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.