A list of gifts you can make for Christmas or any occasion
There are many types of gifts you can make to give friends and family at Christmas. Some require planning and work well in advance, others can be made more quickly. Either way you go, giving a gift that you’ve made is priceless and has so much more meaning than picking out something at a store. It shows a loved one that you care enough about them to give something of yourself to them, like your time, effort, and thought.
Baked items are always wonderful to give people, and I’ve made a tradition of this for the past 20 years. You can bake a variety of cookies, cakes, and fudge or just one of those items and put them in a number of festive containers to give as gifts. Some of the containers I’ve used are traditional Christmas tins, baskets, bowls, and plates. You can even use foam or plastic plates that have Christmas themes on them.
My favorite is a glass Christmas platter that you can usually buy very cheap at a dollar store. A platter allows you to arrange many different samples of baked goods in a scrumptious and beautiful way, and the platter itself is a gift that a person can use the following year. One year I found some very pretty glass platters for a dollar, and I placed an array of different cookies, fudge, sliced cake, and sugared pecans on each one. They were gorgeous, unique, and incredibly yummy.
Baskets filled with goodies are also nice. In the past I’ve taken baskets that I already had around the house, washed and dried them, and then spray painted them red, green or gold to make them look more festive. You have to air the baskets out till they don't smell like paint, then line them with wax paper, and wrap the food in plastic wrap before putting them in the basket. All that’s left is to add a bow and give it to someone you love.
The great thing is you can personalize these types of gifts for different people. For example, one of my friends loves snowball cookies, so I usually give him a basket full of snowball cookies. Other friends favor fudge, so I give them tins of fudge. For those who like a variety, I buy Christmas platters, plates or bowls and put in a little bit of everything I’ve baked. You can actually get by with only baking one or two cakes if you slice them and divide the slices among a number of platters along with a few other baked things, like cookies or fudge. It’s the same with cookies. If you bake 4 or 5 different types of cookies, you can create plates or platters that have a little bit of each, and it looks great and goes a very long way. There have been years where I only baked a variety of cookies and that works nicely too.
If baking isn’t your thing, but you have friends who do like to bake, then making vanilla extract and putting it in a decorative bottle is very nice. Making flavored olive oil is beautiful and tasty, and if you have friends who enjoy hot, spicy foods, then a bottle of hot vinegar would be yet another good choice, and it’s very easy to make.
To make hot vinegar, you simply clean and sterilize a bottle that comes with a cap, cork or lid, and then put in some whole, fresh hot peppers. Slender, short ones work best, and it’s up to you how many to use along with color selection. It’s nice to use red ones although a combination of green and red is nice too. The final step is to boil some white vinegar, then pour it in the bottles with the hot peppers. After the bottles are cool, cap them, tie a ribbon around the neck, and your gift is ready. If you want to get fancier, you can make your own label to put on the bottle. Clear bottles make the prettiest hot vinegar gifts because you can see the colored peppers.
Gifts in a jar or mug are always a big hit. They are very attractive and also handy to have in the pantry for a quick treat. You simply need to buy a mason jars with lids and rings or large mugs and assemble the ingredients in the jars or mugs for the recipe of your choice. A recipe card is generally included, and all a person needs to do is follow the instructions. I found a great site called craftbits.com that has recipes for making gifts in jars ranging from brownie mix and banana pudding to hot chocolate and hearty bean soup.
For those of you who know how to knit or crochet, a homemade afghan throw or a winter scarf is always a nice gift. There have been years when I made an afghan for everyone in my family, and I’ve always personalized each one according to their favorite colors or the colors they have in their home. An expert can probably work these up very fast, but since knitting and crocheting aren’t activities that I do regularly, it can take me a week or two to make a throw.
If you enjoy sewing, then a handmade quilt is a lovely gift, and you don't need to make a large one. Quilts can be made from any fabric you already have at home, like old clothes, and you can make one the size of a throw. I made a throw sized one for a teenager years ago with a Pokemon theme because that is what she loved at the time. She loved it. You can be very creative and personalize a quilt in so many different ways.
Basically, anything that you know how to make yourself will make a wonderful gift for someone at Christmas. If you’re good at propagating plants, plan to do some of this well in advance of Christmas with your own plants and give potted plants to your loved ones. If you enjoy writing poetry, write a poem to a loved one and frame it for a gift. Taking the time to make gifts will be much more appreciated by the loved ones receiving them because the gifts you make are a part of you.
Robert Sloan recently published a hub worth reading, 2008 -- Year Without Holiday Cheer?, which is a beautiful reflection about how important it is to spend time during the holidays with family engaging in simple pleasures, like stringing popcorn or making homemade wreaths out of magazines. I identified with this because of my own experience with simple traditions that mean so much, like baking cookies with my daughter at Christmas.