We are one of five couples who meet for dinner every year in mid December. The hosts beautifully decorate their home and provide the main course of grilled beef tenderloin, while the rest of us bring appetizers, sides, wine, and dessert. Most importantly, we all come bearing gift bags.
Years ago, I found cloth bags instead of the usual paper ones and ever since, it has become my annual quest to find interesting containers. One year I found wooden sleighs, another year tin snowmen. Last year for some reason I went to Hobby Lobby, someplace I never go, and found tall decorated Christmas boxes to fill with goodies, so it seemed a good place to start this time.
Finding surprises for the containers is a year-long adventure too. I like to shop while on vacation, and I bring back things like mustard from Dijon, France, maple syrup from Vermont or lavender lotion from the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. Homemade sugared peanuts are the only constants in my yearly gift bags, and it’s clear that our friends consider them mandatory.
In years past, the bags were primarily filled with homemade cookies, candies and breads, but we’ve tapered off on those, thank goodness. The two edible goodies I can count on receiving every year are peanut brittle and Chex mix, and those don’t last long at our house.
You never know what other fun items the year will bring. This year I received a bar of goat milk soap scented with jasmine and rosemary and a battery-powered necklace of Christmas lights. I’ve worn the necklace everywhere and made lots of folks smile. Other years we’ve gotten unique kitchen utensils, jellies, spice rubs, hand-carved ornaments, you name it. One of the craftsmen in the group made birdhouses one year that were unique to each of us. Mine was a bank complete with a drive-through lane, since I’m the resident banker in the group. Another year my husband made Christmas birdhouses for everyone, painted with a snow scene.
The 2014 containers are ready to fill, and I’m smiling as I sit here thinking about shopping for Christmas gifts all year long. We have a short vacation planned for January, and I’m looking forward to continuing the hunt.