Produced by Stephen Campbell
Weddings, birthdays, anniversaries and housewarmings—a new year brings another 365 days to celebrate the most memorable moments of life. And while a gift card or the latest gadget always garners a polite thank—you, it's the handmade and heartfelt gift that draws genuine gratitude and joyful smiles.
We took inspiration from folklore around the world to dream up these unique, easy and budget-friendly DIY gift ideas. They wish friends and family health and happiness in any language—and enhance your street cred as a gift whisperer, to boot.
Ducks stay together as mates for life. That's why it's traditional in China for brides and bridegrooms to exchange red handkerchiefs adorned with a pair of Mandarin ducks—also a gesture that expresses mutual happiness and congratulations. The more happiness shared, the more luck is bestowed. So, pick up some red fabric and embroidery floss, and start spreading the love.
(Perfect for a wedding!)
During the Depression, wandering hobos communicated with an intricate system of symbols. This cat symbol, perhaps carved on a fence post outside a home, told others that a kind woman lived there. Instead of risking a vandalism citation, however, we suggest you fashion your own hobo cat doorknob or wall hanger from floral wire, chunky fashion yarn and beads to honor a kind friend in your life.
(Perfect for a birthday or a thank-you gift!)
In ancient Greece, honey was considered the food of the gods and represented the sweetness in life. How fitting, since your friends will consider you a minor deity when they receive an old-fashioned dipper and jar filled with the sweet, amber-colored stuff. Decorated with Darice chenille honeybees for an added touch of whimsy, make like a locavore and fill the jar with honey handcrafted by a local farmer or beekeeper.
(Perfect for a housewarming, birthday or thank-you gift!)
At Polish weddings, the bride's and groom's parents customarily offer the newlyweds salt-encrusted bread and a goblet of wine, signifying their wishes that the couple never suffer from hunger or thirst, and that they enjoy the protection salt was believed to provide against everything from evil spirits to storms. You can do the same—and minimize the mess—with two small artisan loaves, including one that holds a small container filled with salt. Then impress your friends by wishing them abundance and good health in Polish: "Staropolskim zwyczajem witamy Was chlebem i sola, aby w Waszym domu zawsze goscil dostatek," which translates to, "According to our Old Polish tradition, we greet you with bread and salt, so that your home might always enjoy abundance."
(Perfect for a housewarming or wedding!)
In bygone days in Ireland, a young lad would give his lass a coin on their wedding day—a symbol of prosperity. In modern days, the tradition has become a bit more politically correct, with the newlyweds presenting each other with coins. You can put a modern-day spin on this tradition by framing a coin in a pocket cut from a pair of old jeans (or purchased from a thrift store to save some, um, coin), thus ensuring your friend's pocket will always hold good fortune, in a manner of speaking.
(Perfect for a wedding or a new job!)
According to folklore, brooms become attached to their homes. So rather than risk a scene and a streak of bad luck, it's best to pull an out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new move and buy one for a new abode. That ensures good luck and harmony in the new home, as the new broom sweeps out any evil spirits. We gave this handmade broom a bit of bling—and a considerable boost in self-esteem—by coating part of the handle with gold leaf.
(Perfect for a housewarming gift!)
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