Early December is the time to think about what holiday food gifts you may be giving this year. Given the ongoing uncertainty about the pandemic situation, there may be many who are unable to gather with friends and family again this year. Now, and in non-pandemic times, there are still ways to spread holiday cheer through the foods you typically share at Christmas or whatever festivities you observe. Here is an assortment of ideas for food gifts for holiday cheer.
A Note About this Post
I first wrote this post in 2020, when the second wave (only the second wave!) of COVID was escalating in my area, and social distancing and gathering restrictions were very much factors. Many of us, myself included, were unable to gather with our families and friends. Things are better this year, but the pandemic situation is changeable. There will still be those who don’t feel safe or comfortable gathering this year, or who may not be able to travel to celebrate with family and friends.
Whatever our circumstances, let’s focus on how we can make this holiday season joyful and festive. Pandemic or not, food gifts are welcomed by many. I hope the ideas in this post inspire you, whether pandemic restrictions or hesitations apply or not.
Food Gift Ideas for Holiday Cheer
Food is an important part of holiday celebrations and powerfully evocative. I like to find ways to give my children and friends some favourite dishes from holidays past. So I’ve compiled a list of food gift ideas ranging from some that take little or no effort in the kitchen to full-on baking and cooking.
There’s something here for everyone. The purpose of this list isn’t to promote particular recipes (though I’m always tickled if you use mine), but rather to provide examples that will inspire your own ideas.
Keep your mode of delivery in mind. If you need to ship your gifts, packaging, breakage or spoilage, and this year’s tenuous delivery schedules are things to keep in mind. You can find guidance online, like this article from The Kitchn.
If, like me, you’re fortunate that your family lives nearby, you’ll have more options to get the goodies there in time. And if you’re happy to prepare food gifts, but making deliveries isn’t feasible, perhaps the recipients could pick them up from you.
Note: This is not a sponsored post. Any links to products are for illustration purposes only and are made without collaboration or compensation.
The Gift of Recipes
You may not be in a position to send goodies to family and friends this year, but you could share a favourite recipe (or several) that they’ve enjoyed at your home over the years. Old family favourites from generations past might be especially treasured. You can easily add a recipe card to a greeting card you’re sending anyway.
Hand-write or use your computer to print the recipes on cards (I made the cards above with a free template in Microsoft Word). You could even produce a booklet (or start a blog and share the URL!).
Foods that spark holiday cheer don’t have to be homemade. Do choose items that evoke nostalgia and that holiday feeling for your loved ones. Here are some purchased food gift ideas that would work for my family and friends, and perhaps also yours.
- A box of clementines
- Tins of President’s Choice Belgian cookies (a delicious nod to my heritage)
- Chocolate initials
- A loaf of stollen
- A box of mint smoothies from Rheo Thompson Candies in Stratford (and the individual ones for stockings)
- A gingerbread house kit (a fun throwback for grown kids, whether they have children or not)
Any combination of such items could go into a gift basket of whatever size suits your budget. You can create your own (you could even add some of your homemade goodies) or order one from a local shop. If your kids or friends live in another city or province, have it delivered from a shop local to them.
As my parents got older, it was challenging to select gifts for them. I enjoyed assembling baskets filled with foods they enjoyed and ones I thought they’d like to try: jams, chocolate, biscuits, tins of sardines for Dad, fruit, maple syrup, and lots more. Don’t forget fruit baskets, which many people also welcome.
Recipe Kits & Ready to Use Foods
Recipe kits include all the dry ingredients for a recipe (sugar, flour, spices, nuts and dried fruit, etc.). All the recipient has to do is add the wet ingredients (e.g., eggs, oil, milk, etc.), mix and bake.
My granddaughters are crazy about my Chocolate Buckwheat Pancakes, and even before the pandemic I’d been giving my daughters all the dry ingredients layered in mason jars. You can decorate them with ribbon and a tag or recipe card with instructions. If I were mailing a kit, in place of glass jars I’d use food-grade bags like the ones I purchase from Crystal Clear Bags Canada in Strathroy, a town nearby. Or, you could use sturdy plastic food storage bags that fasten securely.
Some other foods that lend themselves to recipe kits include:
- Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix like this one from Brown-Eyed Baker
- Muffins like my Triple Berry Jam Muffins (also gift a small jar of jam)
- Chocolate Chip Cookies and others
Some ready-to-eat or -use foods lend themselves very well to gifting. Make them in large batches to make giving to everyone on your list easier. Some ideas are:
The Gift of Baking
Cookies, bars, and some sturdy cakes (like coffee or loaf cakes) are especially portable, and some can be sent by mail or courier, as discussed above. But if your recipients are local to you, the delivery aspect is less of a concern.
I’ve held numerous holiday open houses or coffee mingles in the past that featured a selection of baked goods. I won’t be holding such gatherings this year, but I could still deliver goodies to local friends and invite everyone to a Zoom mingle to enjoy treats and conversation together.
I do a great deal of batch cooking, often producing five litres of soups or stews at a time. I store these in mason jars in the fridge or freezer. For people that live local to you, the gift of a meal that just needs to be heated can be priceless.
(A note: if you’re planning to freeze soups or stews in mason jars, make sure you leave plenty of headroom for the expansion that freezing causes. The jars of soup pictured above were not intended for the freezer.)
The Gift of a Holiday Meal
My family didn’t gather for Thanksgiving last year, so I decided to make our usual traditional family meal and share it with them. It’s an idea that would work at any time of year. I talked about it with the kids in advance (no one wants to be in the middle of cooking their own meal when dinner arrives at the door!). They all agreed to make their own sides, and I provided packaged cold roasted turkey and stuffing, gravy, and pumpkin bars for dessert. They all live nearby, and I was able to safely transport the meals in coolers with outdoor drop-offs.
Admittedly, that was a lot of work, but it was a way for us all to share a meal together, even though we were in our own homes and eating on different schedules.
An alternative to making the holiday meal yourself is to support local restaurants that are offering traditional dinners for takeout or delivery. And if your loved ones are in another city, you can have the meal delivered to them from a restaurant there.
Spreading Cheer Brings Cheer
We all know that it’s a pleasure to receive a thoughtful gift, but it’s also a pleasure to give them. Doing kind things for people you care about is a great way to lift your own spirits during this uniquely challenging time.
Stay safe, stay well, and may your holiday treats bring cheer.
First Published 2020 12 11
Republished 2021 12 06