All photos:  (c) Elena Galey-Pride


« Get the H back in the Holidays! »

For the twenty-somethingth year, I went to the One of a Kind Show in Toronto on Friday. In what has become a holiday tradition, I go to be inspired by the incredible creativity on display, as much as to buy – although I do that too! Some years I buy more, some years less, but the show never fails to stimulate the creative bones in my body. It’s always a pleasure to chat with the artisans I’ve patronized over the years and also to meet new talented souls from all across the country.

Thinking about this tradition last night, and again this morning as I prepared to go to the Handmade Market in Beamsville, I realized that I’ve been slowly but steadily moving towards streamlining my gift-giving around a certain set of values. And this morning, in a twinkling, I came up with a really easy, and memorable, way to express it. I call it my 5H Code of Holiday (and year-round) Giving.


Homemade. Handmade. Healthy. Helpful. From Here. 

The goal is to ensure that my gifts meet at least one of these criteria, and hopefully several. It’s not hard to do, and in fact, is a lot more fun in the process!

To help you start thinking outside the (big) box (store), here are some ideas in each of my categories. And while you certainly can create a gift that can be wrapped and opened Christmas morning, also think about choosing gift certificates or promissory notes for services that can be rendered in the future.

Homemade. "I made it myself."

Gifts derived from your own creative interests, aptitudes and skills.  Knitting, sewing, photography, scrapbooking, jewellery-making, wood working. Or baking and cooking and lots more. You don't think of yourself as creative? You surely are, but just in different ways. How about computer or car repairs or service, babysitting, dog-walking, car washing, snow shovelling? Social media lessons? Doubtless there is something that you do well that others find challenging or expensive to do. 

Let's say you love photography. Make a custom photo book or calendar for someone, enlarge and frame one of your best shots, or give a certificate for a portrait shoot (great for new parents, new couples, just about any family). 

Baking and cooking are priceless gifts for many. A jar of your famous spaghetti sauce with the pasta and cheese to complete the meal - or a "cookie of the month" gift certificate that will extend the joy long past the holidays. 

Homemade gifts are the best because they are about the thought, not the money. They are a great way for young people to get started creating gifts of their own to give, at a time when they may not have much money to spend. Homemade gifts are the epitome of thoughtfulness because you are giving your time and your love, all wrapped up together. 

Handmade. “Someone else made this themselves.”

Here's where the craft shows like One of a Kind and the Handmade Market just sing. By choosing gifts from talented artisans, you are helping to support their creativity both morally and financially. Or consider the craft sales and bazaars held by churches and other community groups. The proceeds of their bake tables, knitting and other craft items provide vital funds to their operating budgets.

Handmade so frequently overlaps with the others H's - Healthy, Helpful and from Here. I'm thinking of craftspeople I met Friday who are repurposing items that would otherwise become landfill or who are using recycled materials in inventive new ways - artisans who are channeling their creativity for the health of the planet. 

Or think of the example of Ten Thousand Villages. Purchasing from artisans in developing countries through Ten Thousand Villages allows them to earn income within long-term, fair trading relationships. Definitely Helpful too! 

And I certainly count artisanal wine in the Handmade category. When I think of all the handwork that goes into tending the vines, and into caring for the resulting wines, there is no question that the small boutique wineries are handmaking their wines. And while wine is my preferred beverage, I also know that there are more and more craft beer and even spirit producers who fit the handmade mold. 

Healthy.  “Benefits physical/mental health - personal or the environment.” 

Keeping with the topic of wine, a gift of wine from an organic/biodynamic/sustainable/environmentally sensitive winery in Niagara such as Southbrook, Tawse, Malivoire, Stratus and Ravine gets you three check marks - handmade, healthy and from here! 

Or go a whole different route with gifts of health - a gym membership, or even a promissory note to go to fitness classes or walk every day with someone who needs the encouragement. Other gifts of health include gift certificates for massage, aromatherapy or other stress-relieving treatments from a favoured practitioner. Or combine Homemade with Healthy, and give a promissory note for massages or other stress-relievers - delivered by you! 

Helpful. “Someone else will benefit from this.”

In addition to the church bazaars and Ten Thousand Villages already mentioned, there are many ways to make sure your Christmas gifts benefit more than just the gift recipient. One of my favourites for years has been Plan Canada's Gifts of Hope. I tend to think of these as the perfect gift for the person who has everything, benefiting people who have nothing. I've given Mango Trees, Birth Certificates, Classroom Essentials, and even Chickens! Plan makes it easy to order on-line and provides materials that can be emailed or snail-mailed to the person you are honouring. There are other charities with similar programs, but Plan is where I've been supporting two foster children for decades, so I know it best.  

Another great gift-giving option for the person who has everything, is to donate through Charity Gift Cards. The person you give the gift to then gets to choose which of a myriad of charitable institutions the funds will be channeled to. (And you get the tax receipt!)

And my newest favourite is Helpful AND Handmade. It's called Sparks of Grace and it is an initiative of a very talented photographer, Sherry Galey. Sherry has created a series of postcards combining her images with quotes, and she encourages you to send the postcard to "ignite a spark of grace in someone's life today." ("Ignite" was my idea!) Sherry is donating the proceeds to an endeavour that is very close to her heart, the HUB Palliative Care Project in Almonte, Ontario. Cards can be ordered through her blog or from Etsy. (Sherry and I have a lot in common - we share a love of photography, a love of pithy quotes and, oh yeah, a love of the same parents!) UPDATE FOR 2014: Sherry has completed her donation to the HUB, but I've found a new project to tell you about that is both Helpful and Handmade. It's an initiative of Kaunis Designs. Jennifer Newman has crafted beautiful holiday ornaments and she is donating an amazing 25% of the price to women's shelters - Gillian's Place in Niagara and Ernestine's in Toronto. 

From Here. “Grown or made locally, or from a locally-owned company.”

I'm totally jumping on the Local bandwagon here. I know first-hand how important it is for the Ontario economy when Ontario consumers choose to drink VQA wine over an import. You can read for yourself the details of the economic impact to the province of Ontario, but suffice it to say here that there are significant financial reasons to shop local. There are environmental reasons too. Wine shipped from around the world has a much larger carbon footprint than those wines grown and raised just down the road. 

These examples from the wine industry are echoed in just about everything else that is grown, made or provided locally. When it comes to Christmas shopping, buy from your local shops. In Niagara, we have lots of delightful little places like Fonthill, Ridgeville, Jordan Village and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Or shop the downtowns of St. Catharines, Welland and Niagara Falls. The people who own these shops are your friends and your neighbours. They spend their profits, in turn, in your community. 

Give gift certificates from local restaurants. Buy books by local authors and buy them in local bookstores. Buy CDs from local performing artists. Give tickets to local fundraisers such as Cuvee, or passes to local events like the ones offered by the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Twenty Valley and Gathering Niagara. Give gift certificates to local B&Bs, inns and hotels. Book a Sentineal carriage ride through Niagara-on-the-Lake - now that's a romantic gift! And a particularly Cool gift would be a promissory note for tickets to the 2013 International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4c is July 19-21, 2013)! UPDATE FOR 2014: i4c is July 17 - 19, 2015 and tickets go on sale Dec. 1, 2014.) 

I write this from a Niagara perspective, but wherever you live, your community has well-known attractions and hidden gems that you can easily support. And almost everybody can do some sort of gift card or certificate for you. 

Tomorrow, I'm headed to the Open House at Tree and Twig - an awesome little "hidden gem" in Wellandport. It's a Heirloom Vegetable Farm and so the gifts I will find there should satisfy at least three H's! 

Will you try putting the H back in the Holidays? I'd love to hear about your ideas.

Or maybe you've been doing this all along and have some great tips to share with the rest of us. Please post a comment below to encourage the rest of us along.

I wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or a joyous whatever other tradition you may participate in!

Happy HHHHHolidays!

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Reader Comments (10)

What a wonderful mantra, and a great post—I was going to share it even before I saw that you mention Gathering Niagara. ;) (Thanks for that!) I've been making gifts for years: knitted scarves, flavoured oils and vodkas, condiments, Christmas stockings.... But my favourite was one I discovered last year, a perpetual memory calendar. I made them using my own photos and put them in felt boxes I also made. Best ever gift! Thanks for the reminder, and for all of the other suggestions!

November 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

The 5H mantra should become a meme. This is a seriously brilliant guide to holiday giving for those who prize beauty, craftsmanship, the planet, helping others and giving from the heart above other things! I will pass it on and I hope others do as well.

November 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSherry

Very good analysis of the gift options for those of us that think about what we gift and the impact it has on the whole community not just on the recipient. So well written and you made it entertaining as well.
I think I need to be reading every post in your blog !

November 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBiker Bob

Thanks so much Bob. I really enjoyed writing this. I'm afraid my other posts have been few and far between, but I will try harder now that I know you are out there! ;-)

November 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterWinestains

Whatever you do is always so well thought out - your gift giving is no exception. Wonderful ideas and so well written. Thanks for the mention too!

November 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTammy

Thanks for the comments and support, Lauren, Sherry and Tammy. You certainly are three of the people who inspired the concept and I am proud and pleased to be able to support your efforts too.

November 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterWinestains

I enjoyed reading your post about One of a Kind. I thought this would interest you. I exhibit my Blue or Nothing art every year at the Christmas show. You may have seen my blue portraits on your recent visit. The show allows me to feature my new art, and also to provide an update on the various other associated products. In addition to a fashion line with L.A.'s Iron Fist, I have partnered with Legends winery in Beamsville to release a white and red "Diva" wine that features two of my images on the label. It is my contribution to the effort to raise money for Women's Place of South Niagara. I hope you have a chance to look in on the wine, which is distributed through the LCBO. If you are touring wine country, please feel free to drop into my studio/gallery in Fonthill at 26 Canboro Road. You can get more info from ... Bev

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBev Hogue

As a Niagara artisan, I'm so happy to read your spotlight on our local offerings. There is no doubt that if we stop and look around there is a wonderful and rich assortment of choices we can make to support our local 'hidden gems'. Thank you for an interesting read!

November 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathie

Thanks Bev and Kathie. It's always such a treat to "meet" new people this way!

I really appreciate all the support that this concept has been getting. Thought you might like to know that I've started a Facebook page:

A very talented graphic designer friend is working on some neat graphics for us (to replace my very amateur ones). I hope that people will "like" and share the page to keep the message front and centre - especially at this time of year.

Your continued support is most appreciated. I look forward to meeting you in person soon.

December 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterWinestains

Just thrilled to see how your 5H Giving is striking a chord. I was inspired to write a blog post about it. It's a wonderful lens through which to view giving.

December 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSherry

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