armchair cultural observation since 1995

Article: Holiday giving guide

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Channakuh, Kwanza, Festivus, all four or none of the above, the holiday shopping season is here.

And with it comes the always stressful decision-making of what to buy, make, re-gift or not give at all. We asked some of our astute readers and contributors to share their gift-giving ideas and advice for the holiday season. Feel free to chime in with your own in the comments below.

Just try to remember that the holiday season is not about getting lots of cool stuff, petty politically charged battles over rhetoric or pulling your hair out from stress.

It’s about spending quality time with the people you love and sharing with friends, family and strangers a genuine non-commercialized/non-politicized message of hope, peace and love.


A “New Jersey survival kit.”
The kit will include the first book of Weird New Jersey in paperback, CDs of Frank Sinatra and Bruce Springsteen, a t-shirt from the World Series Philly win, some delicious local-made chocolates (and relatively inexpensive, at that) from a candy shop in Haddonfield a box of Tastykakes. –Erin Boyle


Heifer International and personalized gifts
Click HERE for information on Heifer, an organization that enables you to give animals and training to needy people around the world.

I fully believe you can never go wrong with personal photos, especially put together in some way that required thought. Another free/nearly free options – volunteering to babysit for friends with kids so the parents can have a date night, making personalized mix CDs. -Ann Davis


Dog rescue donations, homemade calendars and stockings
Last year, I sent a letter along with my christmas cards asking people to donate to the dog rescue where I work. Not necessarily money (although that always helps), but we also need things such as paper towels, dog toys, towels & blankets, frontline or heartgard, or office supplies like paper.

Also one year I made homemade calendars for my family members with all our relatives birthdays so they would remember to send cards to each other. I also added dates such as “national accordion day” or “take your dog to work day” to make it fun to look at.

This year for Jared’s side of the family, I had the idea to get together and make Christmas stockings. We’d buy them from the dollar store, then decorate one to give to someone else in the family. Like, I would decorate one and give it to Jared’s sister. Jared’s sister would decorate one and give it to her dad. That’s a pretty inexpensive gift, memorable and creates family time
together. -Heather Hatt McDonald


Craft blogs, Etsy and Art Shop
My suggestion if they want to be uber-crafty is to check out blogs like Craft: or Whip Up, both of which promote what other crafty folk are creating (most often with a tutorial!) and get inspired. Or buy gifts via Etsy or at local craft shows (Art Shop in Philly!).
-Courtney Jones


Ten Thousand Villages, nets and a Butt
If you’re looking for a unique gift that can have a direct impact on someone in the third world, look no further than 10,000 Villages. If you don’t have a store in your area (Louisville has Just Creations) be on the look-out for special sales colleges, churches, schools or other groups in your area might be holding. Mosquito nets also make great gifts – for people in areas where malaria is a frequent killer. Consider donating a $10 net through the Nothing But Nets campaign in lieu of a gift to a loved one. For fun, you might also want to check out Butt Drugs, a drug store near where I live in Corydon, Ind. I bought my brother one of their I (Heart) Butt Drugs T-shirts last year. I think it’s pretty funny because, well, I’m immature like that. -Matt Ralph

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  1. As one of the oldest and largest nonprofit fair trade retailers, Ten Thousand Villages strives to improve the livelihood of tens of thousands of disadvantaged artisans in 37 countries by establishing a sustainable market for handmade products in North America.
    As a nonprofit, we achieve this mission by building long term buying relationships in places where skilled artisan partners lack opportunities for stable income. Product sales help pay for food, education, healthcare and housing for artisans who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed.
    Our commitment to support artisans around the globe is strengthened through fair trade compensation practices including cash advances and prompt payments. More than 60 years later, and as the company continues to grow, Ten Thousand Villages has become increasingly conscious of the need to marry the concept of fair trade with healthy and environmentally sustainable business practices.

    Today, Ten Thousand Villages continues to carry out a conscious approach toward minimizing an environmental impact. From store operations to product selection to marketing practices, Ten Thousand Villages strives to meet the “triple bottom line” of economic, environmental and social sustainability.

    Visit http://www.tenthousandvillages.com to purchase fairly made products from around the globe.

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