The Real Value of Homemade Gifts

By , December 19, 2012

The phrase “homemade gift” can strike fear into the stoutest of hearts. We all act as if they are a good thing, but if hard pressed, relatively few people honestly want to receive, or to make homemade gifts. I think we see them as requiring more talent and effort on the giver’s part, and more grace on the receiver’s part, than most of us feel we possess. Even so, I’m a fan of giving and receiving homemade gifts, as long as there’s no requirement to do either.

I firmly believe that homemade gifts are best when voluntary rather than compulsive. We give gifts without placing restrictions on them; if an item is needed or wanted, we procure it if we can. If it can be made ourselves, that’s excellent, but it doesn’t have to be homemade.

While every Zeiger family Christmas includes some homemade presents, certain gifts stand out more than others, such as the year I built Aly a working toy trebuchet. At the end of that essay I touched on what I see as the real value of homemade gifts, but I didn’t expand on it. My gifts to Aly this year show promise of being particularly special, and as I worked on them I thought more about this value.

Simply put, making gifts connects the giver and the receiver more than a purchased gift could.

Most of us have experienced the joy of finding the perfect gift for a loved one. An appropriate gift, found at a bargain price, can be wonderful. The anticipation of seeing the person receive the gift is keenly felt, and should not be discounted.

However, a person who comes up with an idea for a good homemade gift for a loved one, plans the process, and executes it, spends all of this time and effort for the receiver. Necessarily, the person the gift is intended for—created for, as that term cannot be emphasized enough here—is central to the giver’s thoughts, hopes, and concern throughout the creative process. The act of making a homemade gift is a meditation on the loved one destined to receive it.

This is why making homemade gifts gives me such joy. Even in the darkest moments, when the materials have been cut incorrectly, or a bad slip has damaged a perfect piece, or the glue or paint dries too quickly, too slowly, or not at all, every moment of it is for the benefit of someone I love. The person to receive the gift becomes a constant presence. I find myself barely able to stand waiting for Christmas morning, when I can give the gift, and share the experience of making it: the inspiration of it, the stories of success and failure, tidbits of information I’ve learned along the way about the object’s history and use. I really believe that the person giving a homemade gift benefits more than the person receiving it. Which may be why I do my utmost to make the gift as well as I can.

Making gifts for Aly has been even better since she went away to college. The downside of making gifts, for me, is the necessity of secrecy, the need to seperate myself from the receiver to accomplish the work. This year, I managed to finish my projects before Aly arrived home. Every moment of working on the gifts brought me closer to her at a time when we were unavoidably absent from each other. I didn’t have to tear myself away from her to finish the job! That’s taught me the importance of planning these things well.

And, what is this mysterious gift that I created this year? It may surprise you. It must surprise Aly; since she uses this blog as her homepage, you’ll just have to wait till after Christmas to find out.

You will find a version of the essay above, as well as writing on similar and related topics in Sacred Coffee: A “Homesteader’s” Paradigm by Mark A. Zeiger, available in print, eBook, and audiobook editions. The published version will likely be expanded, clarified, or updated from what you have just read.

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