‘Hand-made’, ‘home-grown’ or ‘second-hand-store-bought’ were the agreed-upon gift categories to keep our family Christmas simple last year. This year, we’ve simplified Christmas gifts even more to include: ‘things made with paper’—cards, drawings, poems, stories and letters full of encouraging words will be the order of the day. I’m excited about what I might receive and already planning what to make/write—obviously no one will be getting anything drawn by Jules (family all sigh with relief).
I don’t get to see my southern whānau very often, so my home is peppered with gifts they’ve given me over the years, and Christmas 2019 produced a fresh array of especially creative and thoughtful wonders to add to my stash. I want to share some of these with you to demonstrate that you don’t have to spend much to make Christmas special. In fact, a simple but thoughtful gift has a magic that just can’t be mass-produced by a department store.
My stash of Family Store-bought gifts include a second-hand bright red necklace chosen by Mum that I adore, and a cute little knitted hat with a butterfly on the front from my sister who knew I’d need something warm to wear when walking the dog in windy Wellington—she was right! The pinnacle, though, is the iconic Crown Lynn tam o’shanter cup and saucer set that my sister found at the Invercargill Family Store—chosen in memory of our beloved nana. The set sits in pride of place in my kitchen—sometimes I even use it. And when I do, I think about how my big-hearted sister doted on Nana in her final years, and how proud Nana would be at the amazing woman she’s become.
The home-made stash was impressive, too. From my niece I received the coveted recipe for Mum’s famous gingernut biscuits—a childhood favourite—complete with all the dry ingredients. Such a thoughtful and nostalgic gift! She also made hanging bird-food that brought a majestic brood of tuis right to our fence line. They sang throughout the morning as they gobbled up their goodies, leaving just a piece of dangling string in their wake. I’m not sure my niece realised she was giving me the gift of tui song! What a delightful, unexpected gift.
My sister’s partner has a deer farm, and so she creatively carved and smoothed a piece of antler and attached it to a leather cord. Each of us received a ‘one-of-a-kind’ necklace. An original and unique gift—just like my sister.
Home-grown plants also became gifts. One of my sisters thoughtfully found lilac cuttings of the variety that grew like weeds in Mum’s Australian hometown. We’ve all witnessed the lilacs’ progress throughout the year. In late October it finally bloomed—much to Mum’s joy and pride—a timely gift for a tough year.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas and can easily spend money I don’t actually have—the consequences of which sneak up in the following year. I know I’m not alone in this. Parents buy copious cheap plastic items as ‘stocking stuffers’, only to find they’ve not lasted the day. Spouses get sucked into the lie that the amount spent on a gift is the measure of how much they’re loved or love. How did it come to this?
Hand-made, home-grown and hand-delivered to a teenager’s womb by the God of the Universe—Christmas began with the birth of a baby in a humble stable, to displaced parents, in an unimportant little town. There was no glitz and glam or tinsel, no frills, filters or fireworks. It wasn’t trending on Instagram and it didn’t go viral on YouTube. But God made sure the right people were alerted. Angels sang and trumpets sounded in the fields for a gaggle of poor, humble, forgotten and somewhat frightened shepherds, who up and ran to the stable to witness the arrival of the Saviour of the World.
It was that simple. Simple, but oh so significant. Let’s make Christmas simple again.