Shifting the Gifting

By: Alison Myers

The holiday movies are starting to play around here, bringing with them an attempted lifting of spirits as we head into the final stretch of this “unprecedented” year. For some reason, one of them stands out as particularly apropos for 2020: How The Grinch Stole Christmas. For the purpose of this analogy, perhaps we’ll rename it, How The Virus Tried (but failed) To Ruin Everything.

One of the things I’ve always loved about December is how connected it makes us seem, not only as a family but as a broader collective of humans. It is plump with traditions that bring us together, whether it’s to take in festive displays of lights, sing carols, see plays or share ridiculous amounts of food.

Much of that isn’t possible this year, and if we spend too much time considering why and to what extent, it might just ruin the whole thing. So, we need to embrace our inner Whoville mentality and find ways to keep the joy alive.

Here at Bespoke, we’ve been making lists and checking them twice to give you ways to feel not haughty but nice. The beauty of it is, by no coincidence, they all have to do with giving.

Similar to many of you, several of us have traditions of big family dinners around this time of year. Cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents or grandchildren, depending on where you’re at in life, they all descend on the house of one hopefully non-regretful volunteer to exchange gifts and share a holiday meal. This is when everyone brings out the big guns. You know, those dishes that everyone loves but doesn’t dare make any other time of year. They just don’t taste the same in June.

“We decided this year to pool all the money we would have spent on food, presents and decorations and put it towards food for a family in need,” says Beth Frank, Bespoke’s communications guru. Her family table would normally have 12 people packed around it. This year it will just be her, her husband and a very hopeful Border Terrier named Toby who lives for table scraps. “Even though we can’t gather together this year, we still wanted to find a way to celebrate the season. Helping another family enjoy a holiday meal just made sense.”

For the past five years, a friend of mine has been organizing a sort of gift drive amongst her network of friends. With her being an incredibly social and generous soul, you can imagine her net reaches far and wide. When it first started, the group was adopting one or two families, then getting together to wrap the presents and raise a glass to our friendship and connection. This year, she added seniors to the fold, allowing us to recognize the challenges even more seniors will be facing this year as they spend the holidays alone.

When the initial signup spreadsheet came out, it was filled within a day. Since then, there’ve been three more rounds of her adding more seniors and families to the mix. Of course, we can’t get together for the wrapping party, so hopefully she has a good supply of tape!

Office parties will have to take the year off, as well, which may come as a blessing for lampshades and those who feel compelled to wear them. Here at Bespoke, we’re teaming up with one of our clients, Closer to Home, to fund the holiday needs of a family of seven. Instead of requesting specific gifts, Closer to Home asks for donations of a certain amount to finance the needs of different sized families. It’s a great choice for office teams as there’s a donation option to suit teams of all sizes.

While we may not be able to hold hands singing in the town square or gather round the table for roast beast, we can still come together in possibly the most appropriate way there is for this time of year: in the spirit of giving.

Where to give, to name a few:
Several organizations in Calgary take donations for Christmas hampers or families in need. Hampers typically include the fixings for a holiday meal with some presents for children in the family. Adopting a family may involve buying specifics gifts as well as grocery store gift cards to help make sure there’s food on the table.

Canada Helps offers another innovative option. Your family, group of friends or office team can donate to any number of causes listed on their site, from Covid response funds to those that support Black Canadians or Indigenous Peoples. Other funds range from animal welfare to literacy to women’s health. There’s even an option for teams that have trouble reaching consensus: a fund that puts your donation in a pot for the small- and medium-sized charities in your city.

Finally, for the person who is literally impossible to buy for, Canada Helps offers charity gift cards. Think Starbucks minus the pretention (spoken as a card-carrying member of that club).