This year, for the first time instead of just asking "What are we going to get for so and so?" I find myself asking, "What can I make for Sam? What can I make for Emmett?" desiring that the gift I give be a part of me, require something of me, have memories intertwined in the giving, not just a click of the mouse from Amazon (though that definitely is part of my gift-giving as well). In adding new family members into the giving circle, I'm dying to make something for my future mother-in-law, searching for something I can make that my future sister-in-law would like.
The tradition stems back to when I was a kid, tracing a red heart on a pillow with "Dad" printed inside in fabric marker. Dipping wicks back and forth between big pans of paraffin and crayon wax on the stove to make layered tapered candles. In fact, it goes further back than that. My parents married young and poor, and decided that since there was no extra money, even at Christmastime, that they would exchange gifts that they had made for one another. And so, every Christmas I remember, we made a gift for each family member along with a purchased gift. I have not always loved this tradition. In fact, there were fits of frustration trying to come up with ideas and implementing them. There were overly gracious "Thank you!"s as mom opened up a few hideous handmade gifts. This was the way it was every year until not so long ago, my brother and I begged that the requirement be lifted, and it was.
Handmade Christmas is no longer required in my family, but still shows up often in our exchanges. This is the first year that I recognize our tradition's imprint on my life so deeply, and I am thankful for it. It may be because I'm confronted with how another family "does" Christmas that helps me recognize my strong convictions about meaningful gifts. Or perhaps growing older and wiser in financial management as well as world impacting issues (like water, for example), I am disgusted by our scrambled shopping and exchange of mere stuff. As I reflect on why I feel such strong impulse for the handmade, I recognize that deepening relationships require something of us, part of ourselves sewn into the fabric of what the very relationship is. So the investment of myself into the gift mirrors the investment and pouring of myself into the relationship. After all, God gave his very self to us at Christmas.