Discussion of news topics with a point of view, including narratives by individuals regarding their own experiences

Illustrations by María Alconada Brooks

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When I told Lena, deputy editor of The Lily, that I would write a newsletter rounding up the best ideas we have featured in The Lily’s gift guides over the years, I was excited. It was a no-brainer. I love thinking about, making and giving thoughtful presents. In fact, it’s one of my love languages. I have helped create The Lily’s gift guides over the years, and even wrote a short-lived blog about gift-giving a few years ago.

But as I sat down to write this, so many thoughts and feelings swelled to the surface:

Like … how is it our second pandemic holiday? How has it already been a year?

And why isn’t most of my family vaccinated? That means that we’re unable to spend the holidays together — again — because it wouldn’t be safe.

Then I wondered if my family not being together won’t be so bad this holiday season. We have been trying to get into a new groove since my parents got divorced a few years ago.

So, I thought: What will fulfill me energetically this holiday season? How can I truly take care of myself? How do I want to celebrate the holidays this year?

There are a lot of questions swirling around a second pandemic holiday, but despite the questions, I’m an optimist. So I’ve decided I want to take back the holidays. I want to reimagine them and what they can mean to me. I want to rethink how I spend this time, whether it’s by myself or with friends. I want that magic back. I want to lean into smaller acts of kindness. I want to spend more quality time with the people I care about. I want to consider them — and the gifts I give — a little bit more intentionally.

With this in mind, I perused The Lily’s gift guides and chose five of my favorite personalized and handmade gift ideas.

Curate a personalized library

This was inspired by a gift a friend gave me years ago. At the time, he knew I was trying to build up a library of books. So he picked out three books he thought I would enjoy and wrote a letter explaining why.

You could adapt this idea in a few ways:

• Start with three books that you consider must-reads.

• If your friend wants to explore a new genre, choose a couple of books to get them started.

• Ask two other mutual friends to suggest a book, then package all three together for the ultimate gift pack.

Create a custom soundtrack

I’ve exchanged playlists with friends, partners and siblings for as long as I can remember. They’ve taken many shapes over the years, from mix tapes to CDs to Spotify playlists now. Creating a soundtrack for a long walk or drive can be one of the simplest but most thoughtful gifts. Take it a step further by designing your own album artwork.

Spruce up a candle with a matchbook of intentions

A few years ago, I received one of the unique gifts ever, and I have replicated it several times for friends. A candle on its own makes a great gift (especially this candle by Lomar Farms we featured in the 2020 Gift Guide). But you can add a personal touch by writing intentions, memories or inside jokes on long box matches. Your friend is bound to think of you every time they light it.

A handwritten note goes a long way

Sometimes, just letting a loved one know that you see them is a gift in itself. But don’t send another long-winded email or text. Break out some nice stationery and hand-write your thoughts. Then, drop it in the mail. To get inspired, check out these morning glory cards we featured in our 2019 Gift Guide.

Preserve memories with a cheeky keychain

I don’t know about you, but I have so many inside jokes with friends from staying in near-constant touch throughout the pandemic. A custom keychain could be the perfect combination of useful and delightful by adding a joke, thoughtful message or mantra. It will guarantee your friend will think of you every time they open their door — or lose their keys. Check out this keychain by Kendra Beshk from our 2018 Gift Guide.

Read all our gift guides for more inspiration

View our 2017 gift guide.

View our 2018 gift guide.

View our 2019 gift guide.

View our 2020 gift guide.

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