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Holiday giving: Thinking outside the (gift)box


Homemade Holiday Gift cards
Homemade gifts, like holiday cards, can be made from materials you already have on hand.

How do you feel about giving and receiving gifts during the winter holidays?

For some, gift giving means extra costs, stress, unwanted stuff, and more impact on the planet. In fact, some people opt out of gifts altogether. But for others, gift-giving is a valued tradition that's tied to happy memories. They find it exciting and rewarding, and a way to show others they care – a “love language.”

A group of friends walking through the forest, in the snow
Walking in a winter wonderland – a special way to get together (and keep the dog happy!)

How about you? Maybe you like to give and receive gifts, but want to spend less, cut clutter, and reduce consumption. What kind of gifts align with your values?

I reached out to a few Northern Health colleagues working in Population and Public Health and they shared a wealth of ideas. Looking for inspiration this holiday season? Read on!

“Experience” gifts

These are at the top of the list for Gloria Fox, Regional Lead for Physical Activity. "The most valuable gift you can give is your time," she says. Activities with friends and family can bring joy and make lasting memories. Some ideas:

  • Go to a local play, art gallery, or event
  • Host a home-cooked meal, gingerbread-house-making activity, or games night
  • Plan a winter wonderland experience, such as a walk, hike, skate, ski, or sleigh ride. Make it a picnic with hot drinks, favourite foods, and a blanket!
4 dishes of premade Lasagna
Lasagna ready for the oven or freezer. Tasty home cooking can be the best gift! 

Gifts of service 

Lana Pestaluky and Erin Powers, Healthy Settings Advisors, encourage us to focus on gifts that promote a sense of community. This includes gifts of service, where we volunteer our time and skills to help family, friends, or neighbours. For example, you ou could:  

  • Shovel a driveway, hang up lights, or fix something  
  • Pick up groceries, deliver a hot meal, or prepare food for the freezer  
  • Watch the kids for a few hours, either at home or on a special outing, such as to the library 
  • Offer a safe ride home after a holiday party 

Support for your community 

Acts of service apply to your community, too. As Rebecca Sketchley, Regional Lead for Mental Wellness, points out, "Volunteering gives a sense of purpose and fulfillment, while helping others." Local programs would appreciate your time and skills. However, if your time is limited, you can still help:  

  • Ask what a local school, daycare, or community program most needs
  • Make a financial donation to your local food bank or other charity
  • Give a family in need a gift card for gas or groceries

Have your heart set on wrapping up a gift? 

If you like to surprise your loved ones with a tangible gift, there are many items to consider that might align with your values. Below you’ll find ideas for gifts that: 

  • Are homemade or repurposed 
  • Support health and wellness, and 
  • Support injury prevention and emergency preparedness 
Holiday decorated bird feeder
A homemade ornament can be fun to make and special to receive. 

Many are low or no-cost items. More costly items might make great group gifts. Let’s dive into these ideas some more! 

Homemade and repurposed gifts 

Val Preston, Regional Admin Support, believes that handmade gifts are special. "If making gifts is a hobby that you enjoy, this promotes your own wellness as well," she says. Depending on your skills, you could make: 

  • A homemade ornament for an ornament swap 
  • A handmade card -- put into words how much you appreciate someone! 
  • A collection of tried-and-true or special family recipes 
  • A batch of cookies, granola, or trail mix 
  • A calendar with photos and special dates, such as birthdays and anniversaries 
A man holding a personalized calendar titles "home is where the paws are"
A homemade calendar of special photos is a gift that lasts the entire year. 

Maybe DIY isn't your jam? That’s fair! Do you have items in your home that others would be happy to receive? This could include clippings of houseplants in cute containers or gently used puzzles, toys, games, or books.  

Gifts to support health and wellness 

Many gifts can support health and wellness: 

  • A water bottle, yoga mat, or hand or foot warmers 

  • A pass to a pool, fitness class, or cross-country ski trails 

  • A subscription to a magazine, program, or course 

  • A gift certificate for a local bookstore or craft store 

  • A financial contribution towards a massage, dental appointment, or other service 

A child and parent skiing
A day pass for an activity like cross-country skiing can be a way to try something new.

Gifts to support safety 

Our Regional Leads for Injury Prevention (Natasha Thorne, Natasha McGreish, and Jeanette Foreman) suggest showing your loved ones how much they mean to you by giving them gifts that help keep them safe. They suggest items such as: 

  • Sporting gear, such as a bike light, helmet, or wrist guards 
  • Items for safer walking, such as walking poles, ice grippers, reflective vests, or wrist/ankle bands 
  • Items for the home, such as a hallway light, grab bar, or non-slip shower mat 
  • Child safety items, such as electrical outlet covers, safety gate, or cabinet locks  

The gift of emergency preparedness  

A box of homemade chocolate and nut balls
Fruit and nut balls rolled in chocolate make a tasty holiday gift. 

"We’re seeing more extreme weather and at different times in the year," says Paula Tait, Technical Advisor for Air Quality. "You can give some peace of mind by helping family and friends prepare for these extreme weather events." Consider: 

What appeals to you? 

There’s a world of creative gift ideas out there that can have positive impacts on others. What's something you might gift this year? Let us know in the comments!