Sunday, December 23, 2012

Solstice Gifts


The storms abated and we were treated to a calm, at times starlit Long Dance, though oddly not peaceful. The energy was definitely a little swirly and scattered. Perhaps that was a sign of the shift that may have occurred...who knows.

No matter, it was a fun night and now we're in the busy midst of Christmas preparations; packing, cleaning, baking, measuring out presents.

Heather was asking on her log a little while back what her readers did for presents. Shop local, mall, make, or not participate at all?

It got me thinking about how our family's Christmas gift tradition, or actually gift tradition in general has shaped up (though I didn't get around to actually answering in the comments, sorry Heather.)...

C. and I don't really much care for official celebrations, it seems. Once I got to thinking about it, I actually discovered that we're shockingly cavalier about gift-giving on special occasions. Neither of us really remembers exactly the dates of our first meeting, first kiss, or well, either of our two wedding anniversaries. We don't celebrate these dates, and definitely do not do anything romantic and teddybear packed on Valentine's day. We typically don't give gifts on birthdays and frankly, not that often on Christmas either.

However, that doesn't mean that we don't give each other gifts. We do. All the time.
When one of us goes off Island without the other, we typically bring home Thai-food take-out, something that 's a real treat out here. We get each other things from the Dump, the thrift store, the woods. In fact, now that I think about it, rarely a couple of weeks go by without one of us walking in through the door and saying "I got you a present!" Sometimes it's a grapefruit from the store, sometimes it's jewelry, or glue, or a cool stick, sometimes something big and ostentatious.

The point is, after a few years of marriage I feel hardly any pressure around this otherwise pressure-filled season to get my husband the gift that really makes it clear how much I love him.

Which is great, because frankly, I find the gift-giving emphasis of this season utterly out of control and perverted by consumerist culture. I think we all know the ins and outs of it all too well: "If you love your family you'll want to give them the perfect celebration." That means gifts, perfect food, perfectly fun family time.

And of course we all know the many ironies of feeling like love equals stuff. How most of us already have plenty of things, homes stuffed full in fact, yet we feel obligated to add to that during this celebration. Frankly, if I receive one more well-meaning knick-knack, I might just scream, if it wasn't considered a kind of a faux pas in polite society.
This season though, the few gifts we've received have been great, perfect, in fact.  They're just what we wanted and what we're giving to others. Our friends gave us (and I imagined many other friends) homemade granola (and a candy cane; ). My secret Solstice gift was some home mixed tea and an infuser.
Food is an awesome gift. Everyone eats food and something like granola is easy to make in big batches and most people have their own special recipe, so even if the person you're gifting it to makes their own, it's not going to be the same. Like our friend's granola, turns out, is way better than mine. Such a good gift. Spiced vinegars, roasted nuts, or pumpkin seeds, dried berries, jams, elixirs, ketchup, mustard, teas, spices...the list of foodstuffs you could gift is endless and I guarantee you that their recipients will be thrilled.
Handmade gifts are another sure hit, but a lot more work in some ways. It takes time to make a number of unique, beautiful hand-wrought things, but we make giftable foodstuffs often and it's not that much more of a bother to take the operation larger scale.  This year for instance, we made a bunch of mustard for gifts, along with spices and some other foodstuffs, which I shall not mention just in case some of the recipients happen to read this entry.
Another gift that I was frankly thrilled to bits about was that a friend got me a set of scraping spatulas. I've been bitching about losing my only one (which was a Solstice gift too) for months, but I only ever remember that I need them when I need them, not when I'm in the store. It's a really simple every day thing that I could have bought for myself, but it made me so happy that my friend remembered that was what I needed and got them for me. I've been saying for a while that really the only things I need are super simple things like a good whisk, or hair ties and wouldn't it be nice if whoever felt like they had to get me present got me one of those things? Then I got my spatulas. Perfect gift? Yes.

Speaking of perfect gifts though, we did end up giving each other Solstice presents this year and they were both handmade and super special. At the behest of our carver friend, I made C. a pouch to keep a Tlingit chief's Raven rattle he carved in. No biggie right? Well except that I made it out of a deer hide I tanned with my own two hands this summer, lined it with scraps of a Pendleton blanket and added some Sami-style felt accents.
So naturally, after I presented C. with this pouch, he felt compelled to make me something special. Having no gift exchange tradition, I didn't really expect that, so I lo and behold if I wasn't just as surprised when he gifted me with this little medicine pouch the next day. It's also made from brain-tanned buckskin and has a little accent of red felt and an antler button.
While this years presents have been perfect and plentiful, I'd be just as happy without any, so long as I'm surrounded by people who give their love freely. So if you're feeling any last minute gift pressure, just remember that gifts are sweet, but nice words and hugs are sweeter.

Merry Christmas Everyone! Hauskaa Joulua! All my love!

Ps. Finnish Christmas is tomorrow and we'll be celebrating with my family here and then we'll be off for our celebration with C.'s family, so I'll see you on the other side.
Pps. Don't forget to get in on your Solstice gift giveaway. 


  1. i'm so glad you posted this! i had an odd "you should have sent me a present moment" with someone just yesterday, and it really threw me off guard. i don't really feel that i can share too many details here, out of respect for this other woman - who i love very much. anyway, i am so grateful for all the gifts that have been sent to my home - most of them for asher. this particular season is coming at an odd personal time for me, and so gifts are doubly weird - what do they mean? why do we give them? and so on.

    sadie rose

  2. So true! Food & useful things are my favourite gifts, too.
    Happy Christmas to you.

  3. haha, reading this after wrapping dozens of presents (i help my pops out every year with his selections and wrapping) and admiring the heap of wrapped goodies under our warmly lit tree this late christmas eve eve. every year we say we are going to scale down but it is just too dang fun to get each other little things we want. they are mostly of the spatula-scraper variety, mind you, yet stuff nonetheless! it's been such an exciting tradition since i was little, the whole christmas-morning-extravaganza, that i embark upon it with utter glee, i must admit. as an adult, much more so the giving than receiving, this year i am particularly excited for darin to open my gifts for him (a couple films he enjoys, etc...) and to show lucy a couple fun things we got her. the whole family gathers here at our house so that's the true excitement. it is always a chaotic, joyful, loud, hilarious day. i loved seeing your beautiful gifts, especially yours and c's pouches to each other. your approach to gift giving and receiving is wise indeed my friend. much love and contentment to you these sweet winter days and nights. that picture of your two sleeping kitties on your coziest couch absolutely made my night.

  4. "Food is an awesome gift." So true ;)

    Merry Christmas to you and your loved ones x

  5. Happy Christmas to you and yours Milla. Your blog and all the tales of your life on the Island have been a joy to read all year long, thank you so much for sharing. xo

  6. i adore gift giving and i especially love receiving the thoughtful and lovingly home made variety of offering,
    the financial stress surrounding christmas and everything it supposedly takes to create the so-called perfect day is ridiculous. we are continuously bombarded with adverts for toys, perfumes, designer this and that along with a multitude of cookery programmes portraying a lifestyle that someone somewhere wants to sell. and then boxing day arrives and so do the crowds hitting the many people jostling in the perpetual quest to aquire more stuff..and all the better at a bargain price.
    i dont consider myself a christian, but somewhere along the line the spirit and meaning of christmas got lost when shops became our churches and money became our god.

    just to add,
    i dont see myself as humbuggy at all, but i cherish time spent with those i love more than any last minute bought trinkets.

    humbuggy, no. ungrateful, maybe

    a glorious end of year to you, milla!

  7. Hey precious girl! I am so proud of that bag you made, I told my husband all about it. I looooooove gift giving at Christmas....but more than that I LOVE that everyone gets together and the streets are empty except for the kids on scooters and bikes....and we get to eat a tonne of good food with family. My happiest thoughts of this time of year are the family visits. my memories are full of cousins and beaches and barbeques, and I'm so happy my children are going to share these same experiences. of course one shouldn't need "Christmas" to achieve it, but i suppose it's fortuitous that it's Summertime so also our big school and work break time - statutory holidays and alot of places close down for a couple of weeks forcing us all to spend time together in this brief sojourn ;) i was really nervous this year pursuing gifts for my children that were educational and creative. It meant that they weren't getting what is advertised or popular (ie. what they wanted) - but you know what, it's good for them dammit and they like making stuff, and it's growing their brains and hearts. I couldn't give them rubbishy hoopla without feeling extremely disappointed in myself and sorry for them (and landfill). Your tradition is beautiful, and thanks for sharing it, for you've shared love by doing so. xoxo

  8. the bag you made is awesome! and rubber spatula's are one of my most used utensils. i too love receiving pratical gifts. this year i got some new sheets, yay!
    ruben and don't give gifts usually except on mother's and father's day (the kids enjoy making and buying gifts on those days) it's nice to not feel that pressure with each other. this year was the most stress free, relaxing, un-busy december/christmas i've ever had. the gifts for the kids were few and i made a couple things for family members but overall i didn't caught up in the consumerism of christmas which was a breath of fresh air! i made a yummy christmas eve dinner which was my gift to my family :D don't get wrong, i love buying/making things for friends and family but this year funds were low and i'm grateful for the experience.

    i hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable day!

    ps- love what cloudgathererholdmedown said "somewhere along the line the spirit and meaning of christmas got lost when shops became our churches and money became our god."

  9. Myöhästyneet hyvän joulun toivotukset:-) Ja terveiset metsästä hiihtoretkeltä. Hiihdin lammen jäällä ja seurailin ketun jälkiä.

  10. so perfect, your time would be my most perfect of 'christmas'. the older i get the more removed i have become from the kind of christmas' my family loves to celebrate...they make a big thing out of it with gifts, meal etc while deep in my heart i wish for one so much more simple, a 'my' king of celebration. i dont think i can withdraw feom it without causing upset within my family but i think next year i will make some subtle changes of my own...thank you for the inspiration :)

  11. i have a very odd relationship with this time of year. i despise the main stream christmas idea and really work hard to make it special for my son without allowing gift giving to be important. i agree handmade gifts and food are the very best gifts. mostly though i want him to understand that gifts have nothing to do with the celebration of winter solstice. it's a fine line to walk sometimes with the entire world caught up in the american christmas insanity. that's when i wish i lived on an island! well actually i would always love to live on an island but you get what i'm saying. your celebration is exactly my cup of tea:)

  12. Aw, you guys are just the best :)