Photo credit: Hillary Ungson / Unsplash

Generosity and goodwill are the original sentiments of Christmas, but today’s culture resembles a different interpretation—deeply influenced by convenience and incentive. Last-minute shoppers join the foray alongside bargain-seekers in the countdown to Christmas. Our priorities for shopping (in-store or online) maybe to save time or snag a bargain on the latest and greatest. So, it would seem counterintuitive to craft your own gifts especially, if your to-do list is already full with deadlines, decorations, and dinners…but what are we trading for this convenience?

Entering a retailers realm in a rushed and overwhelmed state we are more suseptible to buying more than we need, things like food that will go to waste, throw-away wrapping, gifts destined to be returned—all things which bely our intentions for a thoughtful, happy Christmas.

Creating your own gifts is infinitely more rewarding for what it offers in return.

In the book Digital Minimlism, author Cal Newport describes the Renaissance of Leisure—emphasising activities which restore our sense of satisfaction, joy, and thoughtful engagement as a potent means for living a focused life in a noisy world. Newport cites the most beneficial pastimes as those which involve skill and ingenuity, creativity and pleasure (ex. tactile crafts and hobbies, detail-oriented or mildly challenging projects). He also recommends making a habit of scheduling our leisure activities into seasonal and weekly plans. Despite the structured nature of this approach, the peace of mind from a little forethought is well worth it. Finding pleasure in the process of doing things which excite and engage us, also buffers the stress of Christmas in unexpected ways.

Directing our focus towards crafting truly unique gifts allows us to dictate how and where we spend our time and attention, but it also reduces stress and waste—replacing them with novelty and joy. Why relenquish your sanity and serenity to the shopping scene, when you could spend an afternoon tinkering (choose a simple craft build or DIY project that won’t overwhelm or frustrate you, YOUTUBE has loads of instructional videos to get you started). Or you could head outdoors, foraging for decorations or wild ingredients (research the area for laws prohibiting local harvesting and use a guide to safe foraging).

Producing artistic, thoughtful gifts can be theraputic too! Solitary activities where you can be alone with your thoughts such as, sketching, painting, or photography result in unique, personalised gifts and provide a welcomed respite from the crowds and chaos of Christmas.

Here are a few simple projects which also make great gifts…

If you love the idea of a creative Christmas but still struggle to set-aside time for making things from scratch, consider a more conscious approach to your shopping. You can add touches of originality and sustainablity to any shop-baught gift by giving thought to the following…

  • Make the packaging part of the gift. Plastic containers and wrapping generate waste for the person you are giffting and add to the burden we place on this planet. A better alternative is to look for glass, wood, pottery, fabric, edible or other artistic vessels which can be consumed, reused, repurposed or has keepsake value.
  • Add a personal touch. Even bespoke or artisan products can be made more personal and purposeful by adding little touches. For example, include a family recipe for a homemade version of any edible gifts—encouring the recipient to reuse the wares they came in. Create a bookmark or write a short story/poem to slip inside the best-seller you baught them.
  • Share a Tradition. A common property of high-quality leisure is its ability to support rich social interactions, say’s Newport. Find something you both enjoy or share an intrest in and make it part of a festive tradition. This works well for hobbies like craft beer or mixology (brew and bottle your own spirits to share at Christmas or hold a merry mix-off for everyone to enjoy), photography (make a book filled with your best photos, tips, tools, locations… or hold a photo contest, frame your best shot and exchange them as gifts), gardening (swop seeds or take turns hosting a homegrown feast celebrating your harvest).
  • Tailor a Subscription. This works for digital and delivered goods and services with many app and box subscriptions catering to foodies, athletes, crafters and everyother kind of connoisseur. Adobe Creative Cloud is an imaginuarium for artists, complete with tools and tutorials that can be tailored as monthly or annual subscriptions to include one or all applications. Bibliophiles will delight in receiving custom printed, themed collections of classic books and short stories four times a year with a subscription to the Mouse Book Club. Give someone the attention they deserve with a subscription to Waking Up, an online meditation course by neuroscientist and best-selling author, Sam Harris—a truly thoughtful gift for those stress-out by the season.
  • Be smart about sales. The longevity of a gift is more valuable than the temptation of a bargain. Choose timeless over trendy, durable over discounted, local over imported (fast fashion is a good example of the diminishing qualities often associated with a sale). If a new wardrobe is on your wish list there are some great companies embracing a circular approach to clothing. Some brands provide a repair service for their customers, extending the life of their already well-crafted apparel. Patagonia also recraft worn wear into new fashion—rescuing fabric from landfill with the help of their patrons. Threads 4 Thought is another outfitter focused on reducing waste, giving-back, and empowering their customers.
  • Spread Goodwill with your Gifts. Choosing a gift which supports a cause or community is a good reason to eskew sales and pay more. When we present a loved one with a gift of greater impact, we spread the joy of goodwill and enrich the experience of giving! Foodies would love a hamper filled with ‘Life-Changing’ coconut products from Niulife. Wildlife advocates will adore the charity book series Remebering Wildlife, featuring gorgeous images from the world’s best wildlife photographers including Steve Winter, Art Wolfe, Frans Lanting, Brent Stirton, Tim Laman and Jonathan & Angela Scott.

Restoring the sentiments of Christmas through the satisfaction of craft.

What better time of year than Christmas, to slow down and take stock in the things which bring us joy and fulfilment? However, the reality is that we shuffle and schedule time with little attention to its true value—rarely acknowledging the importance of restorative pursuits.

By assuming there is too little time for high-quality leisure, we trade our wellbeing, creativity, and sense of satisfaction. As a result of allowing our focus to be hijacked by the noise of a digital culture and the demands of our work, we continue to accumulate stress and waste.

So, when you consider what craft can do to restore your spirit and the sentiments of Christmas—is’nt that worth making time for?