Family's New Gift Giving Tradition Puts 'More Meaning Back Into Christmas'

Terri Farr and members of her family, who have invented a new gift giving tradition
One family has tried to put a stop to the stressful aspect of gift giving by focusing on making others happy by sharing its talents and time with each other.
Pictured: Mike Nilles, Madelyn Hirschuber, Terri Farr and Marcia Sandburg have a fresh take on holiday gift giving, and it's all in the details.

The holidays—no matter how holly and jolly—can induce stress, especially in the gift-giving department. Ideas can be hard to come by, and, on the receiving end, how many of you receive presents that miss the mark or are left unused? One family has tried to put a stop to the stressful aspect of gift giving by focusing on making others happy by sharing its talents and time with each other.

Chaska’s Terri Farr and her family (her husband, daughter, father, five siblings and their spouses and children), decided to ease up on giving gifts just for the sake of it. Rather than wrapping up something unforgettable, family members offer their unique talents as gifts. This new take on tradition has resulted in a more rewarding and fulfilling holiday season.

“We focused on the kids when they were young and growing up, but eventually it morphed into this crazy monster that we didn't feel like dealing with anymore. That is where the idea stemmed from,” Farr says. Many of us have been there—trying to find the perfect gift to add to the pile of presents.

Christmas 2018 was the family’s first year trying this new method of gift giving. After the first year worked out so well, the group will give it another go this year. “For me, especially, it puts a lot more meaning back into Christmas rather than just having another gift. This was the first year that I really thought about the members of my family and what might be something I could do for any one of them,” Farr says.

How it works: Each family member brainstorms an idea for a present—whether it is a handmade item or an act of service. Items or service certificates are wrapped and placed on a gift pile for the family gift exchange. Drawing numbers or taking turns, each person chooses and opens a gift.

Last year, Farr’s daughter made a blanket and put together a winter’s night relaxation package, which included some cozy necessities, such as hot chocolate and popcorn. Farr’s sister, Marcia Sandburg, received that gift, which was perfect for her because she never takes time for herself to relax. Sandburg sent Farr a picture of herself with a text saying it was the first night she was able to stay home. She put the basket to good use, curling up on the couch with the blanket, sipping some hot chocolate and watching her favorite movie.

Sandberg prides herself in being a great organizer, and she offered to organize someone’s closet. That someone ending up being Farr. When Farr was at work, Sandberg completely cleaned and organized all of her clothes, shoes and accessories, right down to color-coding it all. “I have to say, I have never been happier,” Farr says. “I sit in that closet, and I have a sense of peace because I know where everything is.”

For Farr’s gift, she put together seasonal baskets, which include items tailored to the member of the family, who chose that gift. “I enjoyed trying to think of something that somebody might like and, one day, it pops up at their doorstep, and it is a nice surprise,” Farr says.

In genuine holiday spirit, the family has considered extending the giving, for example, by choosing an organization to support or participating in an event that gives back to the community. One organization under consideration is the Brighter Days Foundation, which is a group based in Central Ohio that donates to nonprofits in the area that work to support child-serving groups. Farr’s sister serves on the board, and it’s an organization that is close to all of them. “We are thinking about what else we could do beyond our family if we are talking about trying to make it about service for somebody else,” Farr says.