Last year: a homemade Christmas

Confession: I have trouble talking publicly about Christmas until there’s snow on the ground. This is unfortunate, and unlike my smart friend Gina, who has been doing a Christmas Countdown for weeks already. But yesterday, the magic came… and oh, does it look pretty as it falls!

snow angel

As our extended family gets bigger, the Coblentz side has decided to appoint a different couple to be in charge of our giving each year: first, Dad and Mom planned the event; the next year, my oldest brother and his wife, and so on down the line of siblings. This breaks things up, adds beautiful variety, and eliminates unhappy extended discussions about when and what and how much. (Also it gives several years of cushion time before putting my 15-year-old brother Ted in charge of things, who would undoubtedly have us all out in the woods hunting venison to donate to local soup kitchens.)

One year we pooled money to help my brother and his wife fly home from far away. Once we played A Minute to Win It and said the winner would get the money pool–secretly planning to donate it to the couple who’d been through a lot that year, and give them a vacation together.

Last year, Ryan and I brainstormed a traditional gift exchange, with one stipulation.

September 21, 2013

Dear family,

Christmas is three months away! And while I’m not into singing Jingle Bells just yet, I did want to let you know what Ryan and I have in mind, so you can start brainstorming.

I guess it’s our turn to be in charge this year. We batted around several ideas (donating money to the poor in a foreign country to buy pigs or goats or something; pooling money to do a group activity together—) and finally settled on an idea we really like.

We want to do a traditional gift exchange, with the stipulation that the gifts must be original—made, designed, or modified by the giver. Don’t panic. You don’t have to turn into a “crafty” kind of person to participate; each of you is already good at making something the rest of us aren’t, so think outside of the box and be yourself. Use your imagination, but please don’t overwork, overspend, or overstress.

You may help your child as much as you want.

I made a list of ideas to get you started thinking. Before we exchange names and send the results to you, do you have anything to say? Any curses, questions, or complaints?

Waiting to hear from you,

Ryan & Shari

Two months later, excitement was running high. Gifts were being planned and produced, secreted and stashed in every dark corner. Here’s our list of suggestions.

  • Something from wood
  • Something from yarn or fabric
    • A hat/ scarf/ wrap
    • A blanket or pillow
    • A tote bag
  • Something from nature
    • A plant start
    • A set of fossils (I’m kind of joking, but there are those among us who would love it)
    • Seeds you saved or a wreath you made
  • Something personalized
    • A framed photo
    • A photo collage
    • A mug/ mouse pad/ puzzle/ throw with a personal picture or name on it
  • Something to eat
    • A pie/ a cheesecake/ a dozen cookies
    • A jar mix (great ideas here)
    • Anything you grew or preserved
  • Original artwork or photography
  • A personal audio or video recording
  • A certificate
    • For something to do together
    • For a service you will perform
    • For a gift you will give three times next year (or twelve times, or whatever)
  • A book
    • An online photo book / memory book
    • A homemade book, made by slipping photos of your own into an album or CD case [see tutorial here]. You could make a memory book, an advice book, a grandma’s-brag-book, or a recipe book!
  • Homemade consumables
    • A personal care item like soap or body scrub—many easy recipes online
    • A set of homemade cleaning supplies
  • A handmade toy or game
    • Puppets, play-doh, blocks, doll, sock monkey
    • A piñata
    • A chess set/ checkerboard/ any other game you create

{Click here for the Printable Version–Ideas for Handmade Gifts}


Do you give handmade gifts at Christmas? How do you coordinate your extended-family holidays? I’d love to hear your ideas! Next time I post, I’ll share some specific gifts we made, with pictures.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 years ago

You had snow! My children would be so jealous.

We had a tiny amount of slushy rain yesterday and the children raided the closet, pulled out all the snow gear, ran out shouting – and were disappointed that it didn’t turn to real snow.

And I groaned at the mess they left and the reminder of what I don’t like about snow. (There is many things I DO like – just not the snow gear.)

I love homemade gifts and love your list! I think I’ll print it for future reference.

8 years ago

I so want to do this…not sure if we have time anymore to pull this off completely but I want to encourage this creative thinking…thanks for the input. I am compiling a folder for future reference..and your list made it in there!

8 years ago

We’ve done this and loved it! So fun!

Join the conversation to share your comments.x
Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: