2016-06-30
Tired of giving the same old stocking stuffers, books, and pajama sets for the holidays every year? Here are 10 suggestions from Beliefnet editors for unique holiday gifts. Some of these items--all of which we have either given or received--are religion-specific, others are general spiritual gifts that can be enjoyed by people of any faith. Be sure to check out the Beliefnet member picks as well.



Madonna and Child Icon

Even devout Protestants often find beauty in Eastern Orthodox icons. Both Pope John Paul II and my dyed-in-the-wool Catholic grandmother gave this Orthodox icon of Mary a place of honor in their homes. It doesn't get more ecumenical than that. This icon, based on the wonder-working Icon of Kazan, shows the Theotokos ("God-bearer") gently holding her son. There's a special Christmas poignancy in its serene depiction of mother and child. --Laura Sheahen

Cost: $17 for a reproduction
Where to buy it: Skete.com
Contact: 800-81-ICONS, www.skete.com
More icons: From MonasteryGreetings.com




Handcrafted Kaleidoscopes

Boy, kaleidoscopes have come a long way since we were kids. There's a whole world out there of magnificent handcrafted kaleidoscopes that positively transport you. To me, they are awe-inspiring, focusing the mind's eye on the splendor of light, color and geometry. For those who find God in the structure of an atom or a picture of the Milky Way, kaleidoscopes can be spiritual tools. The special trick with this one with the liquid cylinder is that the fluid pours through the prism, creating an ever-changing dance of light and color. --Steve Waldman

Cost: $52
Where to buy it: On Reflection Contemporary Kaleidoscopes
Contact: 828-285-8894, www.onreflection.com
More kaleidoscopes: From Kaleidoscope World




Spin the Dreidel

Most people associate dreidels with the cheap plastic kind that kids use to play with during Hanukkah. But handmade dreidels, in painted wood, silver, or even glass, can make beautiful gifts or collectors' items. These handpainted wooden dreidels made in Israel are a great souvenir, too, because the letters on the sides stand for "A great miracle happened here," instead of "A great miracle happened there," as dreidels anywhere else in the world say. Dreidels are most common during Hanukkah, but as art in your home, they can be reminders of every day miracles, too. --Rebecca Phillips

Cost: $20
Where to buy it: Rotem
More dreidels: From Rotem. Plus: unique Hanukkah candles.




Nativity Set

I feel great about buying gifts that support good charities. African Team Ministries offers jewelry made from interesting stones, hand carved wood items and scarves, all hand-made by people in East Africa. Money from sales goes directly to education for children in East Africa, one of the few charities where virtually all the proceeds go directly to those in need. I bought a rose quartz angel necklace for my little niece, and this soapstone nativity set for my sister. --Martha Ainsworth

Cost: $50
Where to buy it: African Team Ministries
Contact: 800-456-0843, www.africanteamministries.org Pocket Angels

One of the things I cherish in my spiritual life is its tactile nature. The waxy feel of candles, the flow of robes, the taste of wine. This little gift is perfect for connecting with your spiritual life any time. Put your fingers in the silky little bag, pull out the cool, smooth coins, and think good thoughts. --Deborah Caldwell

Cost: $15
Where to buy it: JJill.com
Contact: 00-343-5700, JJill Online Catalog




Trappist Cheese

Everyone knows about the famous bourbon fruitcakes from Thomas Merton's monastery, but you might not know that they also make the world's best fudge, fragrant with bourbon as befitting the abbey's Kentucky location. I also love the monastery's pungent cheese, similar to a Port du Salut, made by the monks using milk from their own prize-winning herds. I enjoy giving gift boxes of both cheese and the fudge in various flavors. --Martha Ainsworth

Cost: Prices vary, $52 for 2 cheese wheels like this
Where to buy: Gethsemani Farms
Contact: www.monks.org, 800-549-0912




Tea for the Soul

The tea ceremony is an ancient ritual that recognizes that every human encounter is a unique occassion that cannot be repeated, a philosophy summed up by the Japanese expression ichigo, ichie -- one cup, one moment. Whether you want to share the experience with friends or spend the time alone in meditative reflection, tea invites us to savor the present. From the simple clay cups to the aromatic tea leaves, this tea kit is equipped to delight the soul and the senses. --Lisa Schneider

Cost: China Oolong Tea Set, $52
Where to buy it: Alltea.com
Contact: www.alltea.com




Advent Calendars

Time was, when you wanted an Advent calendar, you trekked to a Christian book store and hoped to find a paper thing with not-too-icky chocolates behind the little doors. Of course, when I was a kid, I just raided the chocolate on about Dec. 12 anyway. Imagine my surprise the other day while strolling through the mall when I found this number: A gorgeous wooden (and, I might add, REUSABLE) Advent calendar. Beautiful. I'm putting it on my coffee table in the living room for the kids to play with. --Deborah Caldwell

Cost: $89
Where to buy it: Pottery Barn
Contact: www.potterybarn.com, 888-779-5176




A Spiritual Remedy

My daughter in Portland, Oregon, swears by Bach Flower Remedies, originated in the 1930s by British M.D. and homeopath Edward Bach, who developed a system of treating dozens of "emotional and spiritual imbalances" with tinctures derived from wildflowers. These tiny bottles of flower essences (from aspen to willow) come with a questionnaire to help you determine which flower to use for which emotion. (Negative moods said to be helped by Bach remedies include depression, uncertainty, anxiety, jealousy, and even "intolerance of others and the readiness to find fault.") Unlike aromatherapy products, these are diluted in water and sipped.
--Wendy Schuman

Cost: Individual dropper bottles are $5 each
Where to buy it: NelsonBach.com
Contact: www.nelsonbach.com, 800-319-9151

Beliefnet Member Picks


For more member holiday gift picks, or to recommend your own, visit the message board.

Christmas Gifts That Help Others

"I love to buy gifts from the Serrv International Catalog. They are a fair trade organization which, besides having a catalog and a website, offers churches an opportunity to sell their hand crafted wares from cooperatives all over the world in their churches. I found out about Serrv when the church where I used to live had a Serrv store as a part of its community outreach. They have delightful things for children and adults, religious items, and beautiful handcrafted household items."
--connietyl

The Serrv catalog includes holiday gifts like this "Star of Bethlehem" box made by Wichi Indian woodcarvers, as well as nativity wall hangings, Christmas stockings and tree skirts, and more. Explore more holiday gifts.




Holiday Crafts

"I love just about everything in the Chinaberry catalogue, but here's one for the holidays."
--comcon

Chinaberry offers many simple art projects like these angel ornaments, as well as other gifts, books, tapes, and more for children. Chinaberry also runs the Isabella Catalog, which offers unique gifts for "reawakening the spirit" from many different faith traditions.




Honoring the Matriarchs

"My tallit (prayer shawl) that my husband gave me to commemorate my conversion to Judaism. It is made in Israel and supports the Women of the Wall movement. Women that demand the right to pray OUT LOUD at the Western Wall, and worship the way they want to without fear of assault and abuse by the ultra-Orthodox establishment. It honors the 4 Matriarchs: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah."
--ChavaShoshanah

Explore more products.





Gifts for Unsung Heroes

"I always seem to put all my heart into my gifts. I always want to let my friends know why I love them, and just how profound they are in my life as well as others. I recently found the coolest website. It's www.theunsunghero.com. It's reasonably priced, and part of your payment will be donated to various charities (they have the current charity information posted). It's good for family, friends, teachers, co-workers or virtually anyone important to you. At least take a look, if you have a chance. Some of the stuff is really moving, and will send a good message."
--Jessicastudent




Symbols of Unity & Myth

"Bracelet and necklace with symbols of all the major worlds religions."
--deedoris

View more jewelry like this.

"I really like these statues."
--Calico

MythicImages.com offers statues like this one of Persephone and other gods and goddesses and mythical figures, including Aphrodite, Diana, and Bacchus.





Bible Verse Dinnerware

"My favorite place to shop online is Monastery Greetings. Another place to order food online from monasteries is: http://www.personal.psu.edu/users/f/g/fge1/foods.html.

This place [Freestone Pottery, at left] has 'Scripture Pottery' (pictured here). I like to buy gift items from Conception Abbey. They have beautiful calligraphy prints, icons, wall plaques, jewelry, etc." --christianmystic

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