Joan Larsen Thinks Outside the Christmas Box: New Ways to Make the Holidays Last Year-Round

Posted on November 30, 2016


By Joan Larsen


1-giftsAll right. . . I am going to be honest with you this Christmas season. I have been an inveterate gift giver all my life, almost racing – as the days get close to the holidays – to fulfill the dreams of all my friends and family. I am sure you feel the same. I want the whole holiday experience to look as it did in childhood . . . and have the same wonderful warmth. And I can see you nodding as well.

For us – the gift givers, the Santas of all time – we have known in our hearts that the stresses involved in choosing, buying a multitude of gifts have far outweighed the Yuletide cheer as the years have gone by. The family grew and – yes – “multiplied”.   The words – “too much” – entered our vocabulary. . . big time. Most of us own more possessions than we know what to do with already, and those who clean up later find many of the gifts confined to backs of closets or in the attics, almost untouched.

What has this been all about?

I turned my gift-giving life around completely. . . and believe I have some new ideas for all of us to think about. Perhaps this year will not be too late.

For all holidays, for all celebrations throughout the year for all those I care for or love, I no longer give material things of short-lived, forgettable use.


My joy instead is to give my friends and family memories of the “forever kind”. . . and my own family has jumped happily on the bandwagon in creative giving. From trips, concerts, fancy dinners, to hot-air balloon rides or surfing lessons, cooking classes, tickets to a musical given to all the family, more and more – highly geared to the interests of the person or family involved – you are giving them experiences that will enliven and enhance their lives. Forever.


These gifts of experiences and the forever memories – well, you can imagine – give such a level of anticipation ahead of time that this gift is far from a one-day thing. There is a “rush”, an excitement, a wonderment about something dreamed of or something new. But for years after, the uniqueness of the experience will result in happy, amazing memories.

And aren’t wonderful memories what all our lives should be all about?

I feel “alive” again, filled with creative ideas – some costing little, some costing a bit more – and the Instagrams – from those I love – flow in all year around, catching the persons so” gifted” at the moment they are “opening their gifts”.

I want to share two photos with you – my joy, and their joy. . . at that moment.

The first is my granddaughter who we had given an all-day horseback riding trip through spectacular scenery in the West. It is obvious that Sydney has fallen completely in love with her beautiful horse. And the day has just begun.


Again, a gift given last Christmas to two grandchildren – one celebrating high school graduation and one completing college – of a short adventurous trip in summer that they say will never ever be forgotten.


Our family gathers together as it always has – the house full of Christmas spirit. But my creative mind goes beyond giving the surprise gift card envelope. That seems such a lonely thing. I now go wild and have so much fun with the “presentation” part for those young adults and younger still who still act like kids. They are sent scurrying to find “clues” to what their gift really is. Creating high excitement lifts the level of the day.

When I am giving “a weekend or longer” getaway gift or something really special, I have found a jigsaw puzzle company in the East (The Missing Piece Puzzle Company, LLC) who excitedly takes my collage design of photos and other clues, and quickly reproduces it to broken-up puzzle form — with the number and age of participants determining for that gift how difficult the puzzle should be. . . and then they send it to me in a beautiful box. (The puzzle company’s owner thinks I am a genius with this idea!!)

The dining room table is cleared of the remnants of turkey dinner, and those involved in that gift may spend considerable time putting that puzzle together to find out what far-out ideas for surprises I have come up with this year. DO try it and I promise your heart will race as well. Talk about fun . . . this beats excitement all out as the whole family gathers around to cheer.


Holidays were never this good.

So, if you care to, consider my great new way of thinking. Try it out. Less stuff. More experiences. For their sake.  Those you “gift” will always remember you with love. . . as you do them.



In a world preoccupied with the quest

for more possessions, it is easy to overlook the fact

that the most valuable thing we own are our best memories.

Good memories are the gift that keeps on giving.

They make us smile and feel proud

As we re-experience the pleasures of past times.

– Nina Longley


JoanAvatar2Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”