I find the holidays are a difficult time to keep in balance, with the gluttony, rampant consumerism, and a To Do list a mile long. Our kids are old enough to really participate in the traditions and help perpetuate the values that we find important. One that I take great joy in fostering is the joy of creation with my kids, whether it is a quick drawing, a simple book, this year’s Christmas tree topper (a paper crown made by Rowan), or a homemade gift.
My mom really enjoyed the creation of gifts and especially loved creating and giving herbal gifts designed to heal and delight its recipient. Oftentimes she would harvest seeds or plants from her garden. I remember one year she gave people supplies to make their own wreath, all harvested from her garden. Another year she forced paperwhites in beautiful glass jars and vases she had found at garage sales the previous year. She would make oils or moisturizers and some of these ended up in our product line they were so popular. Our Holiday Bitters started out as a gift given to friends! Not the least of her gifts were results of time in the kitchen: basil pesto or any number of cookies.
One of the things that keeps me feeling connected with the Dutch side of my family is remembering the holiday cookies we would make with my mom when we were kids. I have started a cookie tradition with Rowan and we make a few different varieties of cookies in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Her favorites are any variety that requires cookie cutters, which usually means gingerbread. This year I have been thinking a lot about the speculaas cookies that my mom made. They are not unlike gingerbread, highly spiced and when done right are crispy. My mom always cut slices from a refrigerated log and would cook them that way, so I never knew that there was such a thing as a speculaas cookie mold. I was captivated by the iconic windmill and sailing ship so I plan on enlisting Rowan’s help with that this year. Failing success with the cookie mold, I’m sure she will be more than happy to pull out the cookie cutters.
I hope with my kids we are successful in fostering a love of creating and the joy of giving. There is little I enjoy more the seeing the pride in my kids eyes when they gift something they have worked hard to make. In this age of having so much at our finger tips, or just a touch away, I find it even more important to make sure our kids know the value of time is just as precious when considering gifting.
If you are looking to make gifts for your loved ones this year, here is a starting point:
Homemade food products. Make something special for your giftee. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something sweet, just something that your giftee will enjoy. Homemade vanilla bean extract for the baker in your life is extra special.
Gift an experience. Toys break, books are read, but even when an event or experience is over you will still have the memories to enjoy. Tickets to a play, a concert, a train ride are all ideas. What does your giftee love to do? Find something to do with them and you will have a memory always.
Do you have knowledge you can share? Does your giftee want to learn to knit? Does your child want to grow a garden? Gifting the supplies along with a promise to share your knowledge gifts an activity that you can do together.