Ditch the commercial frenzy and go for gifts that remake the world.
Oh come all ye holiday shoppers, not feeling joyful or triumphant? If you're percolating with anxiety over the seasonal gift feeding frenzy and trying to avoid super-hyped commercialism but lack time and/or energy for DIY, consider gifts that give back.
There are so many incredible feel-good options, it'll be easy to cross every last name off your list. And even if you want tangible things to wrap up and present, you should definitely check out social enterprises that invest in more than plain profits.
Me to We sells gorgeous fairly made jewellery, accessories and message Ts (Be The Change/Redefine Possible), and half the proceeds go back to sister org Free the Children (metowe.com). Or order up an organic gift basket from St. John's Bakery, operated by St. John's Compassionate Mission (stjohnsbakery.com).
Don't buy a pseudo-artisanal made-in-China teapot when you can support one of my fave pottery enterprises, Inspirations Studio, a micro-biz incubator for low-income women (inspirationsstudio.org).
One hundred per cent of the sale price of Consonant's Help Some-Body Soap goes to the Canadian Breast Cancer Support Fund, which eases the financial burden for those fighting breast cancer. You can also hit CBCSF's Holly & Ivy e-shop for all-natural body care products; 50 per cent of H&I's profits go to CBCSF (hollyandivy.ca).
Make sure music lovers have the Suzuki Foundation's Playlist For The Planet. You can gift it to them packaging-free through iTunes. For the young 'uns in your life, you can't go wrong with an adopt-an-animal stuffy through WWF Canada or the Canadian Wildlife Federation (wwf.ca, cwf-fcf.org). But if the kids have enough of those already, WWF has a whole gamut of wildlife memory games, endangered species playing cards, dominos and floor puzzles.
Did your mother ever tell you to stop kvetching and play with your dang bear because there are kids around the world who don't get a visit from Santa? Well, now's your chance to step it up. In the "skip the packaging and help the world" category, Oxfam Unwrapped lets you give bikes, wells, goats, chickens and schoolbooks to families in need in developing countries in the name of a friend, family member or colleague (oxfamunwrapped.ca).
Unicef Canada does the same with an even wider array of options, including soccer balls, first responder kits, girls' education, family food survival packs - and the list goes on (unicef.ca/gifts). Ditto for freethechildren.com.
For options closer to home, SickKids Get Better Gifts and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health's Gifts of Light have a slew of options to brighten the lives of those using their facilities (sickkidsgetbettergifts.com, camhgiftsoflight.ca).
On the green front, Evergreen's Gifts Of Nature catalogue includes planting a native sapling ($40) or a pollinator habitat in a school or park ($250), sponsoring a student in Evergreen's school program ($35) or outfitting a cash-strapped new city cyclist ($80, evergreen.ca).
You can also visit the Evergreen Brick Works Garden Market, a one-stop shop for foodies, gardeners, birders, kids, pets, and lovers of all things cool, green and artisanal. (Love the organic jersey hanky books and tabletop mushroom growing kits!) Profits go back into Evergreen's programs.
Charity cookbooks make awesome gifts. See FoodShare's first cookbook, called Share: Delicious Dishes From FoodShare And Friends (foodshare.net) and The Stop Community Food Centre's Good Food For All, whose recipes are based on the seasons. The Cookbook Store on Yonge has a whole section of fundraising cookbooks (cook-book.com). I'm partial to Fare For Friends: A Lovingly Compiled Treasury Of Sumptuous Recipes, since proceeds go to Interim Place, the women's shelter where I volunteered as a teen.
Have you amassed a pile of Air Miles or Aeroplan points? Forgo the guilt of a flight to Vegas or Cancún and donate your points to a charity in need. Aeroplan's Beyond Miles program lets you give to one of dozens of great orgs, including the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Free the Children, the whole Without Borders gang (Doctors, Engineers, Veterinarians, Schools - you pick) as well as hospitals, ballets, women's shelters and theatres. Air Miles donations go to WWF Canada and Tree Ontario.
Spread a little charitable joy and you might just be able to stomach a family singalong of It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.