Holiday Gift Guide: Photography, Food and Donations

Holiday Gift Guide: Photography, Food and Donations

Gifts for the Unlikely Recipient

Tis better to give than to receive!! As the holiday season once again rolls around, we are faced with the arduous task of finding the perfect gift for the perfect someone. It’s time to break the bank and rack our brains. Christmastime in my family has always been a time of sharing. Aunts, uncles and cousins join my immediate family under the tree as we exchange gifts, laughter and good food. However, as the family seems to expand, buying gifts for everyone would require a loan from the bank! The extended family decided on a “Secret Santa” so that each person would buy a single gift for one other person.

This idea has worked wonders, but eventually I began to realize that there were some people I still wanted to get a gift for. In a family as large as mine it is hard to keep track of every birthday, special occasion and call for celebration. Oftentimes, the holidays prompt me to reflect on the year gone by. A special conversation with an aunt, a meaningful visit with a cousin that was once a childhood best friend or a neighbor that I can’t get out of my mind for one reason or another are the people who often get shafted in the gift-giving ceremony, because I simply cannot afford it. I just completed graduate school and am only now beginning to establish myself in the working world, but I decided that this is no excuse. The rules of “Secret Santa” are understood, and no one expects a gift from anyone but their “Secret Santa,” but many times during the hustle and bustle of the busy year, I make a connection with someone even if it’s only for a moment, a phone call or a passing thought.

My quest this past year was to find a way to acknowledge these moments with a simple, personal and affordable gift. The beauty of these gifts is that they are not limited to the holiday season. Receipt of such a gift can brighten the dreary February snow, or cool down the August heat.

The first suggestion is photography. Everybody loves a good picture. New technology allows even the most novice photographer to produce a great shot. When you decide who you want to get a gift for, ask yourself a series of questions. Does this person have children? Do they have a pet that they absolutely adore? Do they have a favorite bench in a park? A favorite restaurant? These questions can help you determine the subject of your photo. Next you want to determine how you will capture the subject. The first thing I do is go through my photo archives. Many times I already have a great photo of a friend’s child from the days before digital cameras. What a great surprise it would be to restore an old photograph and have it framed.

Once you either find an old picture or take a new picture the fun begins. Some shots are perfect just the way they are. Others can be edited on even the most basic of computer programs for a new look. Playing around with black and white or sepia tones can give a new photo a nice vintage look. On the contrary, a vintage photo can be restored to look contemporary. When taking pictures, I like to go for a candid shot. Watching a child fly off a swing, or a dog jumping for a Frisbee captured on film can put a smile on anyone’s face.

Lastly, you want to find just the right frame and decide on a size. Some people like larger photos, while others prefer a smaller, shelf-friendly photo. What kind of frame will match their house? Most online stores, framing stores or even department stores offer a variety of frames.

A second suggestion is food. Instead of a bouquet of flowers, try a bouquet of fresh herbs. Putting together small, glass containers of tomato and mozzarella in olive oil and tied with a ribbon can look far more expensive than it is. Baking old fashion chocolate chip cookies, and creating authentic homemade packaging is really inexpensive way to show someone that you thought of them this past year.

Another gift idea is knitting. This old craft has had new life breathed into over the past year. A while back, I had asked a friend to show me how to knit. In just five minutes, I had gotten it down, and I found myself bringing it with me on the subway in New York as I commuted to work. To my surprise I was not the only one. Women, men and young children all around me were cranking out scarves, purses and mittens.

Knitting is a learned skill that takes practice and effort. However, knitting a simple scarf can be learned in minutes (although it may take some trial and error to get it just right!). Putting a little bit of thought into the recipients favorite color and knitting a scarf to match is an extremely affordable way to brighten someone’s day. Even if the scarf seems a bit lop-sided, when all is said and done, the time, effort and thought that went into the gift is warmer than the warmth any scarf can bring.

My last suggestion is giving a gift, or making a donation in someone else’s name. A former roommate did this for me one year. She made a donation to a charity in my name and presented me with a card explaining her gift. She didn’t just choose a charity at random either. I had just returned home earlier that year from volunteer missions work in Kenya, so she chose a charity representative of the work that she knew I wanted to see continued. Maybe your gift recipient is an avid animal rights activist. You can choose an appropriate charity to support a cause you know they are passionate about. Or perhaps you knit scarves, donate them to the many homeless in the city, and then make a card for someone you feel compelled to give a gift to. Tell them that you made the scarf donation in their honor. This generous act of compassion will remind anyone that it truly is better to give than to receive.

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