Addendum to the Alternate Holidays Theme

Last time, I talked about how our family moved the celebration of Thanksgiving to focus on the essence of togetherness and family. Today, I’ll tell you how we approach Christmas to emphasize thoughtfulness and caring.

When we first got married, my wife and I were both struggling to get out from under difficult economic circumstances. At the same time, we were committed to making Christmas a special time for the new family we had created. She and I shared a passion for making things, and she had raised her daughters to value this, too. In addition, we enjoyed flea marketing as a family activity. Even though we called all of our destinations “junk stores,” we did not mean anything negative by it. Every one of us wanted to keep caring for objects that had brought someone else joy, but for whatever reason were no longer needed or used.

We made a rule: all presents given at Christmas had to be hand-made or pre-owned.

Before you have us committed to a mental health facility,


consider the effects this creates. It requires everyone to take a step back and really think about the other people. What do they value? What do they do? What will they use? It promotes self-awareness and reflection. What can I find or create that they will enjoy? How can I make them happy by my efforts? Best of all it frees us from the tyranny of the American planned-obscelescence industry. Where can I find meaningful presents that aren’t the new trendy electronic gimmicks? 

Of course, electronics can still be a part of our gift-giving. Once, I made my wife’s daughter a guitar amplifier out of simple components from Radio Shack housed in a cracker box.


(And now, a moment of silence for the passing of a great resource.)

Sometimes, I have made things to help people make other things. On different occasions, I have given my wife a vacuum-forming machine, a custom fountain pen made on the lathe, and a combination yarn winder and swift.


Sometimes I have found cast-off items that help people carry out the activities they love. My wife’s scientific daughter has gotten an antique binocular microscope that I had to disassemble and clean to make it usable, an old high-school triple-beam balance, and her own small portable telescope.

I have received incredible sweaters and socks, books about my hobbies, a final project from Industrial Arts class, a lettering guide for mechanical drawing, a custom-finished storage cabinet for my fountain pens…I could go on all day. I treasure them all, and I always will.

Everyone has heard that it’s the thought that counts. Nowhere is that more apparent than in our house.

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