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Unique Diwali Gift Ideas: Celebrate India’s Festival of Lights Around the World

Unique Diwali Gift Ideas: Celebrate India’s Festival of Lights Around the World

diwali gift ideas to celebrate the Festival of Lights in India—and around the world

The word Diwali, with its upward-lilting last syllable, already carries within it a lightness and a note of grace. That’s fitting, too: A translation of the word reads “rows of lighted lamps,” a beautiful and warm image invoking peace, warmth, and openness. Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights in India and around the world, is one of the high points on the Hindu calendar, a day when light triumphed over darkness. And it’s that selfsame light that we celebrate today.

Diwali, Festival of Lights in India
India’s Festival of Lights | Image courtesy Wikimedia commons user urbanurban_ru

Imagine thousands of lights over thousands of houses and across vast lands, stretching back into the mists of times, and you have Diwali. It’s a day where people clean and redecorate, much like the traditions of the Chinese New Year, pushing away the darkness of the last year. And it’s a day to give presents to the ones you love.

Exchanging gifts is fitting for such a wonderfully happy day. Gift exchanges celebrate the love that you have for each other, and the joy of having people near you. That’s the purest expression of light—that which comes from within us, and can be felt by others. Even if that light is unseen, there’s the physical glow of the festival, a historical celebration of family and friends, illuminating your every smile.

This Diwali, make sure you let your loved ones know how much they mean to you. Be a beacon through every darkness with unique Diwali gift ideas for celebrating India’s Festival of Lights anywhere around the world.

Why Is Diwali Important and Celebrated: The Story of Diwali

The story of Diwali
Tell me about Diwali… | Image courtesy Amazon

The story of Diwali is well known in many parts of the world, but there are many different reasons why it is important and celebrated from region to region throughout Asia. In northern India, it recognizes the return of the god Rama to his sacred city after 14 years in exile. In southern India, the day focuses on Lakshmi, the goddess of fortune and prosperity. In Nepal, it celebrates Lord Krishna’s victory over Narakaasura, the demon king, while in Bengal it’s most often associated with the goddess Kali.

The point is the same, though: A memorialization of the triumph of good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, hope over sadness, and light over darkness. That’s why it’s a holiday in India, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Fiji, and many other countries, including parts of Pakistan.

The holiday is about joy and jubilance. There’s no room for mourning or despair. It recognizes victory and, more importantly, the chance for more victories to come. It recognizes that we can triumph in our own lives. And because it’s a party, there are always traditional foods. In this case sweets, perhaps to signify just how sweet life can truly be!

Unique Diwali Gift Ideas for Family and Friends

Patterns + Colors | Image courtesy Etsy seller RCMooreVintage
Patterns + Colors | Image courtesy Etsy seller RCMooreVintage

It isn’t a Diwali party without sweets and candy, but the celebration of Diwali is about more than just food. It’s also about giving gifts. You just have to know the right ones to give. Here are some unique Diwali gift ideas for friends and family this year, from gifts that will dazzle to gifts keeping with 2017’s minimalist trends:

  • A party dress: A Diwali dress is very important, as they are themselves a representation of lightness, a manifestation of the swirling beauty in the cosmos. Reflecting the intricate minaturisms that characterized much of Hindu art, and suffused with bright colors, a dress becomes a treasured item, a reminder of a new year—and of the person from whom it came.
  • Diwali books: These are especially great for children who are just learning what this sacred and beautiful day really means. Diwali books can be about the history of gods triumphing over darkness, or about how we celebrate it today. There are two sides to Diwali: the light without, and the love within, and good books help children recognize that from a young age.
  • Statues: Representations of the gods can bring good fortune and joy to the recipient, and are a reminder of why we celebrate.
  • An Om tapestry: Sacred in Hinduism, the Om (or Aum) pattern is the representation of the sound of the universe. An Om tapestry brings that transcendental peace and oneness to any recipient.
  • Candles: It is the Festival of Lights, after all. Give a candle and when it is lit, it will join the millions around the world, shining through the darkness.

A Diwali Gift Exchange

Diwali cards are sweet | Image courtesy Etsy seller Aleeshasattic
Diwali cards are sweet | Image courtesy Etsy seller Aleeshasattic

As we’ve pointed out, Diwali is celebrated around the world, and not just in countries where it’s an official holiday. The Hindu diaspora is in every corner of the globe, bringing unique and beautiful traditions of learning and peace wherever it goes. But that might mean your Diwali celebrations are spread out over many continents. Luckily, you can still have an online gift exchange to bridge those miles.

An online gift exchange allows you to randomize and anonymize selections so that the giver of the gifts is a surprise. The recipient can create a wish list from top online retailers, and the list will be given to their secret gift giver. The presents will be sent, and they can all be opened at the same time,

Your friends and family don’t all have to be in the same room, the same city, or even the same side of the earth to break bread and eat sweets together. You can bring that spirit, that light that makes Diwali so special, through the darkness of countless miles. By being able to celebrate with the ones you love, from anywhere, you are bringing the endless glow of Diwali with you everywhere.

What light illuminates you? Tell us about your favorite Diwali gifts and memories on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or on Instagram @Elfstergram. And, for inspired Diwali dessert gifting, browse our Sweet Gift Guide.

Brass Lakshmi image in banner is courtesy Amazon.

Feliz Dia de la Reyes: Three Kings Day Gift Ideas for a Royal Celebration

Feliz Dia de la Reyes: Three Kings Day Gift Ideas for a Royal Celebration

camels for three kings
Camels don’t actually have to be a part of the celebration, but they could be… | Image courtesy Etsy seller darialvovsky

The story of Christmas doesn’t begin or end on the 25th. There’s an entire holiday season full of parties and gifts that leads up to Christmas Day. And, for many around the world, a hugely important Yule-inspired holiday is celebrated after the new year: Three Kings Day (or The Feast of the Magi), known in many Latino cultures as Dias de la Reyes. It’s a day that is as venerated and fun-filled as Christmas morning.

Dias de la Reyes, which falls every year on January 6th, is the exclamation point at the end of the holiday season. While some spend the first week in January wrapping up glass ornaments and dragging away the Christmas tree, that isn’t the case in cultures which celebrate The Feast of the Three Kings. For those lucky countries, the holidays end with a bang, with gifts, with goodies—with joy. It’s one final chance to celebrate a beautiful season with the ones you love. I’ve pulled together some royal Three Kings Day gift and party ideas, if you haven’t been lucky enough to celebrate the occasion before. So, read on. It’s the wise thing to do.

 

The Feast of the Three Kings: Celebrating Dia de las Reyes

wise men book
Vintage wise men | Image courtesy Etsy seller BabettesFeats

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the Three Kings followed the Star of Bethlehem to the manger where the Christ child lay swaddled. In the gospel, they are just referred to as visitors from the East, and while their number is never mentioned, the three gifts that were brought—the now famous gold, frankincense, and myrrh—led scholars to believe there were three of them.

Who they were has always been up for debate. “Kings” was a later interpolation, but they are most often referred to as astronomers, or just the “Wise Men.” Some people believe they were Zoroastrian priests, which lends a certain symbolic weight to early Christendom. By the middle of the first century, though, they were given names: Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar.

Regardless of who they were, their visitation was important to Christian history. It was a symbolic recognition of the importance of Jesus to everyone. Three Kings Day celebrates the idea that his story is universal; even distant kings (or astronomers) come to bow down. That’s why it is a feast day, and why some cultures really elevate that feast to a full-blown celebration.

 

Feliz Dia de la Reyes: A Gift Exchange With Camels and Shoes

In many Latin cultures, the Wise Men are a bigger deal than Santa. One of the traditions is for children to put out a bowl of water and a bowl of grass (for the camels) on the night of January 5th, and ring their shoes around the bowls. When they awake, the shoes are filled with presents. (Presents can also be placed outside the shoes, of course. It’s hard to get an XBox in a sandal.)

rosca de reyes bread
Rosca de Reyes | Image courtesy My Bueno Cookbook

It’s a day filled with parades and parties. One tradition is to have Rosca de Reyes, or “King’s Bread.” In Mexico, thousands of people gather to eat from a mile-long string of connected loaves. It’s a communal affair: everyone bakes and everyone eats, sharing from each other’s ovens. It’s like a city-wide gift from everyone, to everyone. Of course, yours can be a little bit smaller.

This is a sweetbread, with a twist: There’s a figurine of the Christ child hidden within it (echoing a Mardi Gras tradition). Whoever finds the figurine has to make tamales for everyone on February 2nd, which is the Feast of the Candles. While the root of this silliness is unclear, it is a good reason to eat tamales. Note: There is never a bad reason.

The day is usually rounded off by a feast. There aren’t any traditional foods, which is wonderful. It means every family has a tradition of their own! You can continue traditions or start a new one every year (if the tradition is to have no tradition at all). At the dinner, the children often wear gold toy crowns to pretend they’re the kings, but that doesn’t mean you have to listen to them.

 

Three Kings Day Gift Ideas for Royal Fun

incense holder
Incense evokes the gifts of the kings | Image courtesy Amazon

Needless to say, Dia de la Reyes is a great reason for everyone, not just the kids, to get and receive gifts. It’s still the Christmas season, after all. They can be exchanged at the end of dinner, or when the kids are opening their gifts around the shoe ring. But what gifts to give? Here are a few Magi-inspired ideas, but like with the food, there aren’t traditional gifts, so don’t feel bound by these ideas:

  • An incense holder: Why an incense holder? Because you may be giving them incense sticks. After all, what better way to celebrate the Feast of the Magi than by inhaling the beautiful scents of frankincense and myrrh? While these may be inexpensive now, spices and perfumes and incense were incredibly valuable back then, and the symbolism shows that you truly care.
  • Oils and Lotions: There are, of course, other ways to give the scents, including oils and lotions. These are wonderful aromatherapy gifts, and can make anyone’s day a little more relaxed.
  • Gold: We aren’t, of course, going to tell you to give someone actual gold (although you can, if you want). But why not something golden, like decorative throw pillows or a candle holder?

A Magi Gift Exchange Is a Wise Idea

wise men photo props
A wise man once said… | Image courtesy Etsy seller silhouetteshop

Remember, there aren’t traditional gifts. You don’t have to go down the “gold, frankincense, and myrrh” road. Indeed, your gift giving options are wide open, but this can make gift giving tricky. If there are a lot of people in your family or group, you might want to consider setting up a gift exchange.

A Three Kings gift exchange can be run like a Secret Santa, which in this case we’ll call a Secret Gaspar, because that’s the easiest name to type. In your Secret Gaspar, everyone is assigned a giftee, and you’re given a list of what they might want. You can even ask questions anonymously, and they can add or subtract from their lists. No one knows who anyone is, since it’s all run online.

You can do this if you are going to be together on Jan 6th, or have the gifts sent to be opened all around the country—or even the world. For families with relatives in Latin America, this is a wonderful way to bring everyone together.

Sometimes, you can’t all get together. You can’t follow the Star of Bethlehem to give gifts. But that doesn’t mean you can’t all be together, in spirit and through technology, sharing gifts and laughter in warm remembrance of that cold night and three mysterious strangers all those thousands of years ago.

If you’re interested in more international gifting reads, the elves say A Freilichen Purim to you!

What’s in your shoe? Tell us about your favorite Dias de la Reyes gifts and memories on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or on Instagram @Elfstergram. And, for inspired gifting, browse our gift guides.

A Freilichen Purim! Gift Basket Ideas to Celebrate Spring, Community, and Life’s Joys

A Freilichen Purim! Gift Basket Ideas to Celebrate Spring, Community, and Life’s Joys

purim printable cards
Sweet tags for baskets of sweets | Image courtesy Etsy seller TwinkleSprinkleShop

Late winter and early spring are, for everyone, imbued with a sense of rebirth and excitement. It’s a time to escape the long winter—and look forward to the light. For the Jewish people, though, it means something more. It is the time for Purim, to celebrate when they were saved from annihilation at the hands of the Persians. It’s more than a party for the rebirth of spring; it is celebrating the miracle of existence. 

And what a celebration it is! Purim is described as a time to let loose, offering more unalloyed fun than any other date on the Jewish calendar. It isn’t a day for somber reminiscing, but for celebrating the unvarnished joy of being alive in this world. It’s marked with costumes, lively decorations, and food—delicious sweets and amazing baked goods.

All of this—the food, the costumes, the love and joy—can be included in your ideas for a Purim gift basket. Giving gifts is part of the Purim tradition; a spirit of generosity reflects the nature of the day. So for Purim, assemble a gift basket that will make your friends and loved ones thrill to the particular delight of being alive in this fallen, yet beautiful and joyful world of ours. A freilichen Purim!

Haman’s Lottery: The Story of Purim—and Traditions

the story of purim art
The story of Purim | Image courtesy Etsy seller JudaicArtStudios

To understand exactly what we’re celebrating, we should briefly look at the story of Purim and its traditions. Sometime in the 5th-century BC, the Jewish people were ruled by Persia, whose vast empire spread out over much of the modern Middle East. The Emperor, Ahasuerus, had a much-loved young wife, Esther, who was Jewish (though no one knew that at the time, not even her new husband).

Ahasuerus was also close to his prime minister who ran the empire, a real piece of work by the name of Haman. Haman didn’t care for Jews, and ordered them all to be killed on a day chosen at random, in a kind of backward lottery. To block Haman’s destruction of her people, Esther courageously revealed herself to Ahasuerus as Jewish, an act of unity with her community as she could have hid her identity and saved herself from facing death instead of standing up for her people. But she was brave—and it saved everyone she loved. Her husband, the Emperor, didn’t take kindly to the idea of his wife’s people being harmed, so took care of Haman instead.

It’s not a fun story on the surface, of course, but the joy of surviving through cleverness, courage, and unity with friends and family is inspiring. Purim celebrates a day where people overcame their enemies by sticking together, by being unified in the face of a threat, and by following the bravery of people like Esther.

There’s a joy in that, a joy strong enough to now laugh at the ineffectiveness of Haman’s hate. In fact, the name itself is a Persian word for “lots,” as in Haman drawing lots to figure out what day to harm the Jewish community. That didn’t work out so well for him, though, and now on the 14th of Adar every year, we celebrate life, courage, and community instead.

“Perfect” Purim Gift Basket Ideas

hamentashen purim pastries
Everything starts with Hamentashen | Image courtesy Etsy seller cookiesncornbags

OK, so this subheading is a bit of a fib. There are no “perfect” Purim gift basket ideas. There’s only the gift basket that makes you, and the recipient, the happiest. Giving a basket of food and drink, also known as mishloach manot, or the sending of portions, is part of the traditions of Purim to ensure that everyone has the means to celebrate. It’s another recognition of the importance of community and lending your neighbor a helping hand. Of course, when times aren’t lean, you can incorporate some fun as well as food.

Some elements of a great Purim basket include:

  • Hamantashen: See? Still giving Haman the business. Hamentashen are triangular filled-pocket pastries, usually with a sweet filling inside. Sometimes they are closed so you don’t know what’s in them. That’s part of the mystery and joy of Purim—there are miracles everywhere. Sometimes, delicious miracles.
  • Fruits and nuts: A fruit and nut portion
    Purim mask for kids
    Esther removed her mask and saved her people | Image courtesy Etsy seller EbonyShaeDesigns

    isn’t symbolic of anything, but they are foods that people could store even in rough times and share with their community.

  • Chocolate: This is symbolic of chocolate being delicious—one of life’s simplest pleasures.
  • Masks: Purim masks look a lot like Mardi Gras masks. As traditions sometimes find difficult soil in modern times, it might be good to throw in some costumes to remind younger people that this is a fun holiday celebrating life.
  • Educational material: Speaking of kids, remind them what Purim is all about. If your basket recipient is a child, or has children, consider Purim-themed books or movies.
  • Noisemakers: A big part of Purim is Gragger, also known as the Ra’ashan or Gregor. This is a noisemaker. It makes noise. Parents might not like it, but kids…the kids will.

Purim Gifts Exchanged Online to Spread Your Joy

In the old days (the very old days) sending gifts maybe meant going across town. Everyone was close together, so actually sending things to people far away was pretty uncommon. But times are different now. We’re able to expand our community of loved ones out of town, across the country, and around the globe. We’re able to host a Purim gift exchange with people throughout the diaspora.

a nontraditional purim gift basket
A nontraditional Purim gift basket that still celebrates joy | Image courtesy Etsy seller Parcelly

One way to do that is by using an online gift exchange to arrange for a far-flung group of family and friends to send each other baskets, or at least the components thereof, no matter where they are in this big world. All you have to do is sign-up for free, and get your loved ones to do the same. You can even make it a mystery gift exchange, so people don’t know who they are getting their gift basket from. It’s like a basket-sized, closed up Hamantashen.

A really wonderful aspect of this is that you can make sure that everyone is taken care of. The online exchange is designed to ensure everyone has a match. It’s just like in the old days, when gifts were sent out to guarantee that everyone could celebrate this important community holiday together. A gift exchange helps keep that spirit of oneness alive, rekindling that huddled and warm sense of shared happiness no matter the globe-spanning distance between two people.

We give gifts at Purim to remember what was almost lost, and to celebrate what we still have. Haman tried to take everything away from the Jewish people, but he was stopped, and life went on, with all its absurdities and graces, all its sadnesses and joy, the terrors and the triumphs of the long millennia.

And through those centuries, throughout the world, Purim was celebrated, whether the basket had just two potatoes or was bursting with Hamantashen. It’s a way to celebrate being alive in the world with those you love. It’s a time to give, and to take joy in giving. It’s a time to remember the greatest lesson of all: that to be alive is to be blessed.

Take off your mask and dance! Tell us about your favorite Purim gift basket ideas on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or on Instagram @Elfstergram. And, for inspired gifting, browse our gift guides.

Patriotic Party Ideas for Your Memorial Day BBQs and Backyard Block Parties

Patriotic Party Ideas for Your Memorial Day BBQs and Backyard Block Parties

Memorial Day BBQ
A splash of a backyard gathering | Image courtesy Unsplash user Frank Mckenna

Memorial Day signifies the unofficial start of summer when light sweaters are replaced with swim suits and backpacks are replaced with beach bags. Growing up, this often meant holidays spent around a beach bonfire with roasted s’mores, grilled hot dogs, and homemade flag cakes. Some years, the holiday was spent at large backyard gatherings of close friends, with music, swimming, barbecues, and water balloon fights to fill the day.

However you celebrate on May 29th, in honor of those who have sacrificed for us, it’s a day of gratitude. We acknowledge what is most precious to us in life by spending time in the company of family and friends, usually outside with a backyard gathering or barbecue. Whether you’re hosting a small intimate party this year, or a large one, here are four of our favorite activities to enjoy the day in a patriotic way.

Patriotic Words and Phrases for a Memorable Game of Charades

I love charades for its promise of deep belly laughs and getting to look ridiculous while acting out silly scenes with family and friends. I remember the first time I introduced the game to my niece. We were coming up with ways to stay entertained in an empty house that my parents were moving into and, with no board games yet unpacked, we made up our own charades game on index cards. From acting out dolphin dances to pretending to be a scuba diver in search of rare mermaids, the game we created was definitely one with our own unique spin to it.

For Memorial Day, you can put your own twist on this classic game by making it patriotic. Write down the names of famous American places, people, and objects on red, white, and blue notecards, then get all your friends and family together to take turns acting them out. In this version, you can even include props for an overall experience bound to give guests of all ages a good laugh. Here are my favorite cue cards but, as always, feel free to fine tune them and let your creative juices flow!

patriotic photo props
Glitter-dusted liberty props | Image courtesy Etsy seller CraftingbyDenise

Famous American Places, People, and Objects Cue Cards

  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Firecrackers
  • George Washington
  • The Liberty Bell
  • The Constitution
  • Freedom
  • States
  • Picnic
  • Baseball
  • Pie
  • July
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Yankee Doodle
  • The Founding Fathers
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Hot dogs
  • Martin Luther King
  • Hamburgers
  • Ice cream
  • John Hancock
  • The Star Spangled Banner
  • Barack Obama

A Build-Your-Own Hot Dog Bar

Hot dogs will forever remind me of long summer evenings spent at the beach in Southern California. There’s something so quintessentially all-American about them—and the smell as they brown on a charcoal barbecue while you sip on something cool and refreshing. For a Memorial Day BBQ that sticks in your friends’ memories, an epic build-your-own hot dog bar will help keep things simple for you and fun for your guests.

We all know the typical staples—ketchup, mustard, perhaps some pickle relish. But, add some unique toppings and your hot dogs will go from everyday to holiday party fare. You can even buy some flag toothpicks as the pièces de résistance of your hot dog decor.

build your own hot dog bar
Hot dogs on the BBQ | Image courtesy Unsplash user Matt Heaton

The best part about this spread? You can arrange it all before the afternoon of your BBQ. Then, when it’s time to cook, just leisurely turn the hot dogs on the grill while you stand back enjoying the company of your guests. Here’s how I like to arrange my own hot dog bar masterpieces:

The Sauces:

  • Mustard—both Yellow Mustard and Honey
  • Ketchup
  • Garlic aioli
  • Chipotle sauce
  • Barbecue sauces in Smokey and Honey varieties
  • Hot sauces of all kinds

The Toppings:

  • Chopped sweet onions
  • Chopped bacon bits
  • Crushed potato chips
  • Crushed bbq chips
  • Baked beans
  • Chopped pickles or relish
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Grilled onions
  • Feta cheese
  • Cheddar cheese

The Buns:

Don’t hold back when it comes to your buns. There’s white, wheat, and even gluten free. Providing a variety of buns lets guests feel like they’re getting a slightly fancier version of the typical hot dog spread and allows them to fine-tune their meal to their own tastes.

The Dogs:

As I do with the buns, I throw a variety of hot dogs on the barbecue, from beef franks to chicken sausages to turkey dogs—even a vegetarian option.

Flag-Raisingly Fun Cake Decorating Party Games

american flag cake topper banner
Sweetly patriotic | Image courtesy Etsy seller SoSimpleSoSweet

When I was a kid, my mom would often include cake decorating as an activity at our birthday parties rather than having the cake pre-made ahead of time. She’d put out sprinkles, different colored frostings, and toppings of all sorts. To this day, she is still the queen of uniquely whimsical birthday party ideas—and of the annual 4th of July flag cake, which is what inspired this next idea.

Cake decorating party games are a sweet option to while away an afternoon, especially when sprinkled with a small dose of competition to make things exciting. For this activity, you’ll want to start by giving teams of two a small, pre-baked square cake and bowls of white frosting.

The point is for everyone to work together in teams to use red, white, and blue toppings to see who can come up with the most accurately patriotic American flag. Cakes can then be displayed a long table and a winning team selected by a panel of cake-judges. Whichever team wins can take home a prize, like a mason jar filled with red, white, and blue candies or a patriotic pint glass.

Flag-inspired Cake Toppings:

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • cherries
  • raspberries
  • yogurt covered pretzels
  • coconut shreds
  • red sprinkles
  • blue sprinkles
  • red licorice
  • mini marshmallows
  • red, white, and blue M&Ms

Give your guests a time limit of a half hour and when the bell dings, time’s up and voting begins. Extra points for accuracy—and deliciousness!

Water Balloon Dodgeball

water balloons for memorial day games
A colorful assortment of water balloons | Image courtesy Unsplash user Aaron Burden

When my brother and I were growing up, hot summer days often meant spending hours filling the huge sink in the laundry room with massive amounts of squishy water balloons. Then, we’d gather a few friends from the neighborhood, venture outside amongst the lemon and avocado trees, and let the water balloon dodge ball dance begin.

For this game, you might want to encourage guests to come in swimsuits or have a change of clothes on hand as they’re bound to get soaked. Fill red, white, and blue water balloons and, to give the game a twist, hide a soft prize inside a few of them. Let the guests throw and dodge until all the balloons are gone and a winner prevails. Then, encourage everyone to search the lawn for the prizes. Whoever finds them gets to keep them, along with a gift card to a local movie theater to help beat the soon-to-be-summer heat.

Whether you’re celebrating Memorial Day with a few close family members or hosting a block party for the entire neighborhood, we hope these ideas have given you some patriotic party-planning inspiration. From charades to dodgeball to a hot dog bar, enjoy spending the long afternoon in the sunshine with the company of those you love.

For more ideas on patriotic parties and gift giving, explore our Memorial Day Gift Guide or connect with us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram.

A Hopping Good Time: Easter Party Ideas for Toddlers, Kids, and the Young at Heart

A Hopping Good Time: Easter Party Ideas for Toddlers, Kids, and the Young at Heart

easter bunny eggs
You’re nobunny til somebunny loves you | Image courtesy Etsy seller Gnomewerkspdx

When we grow up, Easter tends to get unfairly short shrift. For one thing, it isn’t fixed in place like Christmas or always on the same weekend like Thanksgiving. Landing anywhere from late March to end of April, as adults in a life filled with responsibilities and hecticness, Easter can catch us by surprise.

But you know who loves Easter? Who looks forward to it every year? Kids. And what’s not to love? There’s candy, there’s the thrill of the egg hunt (because kids don’t know you can just go to the store for eggs, the adorable little goons), and of course, there are bunnies, the fluffy and cuddly kid-magnets synonymous with the holiday.

There’s more to it than that, though. I think kids just get excited by spring, with its atmosphere of warm renewal and crocus-pushing frost melt. Easter, both as a tradition and a time of year, promises a rebirth, the world unfurling again. Even toddlers, who might not fully remember the last holiday, know it’s important. They know it’s a season for growth.

So when throwing an Easter party for toddlers and kids, try to remember that feeling of awakening in yourself. Doing so can make for a party that’s fun for adults, too! We can all enjoy a good Easter celebration this year, with pastel traditions and egg-based humor. And that’s no yolk!

(Sorry.)

(I’m not actually sorry.)

Easter Party Theme Ideas for Toddlers and Young-At-Heart Adults

There’s more than one way to pet an Easter bunny. Throw a party the day of, or throw one beforehand. Either way, you’ll need to have some games and activities to make sure it’s one of the most memorable days of the year, and something to look forward to spring after spring.

Here are some ideas for parties that will leave both adults and children very hoppy, er, happy. Obviously, these can be mixed and matched any way you see fit.

The Easter Competition Party

One thing we love to do at our Easter parties is set up games for both kids and adults to play. Depending on how old the kids are, participation may vary, but they’re pretty suitable for anyone 3 and up.

pin tail on bunny game
Pin the tail on the Easter bunny | Image courtesy Etsy seller EmilyEntertains
  • The Egg Toss: This is the king of the Easter game because it combines the thematic importance of rebirth with people getting messy. Everyone pairs up and tosses eggs back and forth, getting farther apart each round, until only one pair has an unbroken egg. This is a lot of fun for adults and for kids because there is always the goofy tension of the egg hanging in the air. A variant for a younger crowd of toddlers could be having them toss a hard-boiled egg, or even rolling an egg across a table to each other.
  • The Bunny Hop Sack Race: All you need for this are enough sturdy bags (we prefer a good burlap bag designed for the purpose) and enough people who don’t mind falling down. You can have a kids’ race and an adults’ one, or just watch the kids hop around the lawn. This doesn’t even have to be a race, per se, it can just be an activity, with the kids hopping from tree to tree, each one getting a prize at various stops. For the adults though, it needs to be a race. After all, nothing inspires more fall down competition than ridiculousness.
  • Pin the Basket on the Bunny: All you need is a cutout of the Easter Bunny and some baskets to “pin” to his hand. There are a few variations on this. The basket could already be there, and the goal of the blindfolded participant would be to pin eggs to the basket. Or, you could even make it 3D, and have people try to drop eggs into a real basket while blindfolded (this is an outdoor game). Both kids and adults will enjoy this. It might be fun to see who is better!

The Crafty Easter Celebration

Part of the fun of Easter is that it is inherently DIY. From eggs to decorations, kids and adults can show off their creativity while celebrating the fresh, new season.

dyed Easter eggs
Coloring eggs is always a shell of a good time| Image courtesy flick’r user jriede
  • Egg decorating: This is wonderful no matter how old a kid is. Children as young as two can draw, and take their first fledgling steps at art. They know that eggs should be colorful, and as they get older, they’ll want to try different designs. You can use a classic egg-decorating kit, or use different crayons and markers or patterns. It’s an egg-cellent way to let imaginations hatch.
  • Build a Bunny: It’s like Build a Bear, only different. All you need are some felt or stuffed bunnies, and some patterns for clothes and accessories. Should Mr. Bunny have a top hat and a basket? Of course! Kids will have fun creating the Easter Bunny of their dreams.
  • An Easter-themed coloring book: Kids—and adults—love coloring books, and Easter, with its warm greens and bright pastels and daffodil yellows, is a perfect holiday for it. Get some coloring books for kids (and grown-ups!) and give yourself an hour of peace and quiet before or after the jelly bean-based sugar rush. Or, make your own customizable coloring book using your home computer and printer!

The Adventurous Easter Romp

Maybe you want to take your party to the next level of hip hoppity cool. Here are a couple ways you can do just that.

stuffed bunny
Are you telling me kids won’t be hoppy to see this guy? | Image courtesy Etsy seller SammieClarkArt
  • A scavenger hunt: Of course, you can do an Easter Egg hunt, which is always fun, but you can add more than just eggs. Hide items like coins, stuffed bunnies, toys, games, etc. If each child has a list of things to find, you can also ensure that everyone gets the same things, instead of the oldest kid hoarding 30 eggs while the rest of the kids cry. Let’s try to avoid that.
  • A visit from the Easter Bunny: A plush costume, a basket of eggs and candy, and a willingness for one of the adults to disappear for a bit are all that’s needed to make for a memorable Easter. It’s obvious that the kids will love this, especially the younger ones, and all the adults (or at least the ones who aren’t in the costume) will as well.
  • A petting zoo: This is obviously on the upper end, but there are a lot of organizations that will bring over rabbits for the kids to pet and play with. Who knows? It might end up sparking a lifetime of lepus love.

It’s funny. It’s easy for Easter to take us by surprise. Not in the Christmas sense of, “I can’t believe it’s only a week until Christmas where did the time go I NEED TO WRAP,” but in a literal way. We don’t always remember it’s coming. But when we do, it’s almost impossible not to get excited.

It’s spring again. Flowers are coming back. Birds are returning north. The kids know it; they know that life is about to start unwrapping itself. With these Easter party ideas, even us adults can remember what that was like, when we saw the world as new.

Bounce to social media and let us know about your favorite Easter party ideas. Tell us about them on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or on Instagram @Elfstergram. And, for inspired gifting ideas, browse our gift guides.

Egg-cellent Easter Basket Ideas for Tweens (Because the Easter Bunny Loves Hip Hop)

Egg-cellent Easter Basket Ideas for Tweens (Because the Easter Bunny Loves Hip Hop)

easter bunny basket
This Easter, make things memorable for your tween | Image courtesy Darren Coleshill via Unsplash

I still don’t know how the Easter Bunny managed to disappear without a trace every year before my sister and I could spot him. As girls, we would eagerly wait for him to ring our doorbell and leave our baskets on the porch. The problem was, he always surprised us by dropping our goodies at a different entrance than the one we were waiting at. Whatever sort of bunny magic he used to trick us, I’ll never forget the excitement of running to the door and throwing it open to try to catch even a glimpse of his fluffy tail bounding out of sight.

My basket was always bursting with milk chocolate bunnies, jelly beans, a homemade treat or two, and neon Easter grass, but there were also other surprises every year. Fun masks for playing pretend, chapter books and bookmarks, art and craft supplies. I went wild for the sweets, of course, but it was the small gifts that had staying power, especially as I got older and had enough pocket money to buy candy on my own.

Easter isn’t just “the candy holiday.” It was, and still is, an important time for my family to be together, and the personal touches inside my basket are what reminded me that my parents understood me and my passions in life. Creating an Easter basket for your tween isn’t hard. Keep their unique interests and hobbies in mind, all those little details that make up who they are, and they’ll know their basket was filled with so much more than just snacks and sweets.

Themed Baskets for Every Tween

I went through quite a few “phases” growing up. One year I was obsessed with The Little House on the Prairie, the next with The Babysitter’s Club. I wanted to be an actress, then a scientist, then a teacher. Whether your tween aspires to be a YouTube celebrity like Miranda Sings or a dance superstar like Maddie Ziegler, here are a few ideas that will make the Easter Bunny seem pretty cool in their eyes.

baseball art
Hit a homerun with a sports-themed basket | Image courtesy Etsy seller ScarletBlvd

The Star Baseball Player

  • A water bottle from the Chicago cubs to inspire them to never give up on their own dreams
  • A new pair of baseball socks because between grass stains and growing pains, tweens go through socks faster than parents go through coffee
  • A travel-sized sunscreen for those spur of the moment games in the park with their friends
  • A stopwatch so they’re always prepared to go into training mode
  • A new baseball since they’re forever getting lost behind fences
  • Nestle it all in a baseball cap from their favorite team and you’ve hit one out of the park!

The Prima Ballerina

  • A ballerina figurine to remind them of their dreams
  • Hair clips and scrunchies to keep their hair tidy while they pirouette across the stage
  • A new pair of tights (those things run faster than the Easter Bunny trying to hide from my sister and me)
  • A personalized mix CD of inspirational dance music
  • Bundle the gifts inside a cozy sweatshirt they can wear over their leotard while warming up.

The Drama Club President

  • A funny, age appropriate play they can stage with their friends
  • Stage makeup, to practice for their next big performance
  • Costume accessories like fake mustaches, masks, and crowns to making getting into character just a little bit easier
  • A playbill or collectible from their favorite play, to remind them of the bright lights they’re aiming for
  • Tuck the gifts inside an empty movie theater popcorn box because one day they’ll be up on the big screen.

The Future Vet

dog pillow
Tweens can keep their furry bff close with this Boston terrier pillow | Image courtesy Etsy seller GoodAfternoonan
  • Animal stickers to decorate their school supplies with
  • Small toys they can use to play with their pets
  • Grooming tools for when they want to show their pet some extra TLC
  • A stuffed animal resembling their pet that they can snuggle with at night
  • Small plastic or porcelain animal figurines to decorate their desk at school
  • Place the gifts in a brand new water dish for their favorite animal.

The Bird Watcher

  • Birding binoculars so they can take a closer look at their feathered friends
  • A guidebook on birds in your area, so they can sharpen their knowledge
  • Seed bombs, so they can grow wildflowers to attract more birds to your yard
  • A window-mount bird feeder, so they can watch the birds from inside on rainy spring days
  • Choose a natural wood easter basket—it will look like a real bird’s nest!

The Book Worm

  • Bookmarks, so they never lose their place
  • Small chapter books, so they can go on adventures in their mind
  • A reading light for those nights when they just can’t put their book down
  • A pencil case to hold highlighters to mark their favorite passages
  • Stickers or collectible gear related to their favorite book series
  • Place the gifts inside a hollowed out book that can be used later to store all manner of small bookish treasures.

You only need to include a couple of gifts to make your Easter basket stand apart from the norm, whether you choose handmade self-care gifts for your girly girl or outer space-inspired bits and bobbles. It’s your thoughtfully creative packaging that will have them feeling the love.

DIY Customized Phone Cases: An Easter Gift Every Tween Will Relate To

I didn’t get my first cell phone until I was in college, but my 6-year-old niece uses her Grandma’s so much, it might as well be her own. She uses it to make videos of her cheerleading and gymnastics routines. Whether your tween wants to call up their friends for a spontaneous game of baseball or uses it to take pictures of a migrating yellow-rumped warbler at the bird bath, chances are they’re also attached to their smart device. Putting a custom case for their favorite phone in their Easter basket is a surefire way to keep them interested in the Easter Bunny for at least a few more years (and will keep that expensive little computer up and running for as long as possible too).

cell phone case
Help them show off who they are with a custom phone case | Image courtesy Etsy seller ElenaIllustration

To create your own custom phone or tablet case, you’ll need:

  • A clear case for the appropriate device
  • A printed out picture your tween will like (anything from celebrities to sports stars, book characters to cute animals—it depends on the tween!)
  • Mod Podge
  • A glue stick

To make the personalized case:

  1. Cut the picture to fit neatly inside the case. The images should be facing out, so when the case is on the device, you can see the pictures.
  2. Make sure your image isn’t covering any spaces cut out of the case that leave the camera and microphones clear.
  3. Add a thin layer of Mod Podge to the inside of the device case, then press your image, right side out, onto the Mod Podged surface. Use your fingers to press out any air bubbles.
  4. Wait until dry, then add a layer of Mod Podge to the back of your image. Let that dry before adding one final layer to seal it in.
  5. When the last layer of Mod Podge is dry, the case is ready to use.

Walking down store aisles decorated to the nines can make holidays seem commercialized and a little impersonal, but making your own Easter basket is one way to bring meaning back this time of family and renewal. It shows your tween that you “get” them, and the extra effort put forth won’t go unappreciated—even if it is the Easter Bunny who gets the accolades!

As an adult, it’s the books, small figurines, homemade treats, and other surprise gifts from my Easter basket that I remember, not the generic candy. It showed me that my parents—I mean, the Easter Bunny—wanted the day to be truly special. And I carry the tradition on by adding something personal to each gift I give as well.

If you want to make this Easter really magical, check out our Easter gifts for kids guide. You can stay up-to-date with all things Elfster on Facebook, and don’t forget to check in with us on Twitter @Elfster, and Instagram @Elfstergram.

Imaginative Make Up Your Own Holiday Day Ideas That Celebrate Whatever Inspires You

Imaginative Make Up Your Own Holiday Day Ideas That Celebrate Whatever Inspires You

celebrate cake topper
Celebrate with this cake topper any day of the year | Image courtesy Etsy seller LettersToYou

Have you ever said something along the lines of, “Oh man, if I were president, I’d declare a national holiday for whoever invented string cheese.”  Well, it turns out that under a close reading of the Constitution, it isn’t only a president who can declare holidays. It isn’t even one of their primary duties. Anyone, in fact, can invent a holiday, and you should do so at the end of March.

March 26th is Make Up a Holiday Day, a day that celebrates the fact that we can celebrate whatever we want, even if we aren’t president. Think of something underappreciated, unknown, or just plain goofy that you think deserves to be celebrated. It’s a day to ask people what they think’s important, or talk to your kids about who they think should be recognized. It’s a day to reflect on what matters to you, whether it’s solemn and noble, or the concept of fun itself.

So this Sunday get together with friends and brainstorm on the kind of holidays you’d like to see. Who knows? Maybe soon enough they’ll be on the calendar. If Make Up a Holiday Day can get its own, well, day… anything goes!

A Quick Aside About Making Up a Holiday

pine forest mug
Arbor Day is taken, but what about “National Pine Forest Day”? Pine forests are outstanding! | Image courtesy Etsy seller TeideShop

It might seem weird to “make up” a holiday, but really all of them were made up by someone at some point who wanted to celebrate something. Arbor Day didn’t come to us from above, it came from someone saying, “Hey, know what’s awesome? Trees,” and everyone agreeing.

A holiday can be unofficial and still be celebrated (after all, it isn’t like National Talk Like a Pirate Day is recognized by Congress, though Michigan and California goofily honored it). Social media makes it all possible.

Great ideas are recognized, and build critical mass, and then suddenly everyone is celebrating something and adding their own touches. And really, it isn’t like you get Arbor Day off, so what is the difference between your new holiday and that one, aside from time and tradition. Nothing. And at some point, Arbor Day was new.  So go and start one.

(But also, really, plant a tree. You can even plant a sequoia! It’s a great gift for the person who has everything, and also 4000 years to watch it grow.)

Ideas for Quirky Holidays and Parties to Celebrate Them

So here are a few holiday ideas you can consider. Feel free to take inspiration from them, or even use them as your own, so long as you also propose a National Recognize That Guy Who Came up with This Holiday Day. (Oh, who am I kidding: St. Patrick’s Day is essentially already my holiday anyway).

millard Fillmore
This is Millard Fillmore. Not familiar to you? He was a US president | Image courtesy Wikimedia

Forgotten President’s Day

Technically, Presidents Day celebrates all 44 previous office holders, but most people only think of Washington and Lincoln, and maybe chuck in a Roosevelt or two for good measure. The others are forgotten, and having a day to remember them can actually make for a surprisingly fun party. This isn’t a celebration of truly bad presidents like James Buchanan or Warren G “Regulator” Harding. It’s more of a celebration of the weird quirks of history, that these people who were incredibly powerful, and who worked their whole lives for something, end up dusty and forgotten.

So for your party, assign everyone some obscure president. Have them dress up (your old-timey hat and wig distributor will be thrilled), and have them bring some trivia to do a brief reenactment. This will challenge your friends’ creativity, while also shedding light on the very real events that made us who we are. After all, history didn’t jump from Jackson to Lincoln. People like Franklin Polk made big differences, for better and worse. Who knew? Probably not even Franklin Polk.

National Weird Food Day

Not too long ago, my wife was babysitting my brother’s triplets (!) and when he got home, he made himself a peanut butter and cheese sandwich. No bread, just peanut butter between two slices of cheddar. She was stunned because she makes fun of me for eating that all the time. Neither my brother nor I knew the other one ate them because we never asked, because we both just think it’s normal. Because it is…

Tastes like chicken
Tastes like… | Image courtesy Etsy seller EvenInDeathArt

Every family has weird eating quirks that they take for granted. Same goes for every region and every culture. And that can make for a great party. Have guests come over bearing dishes that, as they grew up, they learned that not everyone eats. It’s a celebration of the strange ways our experiences shape us, and a joyful gathering of the differences that really make us all the same.

Some dishes will be weird to you, and some will be like the sun coming out from behind the clouds. “Where have you been all my life?” you’ll say to spaghetti and jelly.

OK, probably not that. But maybe? And that’s the point.

National Calvinball Day

If you’re making up a holiday, why not make up one that celebrates the very joy of creativity? Calvinball, for those of you who don’t know, is from Calvin and Hobbes, the greatest comic strip of all time (though I’ll hear arguments for Peanuts and Krazy Kat, of course). If you don’t already own the entire collection, Calvinball is a game where the only rule is that there are no rules. You can make it up as you go along, and force the other person to play by your rules as you make them.

Calvin and Hobbes quote
It will all make sense… | Image courtesy Etsy seller CountryHouseStudios

A typical game might involve Calvin hitting a badminton birdie into a tree with a polo mallet to go up Oogy to Boogey, before learning that the Vortex Zone he decreed Hobbes to be in is secretly a Boomerang Zone, so he has to spin. It’s a tough game.

So at the party, encourage people to make up their own rules. Everyone gets a turn. If they say that for the next minute everyone has to sing the theme song to Mr. Belvedere, everyone has to sing the theme song to Mr. Belvedere. If someone decrees that there is going to be a 30-second contest for who can make the coolest tower out of what’s on the cheese platter, it’s time to get all Frank Gehry on some dairy. If someone else decrees it to be time to go outside and play Calvinball, well, you know the drill.

Or rather, you don’t know the drill, and that’s what makes it so exciting. When you’re coming up with something new, it’s unformed. So many holidays have traditions that you don’t have to follow, but you feel weird when you don’t. If we didn’t have ham on Easter, I’d feel strange, even though there’s no real connection between ham and spring, you know?

But when starting from scratch, it’s up to you. But it is also up to the way people interpret your holiday. When you propose and promote a holiday, it might just be between you and your friends. But it might grow and catch on, and you’ll realize something amazing: what is important to you means something to other people as well, and they might want to celebrate it too. And that’s a real connection.

Isn’t that what holidays are all about? We celebrate these connections between us; they’re a joint sense that something is important, whether it’s as goofy as talking like a pirate or as solemn as honoring the fallen brave. Because they are a reminder that there’s something bigger than just ourselves, and that we are bonded in ways we don’t even realize. Every holiday is a raised glass to the threads that bind.

What holiday would you like to see become part of the canon? Tell us about it on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or on Instagram @Elfstergram. And, for inspired gifting ideas, browse our gift guides.

Bring Your Brogue: Charmed St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas Inspired by The Quiet Man

Bring Your Brogue: Charmed St. Patrick’s Day Party Ideas Inspired by The Quiet Man

the Quiet Man
The Quiet Man | Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

There’s an Irish pub near my home that I frequent quite often. It was my dad’s favorite place, and we were often the only people there born this side of the Atlantic. Warm and homey, it was thick with brogues and resplendent with laughter. I once took my soon-to-be-in-laws there and a friend of mine introduced himself to them saying, “Many a times have I celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in this very pub with Brian. And, a few of those times, it was even St. Patrick’s Day!”

St. Patrick’s Day has always been incredibly important to me. I’ve attended, and thrown, more Patty’s Day parties than I can count. But after a while, you begin to realize they’re all pretty much the same thing: shamrocks on the wall, maybe a green drink or two, and Irish classics on the radio. The holiday doesn’t seem to have much variety. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

Last year, I decided to throw a party themed after one of my favorite movies, The Quiet Man. It’s a classic film starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara set in a small town in the countryside of Ireland. It’s wildly funny, sentimental, moving, and a great love letter to the Emerald Isle from director John Ford. Hosting a themed party challenged me in terms of decorations and events—and challenged my guests to come costumed. But it was worth it.

It turned out that throwing a party inspired by The Quiet Man was the loudest party of all. 

Transforming Your Home into Innisfree

To briefly sum up the movie, John Wayne plays an American boxer named Sean Thornton who decides to move back to his home country of Ireland where he was born before moving to Pittsburgh as a baby. Growing up among the “steel slag hills,” he was told of the greenery and beauty of his native town of Innisfree. So he moves there, soon falling in love with the fiery Mary-Kate Danaher—but the marriage is forbidden by her brother. Romance, drama, and comedy ensue. It’s all incredibly Irish, with outstanding dialogue and a comic master performance by Barry Fitzgerald. It’s a truly great film.

shamrock pallets
Painted pallet shamrocks | Image courtesy Etsy seller R2KPallets

To throw a party inspired by it, you first have to recreate the mood and feeling of a small Irish town before modernity took hold. Start with the feeling of the pub where, unsurprisingly, a lot of the action happens. Order personalized bar signs with your name, or perhaps the name of the main pub in Innisfree, Cohen’s. You can also put up an Irish flag, although Ireland wasn’t technically independent when the movie takes place.

But it doesn’t stop there. To give your home the feel of old Innisfree, consider making it more, well, rustic. John Wayne’s character lives in a thatched cottage; he redid the roof himself. So I bought some thatch that may have been meant for a tiki party, but, if you put it up on the ceiling, it creates a cozy, woody feeling (rather than a hot and tropical one). Your guests will feel like they’re beneath an Irish cottage’s thatched roof, freshly pulled from the fields and dried.

Finally, I blew up pictures of the lusciously green Irish countryside taken on trips, and put them in windowpane-style picture frames so that it seemed like you were looking out the windows into a still, misty emerald afternoon, even in the loud raucous of my basement.

Tweeds and Wools in Greens and Browns

tweed accessories
Tweedy accessories | Image courtesy Etsy seller CELTICFUSIONDESIGN

So you have your home the way you want it, but what about you and your guests? While I never require costumes at my parties (because I’d rather people came), I don’t mind throwing ones where costumes are encouraged. And this one is fun, and pretty easy.

For the Women

Maureen O’Hara has quite a few iconic looks in the movie, including a frilly green dress with a bonnet (ideal for a rain-soaked romp in an old cemetery), blue top and white skirt for the climactic “chase” scene, and of course the jacket and knit cap she wears when first she meets Sean Thornton.

Now, of course, you don’t have to emulate her look entirely. Any knit cap will do. You want tweedy and earthy, vibrant colors that aren’t too rich, but look like the countryside. This isn’t fancy dress. It’s homey and homemade, passed down through the years, and brought out when an American gentleman comes courting.

But remember: Mary Kate Danaher is no passive wallflower. Make sure the clothes can contain a proud temper.

For the Men

A lot of the characters in the film wear suits, but that isn’t as much fun as the wooly Irish cap, the biggest necessity for your outfit. Just pair it with a sturdy button-up shirt and pants that can be worn in the field, church, or pub. If you have the hat, nearly any look—suit, suspenders, overcoat—is automatically reminiscent of the Emerald Isle. Of course, there’s also always a kilt.

Music for an Irish Jig

st. Patrick's Day Party Ideas
Honorary Irish | Image courtesy Etsy seller MossandTwigPrints

There’s a saying by G.K. Chesterton:

“The great Gaels of Ireland

Are the men that God made mad

For all their wars are merry

And all their songs are sad.”

He’s wrong about all the songs being sad, but he does capture how music is an intrinsic part of Irish culture, and how you’ll be needing some for your party.

There are the traditional rousing pub songs (“Whiskey You’re the Devil”, “Whiskey in the Jar”), the sad songs (“Danny Boy”, “The Ferryman”), and the patriotic songs (“Up the Rebels”, “The Rising of the Moon”).

Maybe my favorite sad/rousing/patriotic song is “Wild Colonial Boy,” which is also sung by the characters in Quiet Man. And don’t forget, of course, The Quiet Man theme, which is melodic and rousing. You can go modern as well, with the quintessential sing-along song, ”The Wild Rover,” sung here by The Pogues.

plains of Ireland
Not actually the view from my basement | Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Music is incredibly important to help set the mood. You can imagine people gathering in a warm pub out of the misty night, coming in from their fields and out of their homes, gathering around a fire, clinking glasses, and singing the songs of that tragic and poetic and merry and absurd land.

It’s that land The Quiet Man celebrates. Every character has their private sorrows beneath their open cheer, and everyone, even the main villain, loves their country with a deep and encompassing passion.

So make merry. Recite your favorite lines from the movie. And know that while shamrocks don’t always bring luck, when you have your friends gathered in your own private Innisfree, you already have all the fortune this life can bring.

How are you celebrating St. Patrick’s Day? Do you have any movie-themed party plans? Tell us on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or on Instagram @Elfstergram. And, for inspired gifting ideas, browse our gift guides.

Simple and Sweet DIY Coworker Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for the Office

Simple and Sweet DIY Coworker Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for the Office

office valentine
Image courtesy Etsy seller KerrysBungalow

There are few questions more fraught in the workplace than, “So, do you have Valentine’s Day plans?” It can lead to some awkward moments. The answer could be, “No, for I have yet to find love,” or, “We’re going skydiving with heart-shaped parachutes,” and then everyone else feels like scrambling to improve their plans. And many people just say, “I don’t really do Valentine’s Day.”

Work relationships are an interesting middle ground in our lives. You spend a ton of time at work, and really get to know people, but being too gushy is sometimes frowned upon. It makes Valentine’s Day delicate.

That’s why you should just have fun with it—and where the idea of a gift exchange can come in. Having a no-pressure, slightly goofy gift exchange on Valentine’s Day means everyone gets something, everyone gives something. After all, there’s nothing worse than being the one kid who didn’t get a card in their little cardboard box. Help your coworkers avoid heartbreak with these Valentine’s Day gift ideas for the office.

The Sweet Tooth Swap

I know, I know: Valentine’s Day comes right after you’ve finally worked through all the candy and sweets at your house from the holidays, but, on the other hand: more candy.

tabletop candy decorations
Sweet desktop decorations turn the office into a candyland | Image courtesy Etsy seller SweetGiftsbyStar

Having a “Sweet Tooth Swap” can be a fun and low-cost office gift exchange. Everyone just brings their favorite candy, whether it’s a tube of Toblerone’s, a bag of assorted Hershey’s Nuggets, or those cool “passport chocolates.” It’s a nice idea because everyone will get some sweet treats, regardless of their relationship status.

That’s the thing with Valentine’s Day: it’s a centuries-old tradition, but many people think it’s a “made-up” and commercialized holiday and that the various pressures are absurd. But the pressures often still feel real. So a candy exchange is a “sweet” way to lighten the office mood, especially if the gifting includes festive decor and some party activities, like:

  • Decorate desks with candy centerpieces (especially if you can pay for it with company money).
  • Have a goofy toy bow-and-arrow, like Cupid’s, that the person picking a candy gift holds. Tell them not to shoot it at any coworkers—they aren’t actually cupid, after all.  
  • Play games. I know I said not to shoot the arrows at each other, but if you have room in the office, set up a paper heart on the wall and have a competition to see who can hit the center of it with the arrows. Make sure, though, that the arrows are foam.  
  • Have a “Worst Valentine’s Day Ever” story competition. Everyone tells a quick, funny story. We all have them. Mine, for instance, involves a very unfortunately spilled bowl of soup. That way, everyone can laugh at how silly the whole thing can be.

Office Inspired Gift Exchange Ideas

Maybe your office has decided against candy; after all, a lot of workplaces are very concerned with health and wellness these days. But a “granola exchange” rarely sets hearts fluttering. Remember, though, that Valentine’s Day doesn’t just mean hearts: it encompasses affection, kindness, and thoughtfulness for everyone in our life.

des korganizer
A rustic chic look for the office | Image courtesy Etsy seller StacysCountryDesigns

And, it can be really helpful to set up a gift exchange online to make sure that everyone gets something, and that people stay within their spending limits. No need to put more pressure on the occasion.

Here are some simple and fun office gift exchange ideas:

Decorative pen holders. Something desk-related is always appreciated, whether it’s a cool and crafty pen holder, a fun decoration for the cubicle, a stress-reliever, or anything else small and work-appropriate. It’s nice because the recipient will think about the giver multiple times during the day, which helps create possibly unexpected connections in the workplace.

Personalized mugs. Most people you work with drink either coffee or tea. Instead of having a random hodgepodge of mugs around the office, encourage cupid to bring personalized mugs with funny sayings that will be meaningful to the recipient. Maybe they have a catchphrase, or an inside joke, or a funny quote from a client, like “I didn’t know ‘this Thursday” meant this Thursday!” It shows you know something about them, and that you pay attention to them as a human being. That matters, and they’ll think about it with every sip.

downloadable coupons
Downloadable coupon printables from Elfster | Download here

Homemade baked goods. OK, this isn’t totally healthy, but who doesn’t like baked goods. Exchanging these leads to more exchanges, as people swap a few of their mini-cupcakes for cookies or homemade heart-shaped macaroons. And, it may even lead to an intra-office recipe swap!

The classic coupon: Here’s an easy way to make someone’s day a lot better. We know that couples often exchange these, but downloadable Valentine’s coupons can also be great at work. Giving someone a coupon that says, “I’ll take the lead on a client call of your choice,” or “I’ll stay late to teach you Excel,” or “Good for one lunch on me” can make a demonstrable difference in someone’s day. You can also do a White Elephant-type swap on these—someone who needs to learn Excel might really appreciate it.

Valentine’s Day in the workplace should be about bonding, and having fun, and poking a hole in the pressure-filled romance of the day. The point here is to laugh and have a good time. You can turn this sometimes-difficult holiday on its head, and make it great for everyone.

By setting the right mood, and making sure that everyone’s involved, you can craft a Valentine’s Day remembered not for awkwardness and oversharing, but for genuine laughter and camaraderie. And isn’t that what the office should really be about?  

Let us know your work Valentine’s stories on Facebook, Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram. And don’t forget to download our printable Valentine’s Day coupons!

National Send a Card to a Friend Day: Letter Writing Inspirations and Ideas

National Send a Card to a Friend Day: Letter Writing Inspirations and Ideas

“Oh, my stars! It’s a letter from dear Willeford! He’s writing from far off America!”

3d butterfly card
Say it in 3D | Image courtesy Etsy seller anasdesignshop

You’ve probably watched a scene just like this one on some BBC period drama, with sumptuous clothes and weirdly bad lighting and various viscounts—and a character exclaiming delightedly at receiving a letter.

It’s almost unimaginable that there was a time when you could go months without word from a loved one, instead of reading about the daily life of grade-school acquaintances on social media. But there’s also probably a twinge of regret; regret that you don’t get letters anymore. The mail is often nothing more than ads and bills—there’s no mystery.

We’ve gained so much from instant communication, but we’ve also lost something. That’s why we’re so excited that National Send a Card to a Friend Day is coming around this February 7th. When you send a card, a letter, or an e-greeting, you’re giving so much more than a piece of paper. You’re giving a gift of yourself. You’re giving the gift of words. You’re sending love in an envelope—even if it’s a digital one.

Greeting Cards Are an Unexpected Event

chalkboard style card
Cards that send a message | Image courtesy Amazon seller Note Card Cafe

If you’re like me, when you get a card in the mail, you look at the envelope a few times, almost confused. You see the return address with a familiar name, but it’s not your birthday. It’s not Christmas. It’s just…a day. And that’s when you start to get excited.

You’re excited because it’s unexpected. It could be an invitation to a party, or the announcement of a baby. You open it, and it’s a note. It’s a card, hand-written. It’s heartfelt. It matters because the meaning behind it is that you were thought of.

And it’s the same with an e-card. We get so much junk and nonsense in our inboxes and social media feeds all day that the unexpected ping of something sent just because you’re you makes an enormous difference. The surprise of an e-card cuts through the chaff of our never-emptying inbox, and sends the gift of brightness.

Now, with this holiday, it’s not about everyone getting a card on the 7th. That would be had to coordinate, given the times it takes mail to be delivered. Of course, you can do that with e-cards but, otherwise, we’re looking to send them on the 7th. So get some blank cards, stock up on envelopes, stretch out your hand, and put pen to paper.

Prompts and Inspirations to Send Your Love

Obviously, we can’t tell you exactly what to say, but we can give some ideas, some prompts, some bits of inspiration:

vintage letter art print
Reading a letter used to be an everyday scene | Image courtesy Etsy seller OakwoodView

Send best wishes. Remember that these cards don’t have to be written to your best friend in the whole world. They can be to a relative you don’t talk to enough, an acquaintance with whom your main interaction is the occasional Facebook “like,” or an old neighbor who you used to hang out with until you moved away. Just send a card saying you’re thinking about them, and hope they’re doing well. Tell them you miss them. And that’s enough.

Send something personal. All cards are inherently personal, but make sure that what you’re writing isn’t mass-produced, but directed to a specific person. Ask something about them, let them know that you’re writing with them in mind. We don’t expect this from an invitation or a thank you note from a wedding, but when sending a card out of the blue, take the time to make it a reflection of your relationship.

Send your personality. Remember that while you’re sending the card to a person, you’re sending it from yourself. So find a card that reflects who you are, and how you’re feeling. Are you sending warmth and love? Are you feeling goofy? Do you want to send cute animals or cute actors (goslings and Goslings)? The writing is what matters, of course, but you also want to make sure the card makes people think of you with a smile on their face when they see it.

llama greeting card
Hay, girl! There’s a card for any personality | Image courtesy Etsy seller GreymountPaperPress

Send gratitude. Sometimes, you just want to tell a person that you appreciate them. It might be for doing you a solid one time, or it might be because you’re happy they exist, just knowing that they’re out there with their own personalities, with their greatness and their flaws, with their huge heart and goofy laugh. You’re grateful that you know them. Your life is better for knowing them. Because life is measured by the people we let into our hearts, and who we are is shaped by those around us.

Send a photo. I know there are over 82,000 pictures of you online, most of which involve cake of some kind, for some reason. Those are cool, but there’s something great about holding a tangible photo. If you have a real, printed picture of you with a friend or family memeber, whether you printed it off your phone or dug it out of a shoebox, that matters. It moves from ephemeral to tangible. It’s a great thing to get in a card. It’s an amber-captured smile.

Send something funny. I once got a card from an old friend of mine telling me a goofy story that just happened to her. She said that only I would get why it was so funny, and it cracked me up. It reminded me of absurd things happening when we would hang out and how we’d laugh like idiots until everyone else backed off, confused. A card doesn’t have to be ooey-gooey to be meaningful. The funny story reminded me of our friendship, and was an incredible thing to get out of the blue. I felt that old connection every time I looked at it. And I laughed. That’s not a bad deal.

stationary set
A stationary set to inspire | Image courtesy Etsy seller DPanesarillustration

Send a memory. A card is something that you’ll dig up a few years later, buried in a drawer or a scrapbook, and you’ll remember when you got it, and how exciting it was. But the card itself can contain a memory. You can write someone and say, “I was just thinking of that time we drove all night to catch the concert,” or, “I was just remembering how you held me when I found out she was sick,” or anything else. It’s a bond, it’s a remembrance reaching out from the page. Each sentence, each letter, contains the sound of the band or the smell of the salty breeze or the arm wrapped around you in your sorrow—and a gratitude for their friendship.

That’s what’s amazing about sending a letter. You’re making the effort to reach out, to connect in a way outside of the speed and impermanence of our modern world. There is so much to love about the way we communicate in the modern, technological era, but there is also much to love in what we’ve lost.

But you can find it again. This February 7th, sit down and write a letter. You don’t need wax seals or trained birds or a fancy Victorian desk. You just need to think about a person, wonder what they would love to open, and get to writing. A letter is more than a piece of paper. It’s a gift that can only come from one person, and that might be the most meaningful gift of all.

Let us know your most unexpected card story on our Facebook page, on Twitter @Elfster, or Instagram @Elfstergram. And, for carefree gifting inspiration, browse our gift guides.