I’m uniquely unqualified to give advice on where to purchase Christmas presents. Ask anyone close to me, and they’ll tell you that I am a terrible gift-giver. I see a lot of bachelors who get a pass on this kinda thing, as most of those guys just suck at buying presents and somehow everyone just accepts that. But when you’re female who sucks at gift giving… nobody accepts that. Instead, the expectation is there, that you’ll purchase something for someone in an attempt to somehow demonstrate what they mean to you. As a perhaps overly-pragmatic couple, we have figured out a few ways to give gifts that go against the status quo, gifts that mean something… and might even be an unconventional hit!
In no particular order, here are our five top picks for the ultimate in Christmas gift shopping:
- Ten Thousand Villages. This is one of the most magical places to visit during the frantic Christmas shopping season. Not only is the store exquisitely decorated, but every stunning item you see is carefully crafted by an artisan in a developing country, who is paid fairly for their work, so they can earn a living wage. So, even if the person you give that bag of coffee and necklace to somehow doesn’t appreciate it (shame on them if they don’t, though, by the way) it’s okay, because you just helped a mother or father feed their family. And that’s far more important than impressing some ungrateful so-and-so with no perspective. Also, a fantastic option from Ten Thousand Villages — a goat! Oh come on, you know all about how you can give a goat for Christmas, don’t you? If you don’t, please stop in at your local Ten Thousand Villages and ask. The answer is awesome.
- Mennonite Heritage Archives is positively bursting at the seams with rare and hard-to-find gift ideas! You’ll find books documenting the histories of the different Mennonite denominations… and if you’re of Mennonite descent, one of those books will for sure explain why you’re here in Canada today. Ditto for books on family history. There are also books of fascinating fiction and poetry by Mennonites. If books aren’t your thing, there are DVDs too. Like The Last Objectors, or And When They Shall Ask: A Docu-Drama of the Russian Mennonite Experience. (We’ve seen the former, and will soon be viewing the latter. Very excited!)
- Mennonite Heritage Village Books & Gifts. Also known as Steinbach’s best toy shop! You won’t find a collection of toys like this anywhere else. Browse the imaginative selection of toys, such as “my first knitting set”, farm toys, games, musical instruments, and, well, lots more. We once bought a book for our niece from this shop. It was about a little boy named David, journeying from Paraguay. Andrew chose it. Honestly, I wasn’t so sure it’d be much of a hit. But I bit my tongue and let Andrew go for it. My sister-in-law recently told me that her kids had made her read that book to them every night for 90 days straight. See? Not everything needs to be about Dora or SpongeBob. (You can also find And When They Shall Ask here too.)
- The Village Toy Shop. This is in Chortitz, which is just a few miles south of Winkler. They have all those well-made vintage and retro toys you wish your kids could have. Now they can! It’s easy. You won’t have to struggle to find parking, you won’t have to fight the crowds, and you won’t pay more than you would at other stores. AND you’ll actually be buying something of quality, made with thoughtfulness and whimsy. Definitely worth the trip! (When you’re done there, head down the road to Schanzenfeld for what’s arguably the best farmer sausage.)
- The MCC Thrift Shop. If you love treasure-hunting AND saving money, this is the place for you! AND the money you spend there helps people! Last year, my family traded gifts we’d bought for each other at the MCC. I found a champagne ice bucket with stand… my mom is presently using it as a poinsettia-holder. My sister-in-law gave Andrew an MHV beer glass (seems like that’s how they celebrated Steinbach’s centennial in 1974). And I gave my nephew a book about dinosaurs. “DINOSAURS!” he hollered, ignoring the other, more expensive gifts being presented to him. All these great gifts were found at the MCC!