It's not even Thanksgiving yet, and I've already starting decorating for Christmas. I can't help it. Theo has been singing Christmas songs, reading holiday books and asking about Santa ever since December 26th of last year. So, we're ready.
A couple of weeks ago, we strung lights on the outside of the house, and I feel like a child myself. It's the first time in my life I've lit up the outside of my home, and it makes us feel like we're living in a little gingerbread house. And while we love the warm glow we see from the inside, the biggest gift has been the texts and calls from neighbors and friends about how much joy they're getting from our Christmas lights.
We've been doing a lot of talking about the meaning of Christmas in our house this year. If you've been reading here for a while, you know that the true meaning of Christmas is a little sensitive in our home, since I'm Christian and Elie is Jewish, but non-practicing. We've been talking a lot about how to handle Theo's questions and conversations in a way that makes us both feel good.
In case you're in a similar situation, here's our approach. We tell Theo that we celebrate Christmas because Christmas teaches us about kindness. God gave us Jesus, and Jesus grew up to spread hope and kindness and compassion and joy in the world. Because God gave us the gift of Jesus, Santa gives us presents, so we will know how good it feels to receive. Receiving gifts makes us want to be kind and give gifts to others, so Christmas is about giving. We keep it very simple. The more complicated questions can come later, hopefully.
Just like in the past few years, we're trying to keep our gift giving very intentional, only buying a few thoughtful gifts that are mostly handmade, sustainably or ethically made, and local as much as possible. If you want to see the gift guide from last year, it's here. I still love everything on that list, too.
Just like always, I'm at a loss this year of what to get for Elie, because he is not someone who likes a lot of stuff and he's very particular. If you have any good ideas, please send them my way! But here are a few things on my list for the men in my life, both for Elie and those who aren't quite as hard to buy for.
green coffee beans for the coffee roaster // for the cappuccino lover, these tumblers // for the watch lover, this book on watches, this collection of stories on watches and this watch travel case // for the traveler, this tech accessory holder from Shinola and this shaving brush from Simpsons // for your loved one who has expressed interest in a low-waste lifestyle, one of these greenUP boxes // for your Dad who doesn't have a food Coop or Whole Foods Market within an hour's drive, a subscription to Thrive Market // for the person who struggles with a good night's sleep, this weighted blanket // for the cook in your life, a gift certificate for a cooking class or dinner at Ciao Thyme
Here are some of the beautiful things I'm giving the women in my life this year. I always try to give something I would love to receive, even better if it's something I think they wouldn't purchase for themselves.
for holiday hostess gifts or just because, these beautiful non-toxic candles with 100 percent essential oil fragrance (so hard to find!) // for the clean beauty lover, this face cleaner (and this serum) // for your wine-loving but health-conscious friend, a gift box from Dry Farm Wines // for your Mom who loves natural beauty products and ethically-sourced beautiful things, an annual subscription to CAUSEBOX // for the cooks in my life, my favorite cookbooks of this year, Nothing Fancy, Cannelle et Vanille and Healthier Together // for your friend who wants to learn something new, one of Sarah's amazing watercolor classes (online also) or her books, or one of Morgan's cookies classes (you should also follow her on Instagram) // for the woman who loves movement, a gift certificate to Barre3 // and this bracelet cuff or this one might be on my own list this year, as well as these pajamas // I've also been eying this vegan leather jacket and this wool coat
This past year, we really stuck by our commitment to simplifying play and not bringing a lot of new toys into the house. I don't think we purchased a single new toy since Theo's birthday last year. Books and puzzles, yes. Toys, no. So, in that same spirit, we're keeping toys to a minimum this year, if any. Instead, we're focusing on gifts that inspire imagination, creativity and movement. Here are a few ideas for the little ones in your life.
this pedal bike or this one with hand brakes is a big purchase for the bike rider graduating from the strider bike // for kids of any age, these KiwiCo boxes are customizable by age and interest and are wonderful for sick days or rainy afternoons // these Slumberkins books and stuffed animals support the development of emotional skills (and are beautiful!) // for kids and parents alike, the Ravensburger puzzles are fun to do together as a family // for the car lover, this race track // and for the music lover, this first guitar // this play kit and this one, for the nature lover or explorer // and if you like to gift clothing, we love Childhoods Clothing, Lulu & Roo and Mini Mioche for ethical brands
While it's fun to buy thoughtful gifts and wrap them in beautiful paper to deliver to the people you love, Christmas giving extends beyond just family and friends. Last year, Elie and I adopted a few new traditions for our family, to help Theo begin to understand the magic of Christmas giving. We'll be doing the same again this year. Here are a few ideas, if you'd like to join us.
Create an Advent Calendar with small acts of kindness or service. Here are a few things we did last year: gave gift cards to our mail carrier, UPS and FedEx drivers, garbage and recycling collectors for local pizza; randomly gave coffee gift cards to road workers and others who make their living standing in the cold; made cookies for the neighbors; supported our local ministries who provide meals and housing for those without homes; and supported the Family Resource Center for Bellingham schools, who help to create homes for families in need. There's nothing more meaningful than giving our time and talents, and as Theo gets older, we plan to do more of that. If you have suggestions on service ideas appropriate for an almost-four-year-old, I'd love to hear them!
Adopt a family. Last year, we really wanted to help bring the joy of Christmas to kids or families who weren't necessarily being served by any organization. Those who needed just a little extra help but weren't signed up to receive any. On Instagram, I asked for help in finding those kids and families, and we ended up (mostly) anonymously purchasing presents for seven families. I loved being able to shop for and wrap a lot of those presents, knowing we could create a little magic in our community. We're going to do the same again this year.
How do you support your community at Christmas? I'd love to know!