Photo: Tori Silvera (using James Kerr’s amazing toy collection)

The winter holidays are complicated. I think we are all media saturated enough to know what the ostensible point of the tinsel and wrap and bells really is…But how often does this point come out of us during these cold, cold days? When I think of December 25 I think of sweaters and candy canes; presents and singing; snowmen and hot chocolate; the list could go on.

In the part of my mind I am ashamed to admit to I am also, however, thinking of the 7 hour drive to Northern Ontario to see my family. I am thinking of the frustration and guilt that stows away along with the season’s rampant consumerism. I am thinking of the culturally imposed feelings of belonging and love that we are all supposed to feel and distribute to our fellows, and the inevitable portion of society that gets left out of all of that. I think of the envy that these sorts of occasions can develop within and without of family units.

When the hardships of the holidays are so close, and the joys of the holidays are being reproduced in canned marketing music, my holiday cheer begins to wither. Heavy shit, right? Don’t we all have these feelings sometimes? As I’ve gotten older I’ve had thoughts that we only maintain all this nonsense for the good of our children, who have a right to exist in a virtual place of plenty and love before being barraged with the unfeeling behemoth of real life. So, am I right? No. I’m lazy.

The holidays aren’t about anything at all. Life has no objective purpose or reason, except what we put into it. A good friend of mine once told me that the world is a horrid, dark and brutal place, and the only thing that makes life worth living are the relationships we develop and the time and energy we put into them. In other words, love.

I’m lazy because in the time I spent complaining about the crap we are exposed to through the holiday season, I could have been tobogganing with my son or helping my neighbours shovel their driveway. Doesn’t that sound quaint. Isn’t that so cliche. But who cares? The life that’s worth living is where, during the coldest and darkest part of the year, we invest into our relationships with our time and our energy and our love. Rampant consumerism sucks, but gifts are a marvellous invention.

Jeff Macklin, printer and owner of Jackson Creek Press, told me that “There is no joy greater than that of a friend, receiving a handmade gift. What does it say about your relationship, that you invested in your time and creativity. You made yourself vulnerable first by parking your ideas into some sort of physical thing. Then, to take that, which is so close to your heart, and to pass it on. Wow, that says everything. That being said, to find something unique and special – hand made, which speaks to someone you know, which calls out to you, it’s meant to be. When this happens, take the moment to gift it to them. Regardless of the time of year.”

And so I will end my term as Arthur Editor on that point. Regardless of the time of year, spend your time looking out for those you love. Not in the “diamonds are forever” kind of way, but more in the “I baked you a plate of gingerbread” direction. My right now resolution (and maybe you will join me) is to stop taking these people in my life for granted, and instead to take advantage of the time I have with them.

Have a great holiday,

Matt Jarvis

P.S. The above Jeff Macklin quote comes from a question I posed to the Focus Fair Art Collective, who will be selling their beautiful handmade wares at the Spill Coffee Bar on December 8 and 9. Here are some more responses:

What is the difference between making and buying a gift for a friend? How does it affect you to give someone one of your creations?

“Making a gift (or giving a hand-made gift) is a great way to show that you spent time really thinking about the personality & individuality of your friend. Giving someone one of my hand-made creations (or knowing others are giving my creations as a gift) means I am giving  a portion of my creative spirit, time, energy & thoughts. I think it says a lot more than any generic or big box gifts! Plus they will have something you can buy everywhere.”

-Jill Bishop, urbantomato

”The difference for me is that making a gift feels much more authentic, and heart-felt.  It shows my friend how much I care about them, that I would take the time to create something specifically for them based on what they uniquely appreciate. While one can often ‘buy’ a gift that carries the same message of affection, it doesn’t carry the reality of ‘time invested’ as hand-making something. I think the joy in creating a gift is doubled when you see the delight someone has in receiving it! Living in such a busy, fast-paced, instant-everything culture – it means a lot to people to see that you took the time to make them feel special.”

-Melissa Bothwell-Inglis, Needle and Nest Design

When you make a gift for a friend, it’s an opportunity to personalize what you create and can be tailor-made to that relationship and person. Though you can go out and buy their favourite mass-produced item, it doesn’t have that same flare and love as something made by your own hands. With a hand-made gift you’ve created something unique and special that speaks of care and time. To give someone one of my creations fills me with pride and fulfillment that I’ve given something that represents me as an artist. I love seeing the reactions and smiles my work can generate which drives me to create and share my work even more.

-Jamie Campbell, Magic Bean Creations