Over the past several years, Federalist readers have followed my evolution on Christmas gifts and decorations as well as reorienting my personal “supply chain” more towards makers who share my values and do more satisfying, higher-quality work than available at big retailers. It was a delight just a few weeks ago to visit a local potter to buy some of her work for gifts and discover that we both hate buying things made by slaves in China (or anywhere else).
This year, as you’re aware if you connect to the internet or consumer culture in any way, retailers are pushing people to buy more and earlier. Don’t you know, supply chains are a mess? Yes, we know. But in fact, since the shocks of 2020 and following, my supply chain has been getting a lot better. We’ve reoriented our family habits to buy more locally and from smaller, handpicked creatives, which not incidentally provides better nutrition to us and more economic fortifications for the way of life we want preserved in our nation.
We’re also opting for less mass consumption this Christmas to make way for more enjoyment of each other and our vibrant church community. This means I’ve already mostly bought the fewer and better presents I need, mostly from some of these wonderful folks I’m about to share in case you also want to use the promptings of the last several years of societal stampedes to strengthen your own family economy and habits.
When I wanted to buy several gifts for important occasions recently, I emailed the abovementioned earlier potter, whom I met at a local farmer’s market this summer. She wasn’t doing more shows this year, she said, but she would let me and some friends come by her house and look at her wares. It was an impromptu pop-up shop, just for us. What a treat! Along the way I learned more about how people locally color-match their historic homes.
You can do this, too. Our farmer’s market features many local creatives. Many locales continue their farmer’s markets in the winter. Or, as I did, you can collect people’s cards for later use when it’s time to buy someone a gift. As a side benefit, I love the personal relationships and interactions this allows me to form with people in my community.
Experience Gifts and Memberships
My top recommendations for online communities for men and women, respectively, are still The Masculinist and Simply Convivial. A gift of membership to either one would be perfect for someone in your life who could use encouragement and high-quality guidance in his or her masculine or feminine gifts. Both have different membership tiers and price points. For a homeschool mom — and there are many more of those now — also highly recommended is Schole Sisters.
For children, I bought mine a Lily and Thistle Watercolor School membership this summer for some fun family time. It’s a good basic introduction to watercolors and a way to enjoy family time together, although if you are a serious artist it will be pretty basic and lacks the underlying drawing instruction that is useful for advanced watercolor. For absolute beginners and younger children, though, it’s a great entry-level entree to quality family time.
Some of my kids really enjoyed the lessons and others preferred to read instead, so pick your recipient wisely. You can try out some of the instructor’s many free resources as a test to see if it’s a good fit for you. The gift of your time with kids you love is possibly the best ever to give.
We also bought our children a membership to the local zoo last year as a family present. What that offered us was many repeated opportunities to spend time together doing something we enjoy.
Stuff You Can Buy Online from Small Shops
C.S. Lewis’s character Reepicheep is, I think, the perfect inspiration for so many of us today. We may be small, but we can have a sturdy heart and active hands nonetheless. This Reepicheep mug is $15 on Etsy.
A Beautiful Leather Tray
Men can be so hard to shop for. Here’s a beautiful and manly item you could get for multiple men on your list. Leather tray, $42
Exquisite Enamel Pins
Here’s one for the ladies — perfect to give on its own or to slip into a mother’s stocking. Fleur de Lis Enamel Pin, $15. I also own this and love it! It’s a perfect all-purpose gift for a woman — birthday, birth of a child, Mother’s Day, etc.
There are several more in similar styles available here and here. Here’s a look at some of them.
Seasonal Sacred Art
As longtime readers know, I love to buy sacred art for myself and as gifts. To me, it’s a way to bring the presence of eternity and the transcendent right into my home and daily life. I gave this gorgeous Mary and Jesus print, painted by a pastor, to a family member at the latter’s ordination this summer. “Berkeley Hills Madonna,” $45-$85 giclee print.
Here’s another absolutely precious variation on this timeless — and seasonal! — theme. When people give me art and suchlike I think of and pray for them every time I see the object. Madonna and Child print, $75-$120, also available as a Christmas card.
Here’s yet another artistic style on this same motif. Beautiful. Especially meaningful for someone who has recently experienced the miracle of having a child. Firstborn of All Creation Print, $40.
Guns Are a Sure Winner
Now, for something completely different, every single one of your sons wants one of these, and maybe so does their father. Special Ops Sturdigun, $32 (and worth every penny).
Or you can get them a real bow or gun, or purchase them some safety and skills training from a local instructor. Can’t go wrong. Be advised that these things hurt if kids use them to hit each other — but after being hit once they won’t do it again.
Baskets to Hang on Hooks
Back to lady things, because I like a bit of random surprises in gift lists: I am a basket person and have to restrain myself from buying every one I find. Maybe you know someone like that, who owns some hooks, and might like this. Or you could crochet one, if you are that awesome. Onion Basket, $34.
Seasonal Decor More Generally
Also, if we’re going to get into decor, here are two also seasonal things that would make for nice gifts. One of my aunts has bought me Christmas decor for Christmas presents ever since I started making my own home, and I’ve really enjoyed her helping give me a leg-up on making the holidays special with rotating decor. The kids and guests do really notice and it gives them a special feeling. Me, too!
This Noel table runner would go with multiple decor styles. Table Runner, $30.
Here’s a beautiful, hand-stamped and limited-edition tablecloth from the ladies at Theology of Home. This is on my personal squee list! Tablecloth, $98 or $100 depending on size.
Or here’s another table runner that has a bit more color activity going on — for bold people! Evergreen Table Runner, $58.
Another really fun holiday thing that could be one of those multi-year theme gifts are wooden cookie molds. I picked the partridge design below but there are many others. Sadly, there’s not a Saint Nicholas mold — that’s the one I really want for $15! Partridge in a Pear Tree Cookie Mold, $15
Don’t Forget the Children, Of Course
They do like things besides guns, especially the girls. I love to get kids crafts and other skill-development materials, such as sports equipment. This simple gift would provide fun for the whole family. Birdwatching Notebook, $8. You could turn it into a gift basket with a pair of binoculars, bird feed, and a window-attaching bird feeder.
I also like books that give kids lots of ideas for how to extend a craft idea into multiple sessions or things they can enjoy with others. Klutz books are great for that — here’s one. The family-owned Rainbow Resource offers them at Black Friday-beating everyday prices. Painted Rocks Kit, $13.
If you want to be seasonal, or to buy something to occupy your kids during Advent, here’s a wonderful Nativity set. Nativity Paper Puppets, $7 (printable download).
Another wonderful holiday tradition is reading and gifting books that help harmonize your family life with the Christian traditions related to this holiday season. This is a brand-new and beautifully illustrated children’s version of the ancient and beloved hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” I recommend lots of other high-quality Christmas books like it here.
Speaking of books, the small publisher Good and Beautiful puts out exquisitely illustrated classic children’s books for all ages, from toddlers to adults. Many are books that went out of print that their wonderful modern illustrators have revived for new generations of families.
I buy from them often, again for all occasions — birthdays, Christmas, new baby, and housewarmings. Here’s one that we own and enjoy. “Basket of Plums” picture book, $10.
Sacred Art For All Seasons and Types of Christian
This is one of my favorite icons. It’s not only a design that extends beyond the Christmas season, but it’s also a good sort of “introductory” design if you are giving to people who are not (yet) connected to the deep artistic roots and the great cultural diversity of the Christian heritage. At the same time, I also think it’s beautiful for those of us who also appreciate such things! Christ the Shepherd Icon, $29 (small) or $55 (large).
This is another icon I own that could be gifted for multiple kinds of people and occasions. It’s my favorite and it sits on my desk — you will have seen it if you’ve watched me on video hosting The Federalist Radio Hour or in many of my TV hits if they’re not in-studio. I bought this one because I’ve seen the original mosaic in person at the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. And this price is amazingl! Jesus Christ Pantocrator icon reproduction, $40.