10 creative and personal holiday gift ideas

Holiday gifts
Photo by Ollinka/Shutterstock

Sometimes, when you’re stuck for a gift to buy, it can be easy to fall back on the same tried-and-true items over and over: ties, candles, gift cards, bubble bath. (Excuse us, we just fell asleep for a moment there.) See, while reliable, these old standbys lack a certain excitement factor. They’re impersonal—cliche, even.

At their best, gifts are a symbol of caring and personal connection. You want your gifts to convey a message about your relationship. And unfortunately, the message a candle usually sends is, “How do I know you, again?”

It can be easy to fall into a gift-giving rut, but breaking out is not impossible. It requires just one thing: a bit of creativity. A DIY touch can really make a gift special and meaningful. Many people if they really wanted to, could buy themselves that tie or that , but we can’t buy personal connections or memories. So create a stronger connection by giving a creative gift. Here are some starter ideas if you’re stuck:

Personalized calendar

A calendar can be many things: inspirational, funny, personal, political. If you know your gift-ee well, then creating a personal calendar is a great way to show that you “get” them. For starters, you can mark down all the dates that are important to them (from anniversaries and birthdays to the release of the next Star Wars movie). Next comes choosing images for the months themselves. You might want to create a calendar using images of family and friends. If the recipient is into modern art, find images of some mind-bending artistic creations. If they prefer horror movies, find 12 grisly screenshots from their favourite films. Whether you use a custom printing service or just cut-n-glue over an existing calendar, a custom calendar is always going to beat out a generic flower-garden one, hands down.

Photo album

This one is great for people you have a history with. Go through your photos, whether they’re on film or posted to Facebook, and create a custom photo album, either of a specific time or trip, or a retrospective of your entire relationship. As a bonus, making this gift gives you an opportunity to traipse down memory lane, which will be a welcome respite from holiday shopping madness. Before you even get to making your photo album, make sure you have a fabulous camera to capture all of your most precious moments. It would even make a great gift for your photographer friends and family members. Try Canon’s EOS M3 digital camera, its stylish packaging is sure to excite just about anyone. If you’re looking for something more advanced, give the EOS Rebel SL1 a whirl for crisp, high-quality images and movies. Another option is to gift someone with a sleek scanner, such as the CanoScan 900F Mark II Colour Image Scanner  for professional film scanning capabilities—now there’s a great gift! Check out the e-store for more awesome gadgets!

A custom mug

There are lots of print shops that will put a photo or image onto a mug for you. Everyone needs coffee, so give someone a coffee delivery system with a little extra something. Need some ideas of what to put on it? Here are a few: a picture of their beloved pet, a family photo, a quote from their favourite movie, a photo from an event you attended together, an inside joke, a to-do list, a personalized verse, the silliest photo of them you can find, their face photoshopped onto a unicorn’s body. . . Truly, the possibilities are endless.

A personal illustration

There are lots of artists who will do custom illustrations and art pieces at reasonable prices. In fact, Etsy is packed with them. People will do custom portraits, illustrations of your house, pet portraiture, anime-style art, and virtually anything else you can think of. The best thing about these gifts is that they’re truly one-of-a-kind.

Personalized recipe book

Give the greatest gift of all: an answer to the eternal question, “What should we make for dinner?” Instead of buying an expensive cookbook, you can make your own, or create beautiful, custom-illustrated recipe cards. Culinary tastes are as unique as fingerprints—no two people’s are the same. So account for the recipient’s taste, and make a cookbook suited to their palate. You can illustrate it yourself or support a small artist with a commission. Either way is a nice alternative to mass-produced gifts.

A subscription

If you know someone who mourns the end of the gift-giving season, they might like a gift that’s given instalments. A subscription gift can come in many forms. There are the traditional magazine subscriptions, but subscriptions have branched out way beyond periodicals. There are art subscriptions, coffee subscriptions, tea subscriptions, even booze subscriptions. If you give a subscription gift, your friends and family will love you all year long.

A mixtape

Nothing compares to the rush of reading through a hand-written list of songs that were curated just for you. But wait, who has a tape player these days (or even, in many cases, a CD player)? In the digital age, mixtapes seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur, but Milktape has a solution: usb sticks that retain the aesthetic of old mixtapes. Making a tape is a great excuse for digging through all your favourite music, so the experience of making a mix is also a gift to yourself.

Some hand-knit clothes

Don’t tell your kids, but the further you progress into adulthood, the more a hand-knit scarf feels like the most desirable gift around.

A photograph pendant

Whatever happened to carrying a picture of your loved ones close to your heart, literally? This is one old-fashioned trend we’re in favour of bringing back. If you’re feeling ambitious, you could throw in a photography session to help someone find the perfect photo to carry with them everywhere.

A monogrammed blanket

No one can say no to a cozy blanket, but they particularly can’t say no to a cozy blanket that literally has their name on it.

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