A little while ago, I was reading a status update on Facebook written by someone that is broke this year. She doesn't have the money to buy gifts for her family and friends, and you could read the sadness in what she wrote. I've been in that position before, and I've had past Yules that were really financially difficult. Yule (or whatever Holiday you observe this time of year) can be an expensive proposition. And these past couple years have been some difficult years for many people.
I sent the author of that status update a suggestion, and I thought I would share that suggestion with some additional information in an essay here on Facebook for others that may be struggling this year.
A gift can be many things. It does not have to be a somewhat impersonal commercial product that you have spent money on. The old cliche of "it is the thought that counts," is one of those cliches that are absolutely true. Showing your friendship or love for another person is a gift. Doing a favor for someone without them having to ask can be a gift. Something handmade can be a gift. And expressing how important someone is to you can be a gift.
GIVING SOMETHING YOU ALREADY OWN
I'm not talking about "regifting" here. I'm also not talking about taking some random item off a shelf and giving it to someone. And I am definitely not talking about gving away something you don't like, and never wanted.
It is important when you give someone something you already own, that it is something they will truly enjoy. Sometimes you own something that one of your family members or friends seems to like even more than you do. Perhaps you noticed their excitement when they saw you owned this item. Perhaps they even expressed some envy regarding the item. That is the perfect sort of thing to give to them from among your possessions.
Perhaps it is an old rare book you own. Or a specific Thor's hammer necklace. Maybe its is an axe, a knife, a statue of one of our Gods, a tool, a banner, a framed picture...whatever the item is, you are giving it because you know they will appreciate the item more than you do. You may like the item quite a bit, but you know that they will cherish it more than you, and so you give it freely.
This sort of gift takes some thought, but the right gift from among your possessions will express your generosity and love toward your friend or loved one.
AN UNEXPECTED FAVOR
Giving of your time and effort to perform a favor for a friend shows them how you feel about them. When this favor is unexpected the gift is even more meaningful. Everyone you know could use some help now and again.
Perhaps they have a room that needs painting, but they've been procratinating it. Or their backyard or garage is an absolute mess, and they haven't had time to tackle the clean-up effort. Maybe they have a number of children, but can never find babysitters so they can have some time alone with their spouse. The possibilities are endless, but it takes some insight and thought to choose the correct favor to do for a friend or loved one.
When you've decided on a favor, you can offer it verbally or with some sort of home-made certificate. People are not used to receiving favors in this way, so be ready for the receiver of the gift to say, "Oh, you don't need to do that...that's too much." If they say this, insist that not only are you willing to do the favor, but you want to do the favor for them and it is important to you.
Some favors you can just do...as a surprise. There is nothing like having something completely done for you and it only being revealed to you after the fact. Of course, you need to be sure that whatever you do for the person is something they actually want done!
CREATE SOMETHING WITH YOUR OWN HANDS
Handmade gifts are filled with your time, your effort, and your skill. You can put more meaning into a handmade gift by making it something specifically aimed at the interests or needs of the person to whom you are giving the handmade gift.
A drawing, a poem, a painting, something knitted, beaded jewelry, a carving, wood-burning, and leather-working are all wonderful gifts when made with your own hands. But, you can also give cookies, candy, special breads, or other foods made in your own kitchen. Some of the best gifts I've been given have been simple handmade gifts.
EXPRESSING HOW YOU FEEL
A true exression of how you feel can be an enormously meaningful gift. Basically, sit down and take the time to write individual letters to each of your family, your friends, and your loved-ones. Tell them exactly how you feel about them. Tell them what you love about them. Tell them their strengths. Tell them moments you always think about from your past with them.
Don't blow smoke. Write TRUE words, and heartfelt words, and give that as your gift to each of them. You can write this on a piece of notebook paper, stationary, or even handmade paper. Once it is written you can do something as simple as folding it up to give it to them, or you can package it up in a hand-decorated envelope.
This is a gift that will floor each and every one of them, and if you pour your heart and soul into those letters, you won't feel any shame or guilt for not having the money to buy them something.
IT IS NOT ABOUT MONEY
Money's been tight the past couple years, but the giving of gifts during Yule is not about Money. It is about puting into action the fondness and frith we share with our friends and loved ones. It is about expressing their importance to us, by giving them a heartfelt and thoughtful gift. So, if you are short of money this year...don't get down about not being able to buy a commercial gift. Just get to work, and give something even better than a commercial gift.
Mark Ludwig Stinson
Jotun's Bane Kindred
Temole of Our Heathen Gods