This is an article I wrote a while back for our community magazine last fall. I wanted to share it on the blog as well.
The holiday season is upon us, and people are already beginning to buy gifts to give – if they haven’t started already. Gift-giving is an art form in and of itself, and it takes many factors into consideration: age, cost, usefulness, etc. The best gifts can also remind the recipient about the giver as well, and this is where a unique group of gift-givers excel – the handmade gifts.
It’s a common misconception that handmade gifts are low cost or even “cheap.” But nothing could be further from the truth. When someone takes the time to buy/collect supplies and craft an item specifically for a loved one, that takes a personal investment that simply cannot be duplicated in an item purchased from a store. Not to say that bought items aren’t special because, of course, they can also be cherished. But there is something about a handmade gift that endures beyond its time and even beyond the item itself. Some of my favorite pieces of furniture, while not the most attractive, are special to me simply because my great-grandfather made them. And as of the last several years, they are also a lasting memory as the man himself is no longer with me. So what is it about a handmade item that gives it that lasting power? The explanation is more profound than one might first think.
In 1992 Gary Chapman released his book The Five Love Languages. He identifies five areas where people express their love for others as well as how they feel the most loved. These areas include Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, and Physical Touch. As a quick review, Acts of Service translate to doing nice things for a person, like washing their dishes or mowing the lawn. Words of Affirmation simply mean a person likes to be told how much they matter. Quality time can mean a date or any one-on-one time. My eight-year-old daughter feels most loved when we spend time together, so a trip alone with her to the grocery store can help her feel connected and loved. Receiving Gifts doesn’t mean that a person is greedy – just that a gift, no matter how small, is a gesture that means more than just the item itself. My sister showed her love to her friends every year as a child by spending her birthday money on Christmas gifts for them. And she is so very proud when she knows she has found THE perfect gift for someone. And Physical Touch doesn’t have to be overly dramatic. It could be as simple as hand holding. My six year old son feels loved if we are sitting beside one another while watching a movie. As long as some knee or foot is touching me, he feels loved. And while it is possible that some gestures can fall across multiple areas, I can only think of one thing that combines all five.
A handmade gift is unique in that it covers multiple Love Languages. The act of making it with a specific person in mind, the time spent on designing and crafting it, and even a sweet note accompanying it all touch on multiple routes wherein people feel loved. It says over and over again, “I love you.” A person made this item specifically for that person, spent time on it, made it with their own touch, gave it freely to that person, and it often includes an explanation or sweet note with it. A handmade gift has the potential to say “I love you” in all five Love Languages. And in that, it is no small feat.
So if you are lucky enough to receive a handmade gift this holiday season, take a moment and realize exactly what you have been given. It isn’t a mere item or token. It certainly isn’t cheap. It is the ultimate expression of what it means to love another person from every conceivable angle. Honor the handmade gift for it was made with love.