Everyone loves to receive gifts, and many of us love to give them as well. I adore being able to gift the people I care about with things that I think they will like. I both buy and craft things. I like to make things for the holidays, but I also sometimes see something for sale and just know I'd love to get it for a particular person.
What I think is most important is thinking about what the recipient might want. It really doesn't matter if I like the thing I'm gifting. Hubby and I have very different tastes, so I try not to think like myself at all when picking what to give him (and I try to get him to make an extensive wish list too!)
Gift-giving lets you really extend your blessings onto others. Not only are you giving them a thing, whether it is a simple card to wish them Happy Holidays, or that thing they have always wanted, or something you made them with your own two hands, but you are also gifting them with emotions, with caring, with energy and with your thoughts.
I have given my share of practical gifts over the years. I try not to only give practical stuff...even to my mom who's list was almost always stuff that wasn't really 'fun' but more 'needed'. My son pretty much always gets clothes at Christmas, and as a boy, some of them are pretty plain (boy pants are more ore less just pants), but we try to make sure he has shirts that reflect things he is interested in.
You can take a practical gift to the next level by really personalizing it. My mom-in-law gets her hubby socks every year, because he needs nice thick work socks to keep his feet warm and dry. But instead of just giving them to him, she makes it the gift from their dogs, which definitely makes it more fun to receive!
And while I don't care for totally utilitarian gifts, I do prefer my gifts to enhance a person's life. I think most of us have lots of things on our shelves and walls already, I know I do, so something that just looks pretty isn't as fun to give as something that looks pretty and also brings something into a person's life. One of the great things about magical friends is that there are tons of useful items that are also beautiful and vice versa!
A lot of time, finding the right gift comes from listening. Not just listening to what people say they might like, but listening to what they struggle with in their daily life. These are the things I like to pay attention to and try to solve, when I think about gift giving. My husband works long hours on his feet, and he is always sore when he comes home. So I am constantly thinking about things I can do or find for him that might help. One year I found a couple foot massage tools, and I have gifted him coupons for massages (which were also fun to decorate and make special).
But I really love making things for people. When I was in grade school, we weren't allowed to give our teachers any Christmas gifts that we hadn't made, so mom and I baked pumpkin-gingerbread loaves every year to give. What I find really powerful about making things for people is that the whole process of making a thing is time that I can be empowering what I am making! Mixing things in the kitchen, I am always adding love and comfort. I want people to eat things I have made and feel happy!
I do something similar when I am making non-edible things for people. I want my gifts to carry my blessings to the person I am giving it to. So I will think about all the lovely things I want them to receive in their life as I am making things for them. Sometimes I will chant as I craft, picking chants to help reinforce my intentions. Other times, especially for long projects that will take many hours, I may watch a favorite show or movie. It's always something that speaks to me of magic, of community and of finding your own happiness.
I like to have sacred space when I am crafting for others as well. Having candles lit with intention and burning incense help remind me that what I am doing is special. I'm not just making something, but I'm making something for someone as a symbol of what they mean to me. It is a way of showing, without words, how important they are to me, how they have made my own life better by being a part of it. That, to me, is the heart of gifting.
And even if you think you have nothing, if you don't have money to buy a gift and don't feel like you are crafty, there are other things you can gift. One of my favorite Christmas songs is Little Drummer Boy. I think it really captures the essence of a gift: you give what you have. The little drummer boy had nothing, so he played a song as his gift. Some of the most touching gifts I have received haven't looked like much, but they were special because I knew that the person gifting me was sharing what they had. Art, whether it is song, poetry, writing or painting are all very personal gifts that you can share.
Gifts of service can be excellent gifts. If you have friends who have children, you may offer to watch them one night so they can have a date night (or offer to take the kids so the parents can have a quiet restful night!) You might gift someone with help around the house or in the yard. Your gift may be to help them edit that book they've been working on, or to be their workout buddy (even if you dread working out!)
Even though I infuse gifts that I am making with intention as I am creating them, I also like to bless things after they are finished (or if I bought something). Most things that I give to people have spent time on one of my altars. I may take gifts out into the sun or moon light and bless them outside. I definitely hold them in my hands and dedicate them to the person who will be receiving them. If I am sending a package through the mail, I also add a bit of protection to make sure it arrives at it's destination safely and on time!
Wrapping is the last thing I typically do, and my last chance to add a bit of extra care to a gift. I actually enjoy wrapping (must be the origami folder in me *grin). Even those funny shaped gifts that don't seem to want to get wrapped. The wrapping is the first thing someone sees in your gift and I love for it to be pretty. While I'm wrapping, I like to think about how the recipient will feel when they open the gift. If you tie on ribbon, you can add a little knotwork blessing as well!
Ultimately, I feel that giving someone a gift, no matter the time of year or the occasion, is just a little way to show them how you feel. It's an opportunity to communicate those deeper emotions, to give them a little piece of you and to demonstrate that you see them! Giving other people gifts is definitely a huge part of what I love about the Holidays.