping up and sharing the joy in a way that expresses what we’ve all learned these past months. Every day is a gift, so giving should be at the heart of all our holiday celebrations.
Here at Street Level Studio, we wanted to make sure to include you on our 2020 gift list. So, we’ve created some downloadable gift tags you can use to adorn your own packages and presents. Happy holidays!