Christmas gifts from the heart
By Shelia Kirven
December 1, 2021
In this special Christmas column, Shelia Kirven gives readers some gift-giving tips and ideas that will last a lifetime.
Christmas is just around the corner. Observing the real reason for the season and celebrating family and friends is important. The pandemic has taught us to be more thankful than ever for those we love. It also has hit pocketbooks hard, and many people might not be able to give the types of gifts to their loved ones that they have in the past.
Gift-giving doesn’t have to be too costly or over-the-top. There are many ways to make Christmas extra special with inexpensive gifts that will last in the hearts and memories of the recipients.
Family Christmas letters are a lost art that deserve resurrection, as they were very popular years ago. Shared with family and friends, they can become valued heirloom items after years of family members writing, telling what their family has been up to for the year and including photos of the family each year.
Nothing says holiday goodness like food. Hot spiced tea and hot chocolate mixes, coffees, homemade cakes, pies, cookies and candies are always a hit. Preparing make-ahead freezer meals for the elderly or shut-ins is also a very thoughtful way of saying that you care. But remember, food items do not have to be homemade. They can be purchased and dressed up in decorative sacks or boxes and tied with colorful ribbons.
If you are cooking goodies, be sure to write down the recipe and pass it on with the gift in the event the recipient wants to make their own later. Handmade gifts like scarves, stockings, Christmas tree skirts, ornaments, blankets, quilts or wall hangings are all great gifts. Even if you’re not crafty, there are many tutorials for handmade gifts on Youtube.
When we lose loved ones, over time we begin to forget some of their stories. Writing out stories from their time in the military, how they met their spouse, birth of their children, hobbies, how they earned their living, vacations, etc. are wonderful to hand down in families. Preserving them in a folder or booklet makes keeping them together for future generations easy.
Elder interviews and printing up their stories along with photos become priceless keepsakes. There are sample questions available on the internet for interviewing family members that can be used. If you can’t write the stories out yourself, record them and have someone help you to email the recordings to your family members. These types of keepsakes mean so much and are irreplaceable.
Clione Ramos of the Choctaw Nation Genealogy Department said she thought it was a great idea to share this type of gift with family members. Ramos, who is retiring from the Choctaw Nation after 37 years, is quite the expert in family documentation. After spending 31 years in the CDIB/Tribal Membership Department, she spent the last three years researching in the Tribe’s Genealogy Department.
According to Ramos, the Choctaw Nation Genealogy Department is a great place to begin family research.
Staff can provide ancestry information from the Dawes Commission Rolls to verify lineage and advise where to look for additional records.
Ramos said researchers can call the office at 800-522-6170 or email [email protected] for assistance. “If they want information on their (original) enrollee, we also have the application jackets that we can send out to them.” According to Ramos, the jackets sometimes have really good information for use in family research and documentation.
Ramos advises those who may not have done any type of genealogy work to “Start on their parents. If their parents are still alive, they can ask them, but they can also go on the internet to find out a lot. I have found a lot on my family way back that I didn’t even know.” There are helpful printable brochures and a genealogy assistance request form on the program’s webpage.
Don’t forget that the internet can be your best friend in family research. You can get started by typing in something as simple as, “how to begin genealogy research” or “building a family tree” and get thousands of hits of tools, helpful hints, and historical search sites.
The National Archives’ online website is also a great place to download and print blank forms and charts for genealogy documentation, even with family tree charts for kids to use. The website has free genealogy research information and tools. Once completed, charts and trees can be copied for family gifts.
Traditional Choctaw artwork and jewelry make beautiful gifts, whether handmade by yourself or others. Visit Choctaw Nation’s new Cultural Center in Durant for inspiration and instructional classes, check out the gift shop or visit their website.
If you want to gift Choctaw traditional items but don’t want to make them yourself, a list of Choctaw artists who sell their items can be found at https://www.choctawnation.com/history-culture/people/artist-registry. The Choctaw Store also sells handmade and tribal souvenir items.
Lastly, don’t forget that simple acts of kindness such as cleaning someone’s home, doing yard work, offering to fill out and mail Christmas cards, giving someone a book of stamps and some stationery, running errands, making dinner, offering to decorate someone’s house for the holidays or wrapping their Christmas presents, caroling at a neighbor and family home,and offering to walk or keep friends and neighbors’ pets are gifts from the heart that never go out of style.
This year, why not save money and make your gifts to others more personal? Make this Christmas a simple, homemade Christmas, one that will be remembered for years to come.