In the world of eco-hip, we are expected to eschew Christmas hype, and I am as cynical about corporate, commercial, factory-made holidays as the next person. But I love to celebrate the turning of the seasons, and believe deeply in reclaiming the light, richness, and beauty of Solstice/Christmas time. I know that it’s also become eco-fashionable to “give experiences” as gifts instead of stuff. A great idea, so I guess I have to fess up to being somewhat materialistic when I say I don’t want a zoo pass. I want you to make me something. A poem, a drawing, a leaf-rubbing, a jar of your famous plum jam, a badly knitted hat, a beautifully knitted hat. I want something I can behold and love. And that’s what I like to give.
For hundreds of years before Christmas was on the calendar, Europeans celebrated the return of light at the Solstice by sharing gifts, a dip into the beautifully human realization that simple gifts freely given can lift the spirit, and that in the long dark of winter, a little spirit-lifting is essential.
Still. I have been up late on too many Christmas Eves, tearful over unfinished knitting projects. Handmade holidays do not restore our souls if they make us feel obligated, stressed, or rushed. But I think I’m getting the hang of it. In the next few weeks I’ll be sharing ideas and instructions for simple handmade gifts that are easy, practical, beautiful, relatively quick, inexpensive, and can be made few-by-few as the season progresses. I hope they bring joy.
In that spirit, the “sanctity of giving” image above is from a holiday card series by local artist Dan Cautrell, whose beautiful lino-cuts grace my new book, Crow Planet (see a sample here). All the Crow Planet prints, as well as Dan’s other prints and cards are available through his website (when we’re not making our own gifts we can support local artists who make things for us!).