Does it seem that your Christmas list keeps getting longer and longer, your budget gets shorter and shorter, and worries about gifts get bigger and bigger? Sometimes we get so wrapped up in gift-giving mania that we forget to enjoy the true spirit of the Christmas season.
So why not get a head start on it all right now? If you start planning gifts for your friends and family early, gift giving will enhance rather than detract from your celebration of Christ’s birth.
Here’s a list of inexpensive gifts you can put together in advance, and they’re sure to make your loved ones happy. Let your creativity loose, and have a happy, relaxed, spiritual holiday season.
Collect empty wooden spools or plastic film canisters. Glue plastic container tops in various sizes to the tops, and paint black or white for a chess set.
Buy blank stationery and decorate it with rubber stamps, stickers, or your own fingerprints.
Make a wall calendar by using a blank calendar form and adding your own drawings, photographs, or magazine photos of the recipient’s favorite things.
Take plain T-shirts or sweatshirts and decorate them with fabric paint.
Give a gift certificate for 20 hours of baby-sitting.
Write poems in a blank book—your favorites, or ones you create.
Press some wildflowers and put them in frames or bookmarks.
Give gift coupons for car washes and lawn mowing.
Fill a basket with unpopped popcorn, candy, two cans of pop, and a gift certificate for a video rental.
Offer to take over dinner preparations and cleanup one night a week so Mom can take a class.
Give a box of disks to the computer user, rolls of film to the camera fan, or blank video tapes to the movie buff.
Collect shells and glue them around a picture frame.
Give your parents, grandparents, or married brothers and sisters a certificate for a candlelight dinner which you will serve in a romantic setting.
Make a recording of the music that was popular when the older people on your gift list were young.
And now for a few recipes. Sometimes people like to receive things they don’t have the time or the creativity to make themselves. Try these ideas.
5–6 cups rose petals
1/2 cup noniodized salt
1 Tbsp. crushed cloves
1 Tbsp. mace
Spread the petals on a window screen and let them dry for 3–5 days (the screen can be stored under a bed). Put the petals in a large jar, add salt, put on lid, shake, and let sit for about a week. Add cloves and mace, shake it again and let it sit, tightly lidded, for several weeks. Fill sachets, baskets, or jars and decorate with bows. Give them to the females on your gift list.
1 cup vinegar (cider vinegar for dark woods, white vinegar for light woods)
2 cups olive oil
Pour mixture into the fanciest bottles you can find, and add fancy labels.
Stick whole cloves into apples, oranges, or lemons. Completely cover, or create designs. Poke a pretty ribbon in the top for hanging. The cloves preserve the fruit, so the scent will last a long time.
1 cup liquid hand soap
1/2 cup shampoo or dishwashing liquid
2 Tbsp. glycerin
A few drops of perfume or essential oils
Mix and pour into fancy container with a tight lid. This mixture makes lots of super bubbles that stay. To use, pour one or two tablespoons under rapidly running bath water
1 bottle bubble blowing solution
2 Tbsp. glycerin
2 Tbsp. liquid hand soap
Combine ingredients and pour them into a bright-colored bottle. Kids use the mixture by pouring it in a long, wide pan, then dipping a wire coat hanger, reshaped in an interesting form, into the mixture. Any wire can be used to shape a bubble maker.
There’s always someone with a sweet tooth on your gift list. Try whipping them up a batch of these:
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 lb. pecan halves
Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Heat the butter, sugar, and spices in a small saucepan until the butter melts. Pour the mixture over the pecans and stir to coat. Bake in a shallow baking dish for 30 minutes. Stir several times during the baking. Cool and store in a closed container.
You’ll usually find Ian and Darren Bassett of the Sutton Coldfield Ward, Lichfield England Stake, just playing around—but their play is constructive.
Darren, 12, excels in electronics and loves to write computer games. His brother Ian, 13, loves to play the games Darren writes. The brothers also play in Fairfax School bands—Ian on the trumpet, Darren on the drums. They play on athletic teams, too. Ian wins at cross-country competitions, while Darren wins in long-distance races.
Sometimes it’s hard being the oldest child—all those little eyes looking up to you can create a lot of pressure. But Emily Eliason of the Yorba Linda Third Ward, Placentia California Stake, sets a great example for her family and friends.
She reads the Book of Mormon and shares the gospel with others daily. She also loves seminary and Young Women. Outside of church, Emily gets straight A’s reads, writes fiction, sings, and plays the piano.
Humanitarianism, service, leadership, and scholarship—that’s what Cara Hatch of the Lorain Ward, Cleveland Ohio Stake, stands out in, according to the faculty of her school. They presented her the Phil Miceli Award for best exemplifying those qualities.
She has many opportunities to display those qualities in sports—she’s been on the volleyball, basketball, and track teams. She also plays flute in the school marching band and plays piano at home and at church.
You never know what will happen to the seeds you plant. Elisabeth Gambee of the Springfield First Ward, Eugene Oregon Stake, recently found out when she received a letter from a friend whom she’d met at camp and had given a copy of the Book of Mormon to. He had just received his mission call to Boston.
That was the highlight of a year that included many bright spots. Elisabeth graduated from seminary, served as ASB vice president, was in the honor society, was on the varsity cheerleading squad and tennis team, and performed in school musicals. She was also chosen by her school to be Young Woman of the Year.
Elisabeth likes to spend time with her 11 brothers and sisters. With the hours she has left over, she works part-time to save for college.
Although LDS students in the Pleasanton California Stake make up only about 5 percent of the student body at their respective high schools, they make a big difference. Three of the four high schools in the stake boundaries had LDS student-body presidents during the 1989–90 school year.
Sherry Allen was president of California High School in San Ramon, Dain Hodson was president of Dublin High School in Dublin, and Justin Shriber was president of Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton.
All three have worked part-time, participated in many school activities, and played on school and community sports teams. They have also served in Young Men or Young Women leadership positions. And they have all worked with the full-time missionaries of the California Oakland Mission.
Young women of the Sunnyside Ward, Pretoria South Africa Stake, got the chance to show what their program is all about when they put together their first annual “Young Women’s Expo!”
Each girl involved contributed to booths that represented different areas of the Young Women program. They had a temple marriage display, a Young Women Values display, a beauty booth, a flower market, and even a “Cafe de Paris,” which featured pastries the young women had made.
Entertainment was also on the agenda. They did a jazz dance and modeled clothes. “It took a great deal of preparation, but it was worth it all,” noted Mia Maid Janina Groenewald.
“We even enjoyed every minute of the preparation,” added Laurel Debbie Iten.
Travis Hildebrand, 14, of the Etna Ward, Medford Oregon Stake, is one of the fastest milers in his area. He’s so fast, in fact, that in a regional meet sponsored by the Hershey Chocolate Company, he won a position and expenses to compete in a national meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Travis’s parents wanted to support him at the national meet, but Pennsylvania was many miles and dollars away. That’s where a lot of hard family work and some community contributions came in. They were able to make the trip, and they stayed with a generous family in the Hershey area. Travis placed fourth in the meet, which featured some of the best runners in the country.
When Travis isn’t running, he’s studying to maintain his 4.0 GPA, working on becoming an Eagle Scout, and serving in his teachers quorum.
There’s something fishy about Mina Jo Hansen’s hobby—she’s into tropical aquariums. Working at her father’s pet store is the perfect way to pursue that interest. Her exotic pastime, plus her activity on the school French club and basketball team and her interest in drawing, reading, playing the piano, and singing, helped her be selected as the Saugerties Elks Lodge Student of the Month. There’s a good chance the social and spiritual skills she learned serving as president of her Beehive class have helped her too. Mina Jo is a member of the Kingston Ward, New York Albany Stake.
It’s not unusual for women in Relief Society to call each other sister, but you don’t hear the term used very often in Young Women. Unless, of course, you live in the Perry First Ward, Willard Utah Stake. Five of the nine Allen siblings were involved in the Young Women program at the same time.
Felice, April, Rebecca, Holly Ann, and Heidi were joined by their mother, Pam, who served as the Laurel adviser. Their father was involved as well—he was the bishop. Mutual, for the Allens, was a real family affair.
Phillip Denley, a deacon in the Woden Branch, Canberra District, Australia Sydney Mission, has been blessed with incredible vocal talent and is always willing to share it. He sings at church meetings and firesides and at concerts for senior citizens.
His music teacher says, “His ability to memorize and sing in languages other than his own—German, Italian, Latin, and even Welsh—is quite astonishing.”
Matthew Allen Ribnick, 15, of the Germiston Ward, Benoni South Africa Stake, has received a number of academic awards, including a trophy that singled him out as the top among 115 students. He’s received other awards for excelling in subjects like accounting, general science, history, industrial arts, mathematics, and North Soto, a native African language.
In fact, Matthew speaks three languages: English, Afrikaans, and North Soto. He’s also active on his school’s cricket and track teams. Matthew joined the Church in March 1989 and is active in his teachers quorum.
Sacrificing a night of sleep was no problem for the youth of the Sydney Australia Hebersham Stake. After all, it helped them raise $5,000 for a Ronald McDonald House.
They called the event a “Wake-a-thon,” and invited sponsored donations for their wakeful hours over a Friday-Saturday time period. Part of those hours were spent doing more service—they served a late-night supper to the local police. They also had a dance.
It was a busy school year for Rachel Wainwright, 16, of the Newcastle-under-Lyme Ward, Newcastle-under-Lyme England Stake. The teaching staff at her school elected her “Head Girl.” Her duties included receiving important visitors, representing other pupils within the school, and representing the school within the community.
What’s more, Rachel also served as seminary class president, served in her local Army Cadet’s organization, and won her school’s music trophy for her flute and vocal work. She was involved in a number of musical ventures at school, church, and community. Probably the most challenging thing of the year, however, was studying for her final examinations, which she just completed.
The youth of the Rootstown Ward, Akron Ohio Stake, devoted a year of service to handicapped children in their area. On a regular basis, 21 youth and their adult leaders traveled to a foundation facility where 126 handicapped children live. They learned from the staff of the facility that the children gained great benefit from the time spent with visitors.
When asked about the service they gave, Brian Kleckner said, “It’s kind of neat. These kids don’t get out every day. It’s fun, and in church we learn to care about people.”
Amanda Moss said, “I enjoy the kids. I feel I’m doing something special.”
Noticing the improvement some children made, Gretchen Brockett said, “I think it’s neat to work with these children and watch them progress over the months that we’ve been coming. It makes me feel good, and it touches my spirit.”
At 16, Sherrie Lynn Butt of the Corner Brook Branch, Newfoundland District, loves helping people and is already quite the teacher—she’s a professional instructor in three different areas.
One is piano. Following her family’s conversion, she became the branch pianist. She has since passed her piano test with first-class honors and teaches private lessons.
Another is gymnastics. Sherrie has a level-one rating and has coached the Humber Tumblers, a local gymnastics club, for two years.
The third is white-water canoeing. She taught the sport for the Red Cross last summer.
Add being a percussionist, playing volleyball, and achieving high grades to her accomplishments. And on her list of interests, she includes downhill skiing, sailing with her family, sewing, attending youth conferences, and taking trips to the temple in Washington, D.C.
Jill, Dan, and Doug Swensen of Curitiba, Parana, Brazil, participated in school elections at the International School of Curitiba. Their parents are serving in the Brazil Curitiba Mission.
Jill was elected student-body president. She has consistently been on the honor roll. She plays on the volleyball, basketball, and soccer teams. She enjoys music, especially singing.
Dan was elected as seventh-grade class representative. He participates in basketball and volleyball, but his favorite sport is soccer. His interests are sports, getting good grades, and working with the missionaries.
Doug was elected school treasurer. He also plays basketball, volleyball, and soccer on the school teams. He is interested in music, science, and computers.
A temple trip to do baptisms for the dead took on new meaning for the youth of the Oklahoma City Oklahoma Stake. To prepare for their temple trip, the youth worked in the name extraction program and personally performed the baptisms in behalf of the people whose names they had extracted.
The Young Women worked in pairs. One would read and the other would print the information on extraction cards. The girls began to feel a close relationship with the people on the film. They prayed for guidance when names were not legible and often were able to decipher the writing.
The Young Men became interested in the program and began participating in name extraction in preparation for the temple trip. The Young Women helped train the Young Men in the correct ways of filling out extraction cards.
When the youth traveled to the temple, they felt the significance of what they were doing because they had been involved through the whole process.