State of the Arts: The art of gift giving
While it doesn’t feel quite right to be gift shopping in the rain, the holidays are fast approaching! For those of you who may be procrastinating due to lack of snow or inspiration, I am here to inspire you (I hope!) and share what I love about gift giving.
For me, the winter holiday season is all about being creative. We use our imagination daily to decorate our houses and compose our holiday cards and letters. Who isn’t an artist when it comes time to decorate our cut-out sugar cookies? We all engage in games of make-believe, play-acting and creativity: we sing along to carols and hymns, we sculpt snow, we decorate trees and we wrap gifts. When the days are dark and cold we turn to our imaginations to create light and warmth.
Of the timeless traditions that cultures hold dear, the art of gift giving remains one of the most sacred, or at least it should be. I have heard many complain that the holidays have become too commercialized and too stressful. The joy we get from using our right brain to decorate and cook seems to disappear when we sit down with our shopping list. But follow my example and look at gift giving as the perfect opportunity to activate our right brains and imaginations in service of others. What we are really doing when we give a gift is spending time thinking about our loved ones and what might put a smile on their faces. Instead of dreading a trip to a mall or department store what if we spend that time thinking about those smiles we can inspire?
And, what about gifts that have that local and loving touch: a present made out of paper-mache (our family’s gift of choice this year), or earrings made by a local artist, or a child’s latest painting mounted and framed? What if the perfect present is a gift certificate to one of the many amazing restaurants we are lucky enough to have in Rhinelander. What if we made it a point to buy local, as much as possible, and spend our shopping days supporting our area businesses?
I remember a time when my family’s gift exchange had to be homemade or re-used. It was one of the most interesting and delightful Christmas’s ever. Homemade jams, candy, and pickled vegetables reminded us of the summer past and the summer we were longing for. Do you need more gift ideas? How about an antique which brings the added joy of holding the past in your hands? Books feed our imagination, art supplies open doors to creativity, and theater and concert tickets provide a cultural experience. Classes, lessons, and workshops also make great gifts, as do experiences like a day of skiing, a sleigh ride, or a weekend away in a cozy cabin.
Then there are the gifts that keep on giving: a gift of livestock to a family in need through Heifer International, or a gift membership to WXPR Public Radio, the YMCA, or the Children’s Museum in Eagle River. Of course, one of my favorites is a gift donation to ArtStart.
I know there will always be a need for some of the latest, greatest toys or new clothes, but what if–and you can begin slowly–more of our gifts came more from our hearts and hands. Maybe some of the magic we felt as a child about the holidays and gift giving and receiving would return. Maybe the smiles would be a little bit bigger and last a little bit longer.
Wishing you and your family a creative holiday season from your friends at ArtStart!
Melinda Childs can be reached at mchilds@ArtStartRhinelander.org or 715-362-4328.