Making the season of giving even more meaningful…

ElenaIt’s that time of the year when my sister goes a bit crazy — crazy for Christmas, that is. It’s her very favorite time of year.

Why? Very simply, because she loves giving…In fact, her picture should be in the dictionary under the word “generosity”!

For as long as I can remember she has delighted in searching out unique and beautiful gifts that speak to the passions and interests of her family and friends. She started attending craft shows to support artists and artisans more than 20 years ago, and over the years I’ve been the lucky recipient of many of her stunning handmade finds.

As a naturally crafty person, she has also made many wonderful gifts with her own hands and creativity. To me, these kinds of gifts are meaningful, personal and stand the test of time. I treasure anything handmade or homemade because there is so much effort, thought and skill embedded in it — on other words, so much soul!

Knowing all this, I wasn’t a bit surprised when Elena shared with me her latest brainstorm: the 5H Code of Holiday Giving.

Here’s what she says on her blog:

“I realized that I’ve been slowly but steadily moving towards streamlining my gift-giving around a certain set of values. And this morning, in a twinkling, I came up with a really easy, and memorable, way to express it. I call it my 5H Code of Holiday (and year-round) Giving.”

Homemade. “I made it myself.”

Handmade. “Someone else made it themselves.”

Healthy. “Benefits physical/mental health – personal or the environment.”

Helpful. “Someone else will benefit from this.”

From Here. “Grown or made locally, or from locally owned companies.”

Get your gift labels here!
handmadehealthy helpful

from hereHer goal is to ensure that her gifts meet at least one of these criteria, and hopefully several. She argues that it’s not that hard to do, and thoroughly enjoyable.

I’ve also found myself moving in this direction in recent years — albeit more unconsciously. I love making homemade treats, spiced nuts and other goodies and sharing them with neighbours and loved ones.

As I’ve gotten into photography I’ve made more gifts using my own images — sometimes it’s postcards, or note cards or photobooks, or photo-adorned Christmas ornaments or framed photos or calendars. All so much fun to make and give.

One of my friends produces a gift selection of wonderful jams and jellies from her own kitchen every year. Her collection is always highly anticipated. And my aunt’s special chili sauce is a huge favorite around my house. My cousin is famous for coming up with cool and crafty ideas that she pours a lot of herself into.

I love going to local craft shows and church bazaars, where you can often pick up lovingly made and unique gifts just right for someone you care about. You can often cover off “homemade” “handmade” “helpful” and “from here” all at the same time.

Like many of you, at this time of year I become even more acutely aware of — and uncomfortable about — the disparities between those of us who have so much and those who, by accident of birth, have so little. Do we really need to buy and give more things that we don’t really need, just because we can have them?

I have long been drawn to gifts that help someone in addition to the giftee. For the person who has everything and does not want more stuff, I will often make a donation to a local or international charity. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders is one of the causes I currently support. These men and women are all true heroes to me — their courage and commitment to help people in the most challenging of health situations (Ebola is just one example) simply astounds me.

And then there is the environment…Buying products from local businesses can go a long way to reducing the carbon emissions involved in shipping goods long distances.

As a communications consultant in the Ontario wine industry, my sister is a strong advocate of buying VQA wine to help both the economy and the environment. And what wine lover doesn’t appreciate being introduced to a delicious new bottle of wine at Christmas? But wherever you are, the idea is to seek out local food and drink and other locally produced fare. It’s fun to get in the habit of looking at labels.

Here’s an idea. Put together a 5H basket of goodies and label each part with the appropriate “H”.

This basket was as much a joy to make as it was to receive!


Elena has set up a 5H Giving Facebook page. One of her friends, Laura Wills, a talented graphic designer, came up with the adorable illustrations.

What about you? Do you spend time thinking about where your gifts come from and who and what they benefit?

If any of this speaks to you, you may want to have a look and “like” her page. I’m excited to see so many new supporters signing on every day. It’s an idea that’s really taking off.

7 thoughts on “Making the season of giving even more meaningful…

  1. Sherry this was a fascinating post. As I was reading, I was thinking Yes.. Perhaps this was connecting for a few of us over the last many years. We just didn’t know how to label it or spread the word as eloquently as both you and your lovely sister. A few ideas to add to Her “shopping shop”. Like you we have “enough”.. But we like to keep things festive and creative. Quite a few years ago instead of piles of gifts we came up with gifts of “time spent”. With life being so busy this seemed a good way to connect during the year. It started as a one year project but continues even now and we have included the little guys in this tradition. Example, last year my son gave me homemade gift certificates for a day in Cambridge. Going to Harvard book store( the Coop) a gc for the store and then lunch at our favorite Jewish deli. What a delightful day to look forward to with just my son. We all share in this and we are all always surprised by the effort and energy that goes into planning “time spent”. We all love photography gifts. Gifts of local, fresh tea leaves from
    A tiny tea shop in Boston. I knit year long for the Navajo nation in Kayenta Arizona, a place that lives in my heart. This year we start a new gift giving idea.. 4 gifts something you want , something you need, something to wear and something to read. All of which could easily be filled by the criteria in Elana’s baskets. Oh my, you have my head spinning. Lol. But I love this idea. Least we forget though, Santa still makes an appearance here but I’ll send him your note and we’ll see how flexible he can be.
    Thanks Sherry and thank your sister for firing me up. Honestly, I needed this today. Cheers.

  2. Well, what an inspiration!!! I love the 5 H’s as a standard for gift-giving- the more H’s the better! Fantastic post!

  3. Some wonderful ideas here and what a lovely and inspirational sister you have! I do bake many gifts and also try to support local small businesses, plus I knit some simple scarves for a women’s shelter in our area (someday I’ll learn to knit better!). Etsy is also a wonderful site for handmade gifts and I have placed a few orders and have been very happy with the quality of the items. Now that my boys are grown, our Christmas is a much simpler holiday and I appreciate it so much more for that! Enjoy the spirit of giving, Sherry…you give so much pleasure here on your beautiful blog…a truly wonderful gift to all of us!

  4. I remember copying the 5 H list from your blog last year. I love it! It’s an idea that I have been adhering to for some years now! My homemade gifts this year are crocheted items, including lavender bags, homemade coffee liqueur and homemade jams! All made with love! Homemade gifts are also the ones I most appreciate receiving too!
    Your lovely sister sounds like an inspiration to others!
    Happy Christmas preparations!

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