2016-06-30
Tired of giving the same old stocking stuffers, books, and pajama sets for the holidays every year? Here are suggestions from Beliefnet editors for unique spiritual holiday gifts. Some are religion-specific, others are general spiritual gifts for people of any faith, and all are sure to be enjoyed by friends and family on your gift list.

SPIRITUAL SCARVES WALL SANCTUARY GODDESS GRANOLA CELTIC CROSS MONASTERY FOOD PET BLESSINGS BREATHE MUG INDOOR FOUNTAINS YOGA MATS TRAVEL MENORAH SOOTHING SALTS PURE WINDCHIMES ENCOURAGEMENT BOXES


Spiritual Scarves

Sacred Silks takes some of the most gorgeous stained glass windows from the world's great cathedrals and uses them as patterns for silk scarves. Their patterns include the southern Rose windows from the Notre Dame in Paris, the Creation of the Birds from St. Paul's Cathedral in London, the Fire and Water windows from Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco, and even the Veriditas labyrinth from Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Sacred Silks offers more than scarves. My serious red-tie-shortage problem--how to find one with pizzazz but elegance--was solved when I saw the red-and-black "Sacred Circle" design. --Steven Waldman

Cost: Prices range from $30 for pocket squares, $50 for ties, and $40-$110 for scarves
Where to buy it: www.sacredsilks.com
Contact: 1-877-788-7455




Wall Sanctuaries

A textile artisan in Cleveland makes these beautiful 8" square hangings from hand-painted and contemporary fabrics combined with antique Asian and African textiles. The artist, Mary Ann Breisch, was inspired by prayer practices from a spectrum of religious traditions. Pockets and ties hold small scrolls and pieces of paper, on which you can write a prayer or anything with sacred meaning for you. The artist refers to them as "center pieces" because they can be used for centering before beginning a practice of prayer or meditation. Each piece is hand-made to order; you can give a gift certificate so that the recipient can order the color and theme of their choice. Also available in larger 14" by 14" size (pictured) and 14" by 24". --Martha Ainsworth

Cost: $40 for the small hangings, $85 for the medium, and $200 for the largest size
Where to buy it: The artist's homepage, www.maryannbreischinc.com




Goddess Granola

There are lots of goddess-themed products these days--from Lakshmi candles to Venus shaving razors--but Goddess Granola is unique in its promise to "feed the goddess within." It does so with more than just organic oats and maple syrup. The company donates 10 percent of net profits to programs that support women, such as the Lionheart Foundation, the Center for Women in Enterprise, and the Women's World Bank. Goddess Granola also publishes an email newsletter that features a "Goddess of the Month" to celebrate social workers, businesswomen, educators, and other women making a positive impact on their communities.

The granola is yummy, too. I can personally vouch for the sweet and nutty crunchiness of the Genuine, but it also comes in Ginger flavor and Just for Kids. All three would work as a snack or in a cereal bowl with milk. --Lisa Schneider

Cost: $3.50 for 7 oz; $15.00 for 15 1.75 oz bags
Where to buy it: www.goddessGranola.com and some local stores
Contact: 1-866-GRANOLA




Brigid's Cross
I participated in Beliefnet's sacred tour of Ireland this fall, where we were moved by the simple, rustic beauty of a ubiquitous Celtic symbol, St. Brigid's Cross. Legend holds that the beloved fifth-century saint explained Jesus' Passion to her dying father by weaving a cross out of reeds. Our traveling group saw it constantly as we visited a Brigidine nun, Brigid's Well, and other sites in Brigid's town of Kildare. As a wall hanging or as jewelry (pictured), this cross is a beautiful option for those seeking Christian gifts.

Strapped for cash but have plenty of reeds? You can create a handmade cross the way the original Brigid did--by weaving rushes together using this easy pattern. --Laura Sheahen

Cost: $11-$50 for wall hangings; varies for jewelry
Where to buy it: For wall hangings, www.classic-crossandcrucifix.com; for jewelry, Island Ireland and other stores




Food from the Monastery

In monasteries, "work is prayer" and good food is a celebration of God's gifts. When you buy mouth-watering treats from Monastery Greetings, which offers products from 35 monasteries around the world, you not only support the charitable work of the monks, but get to taste the fruits of their spiritual labors. Our office, full of sweet-tooths, was more than happy to sample these treats. The Trappistine Almond Bark got especially high marks. One Beliefnet employee "bought five boxes of almond bark following sample taste test," one found it "compulsively munchable," and another "appreciated the high-quality nuts and chocolate and simple packaging."

The Trappist Preserves were also popular, especially the cherry preserves, which "actually had whole delicious cherries in it." Among the different flavors of monastery fudge, the Brigittine Praline Fudge "was the big winner," and one taster thought the cherry chocolate fudge would "convert even no-fruit-in-my-choco types." The Merry Monks at St. Gregory's Friary make a tempting selection of hot sauces, herbed vinegars & oils, marinades, soups, bagel spreads and Apple Pie Butter, made from apples grown in the monastery's own orchard. --Martha Ainsworth and Rebecca Phillips

Cost: $11.95 a box for fudge and almond bark, $4.50 a jar for the Trappist Preserves
Where to buy it: www.monasterygreetings.com




A Gift for Your Pet

My kids are Jewish, but our dog is Christian since he sports a Saint Francis of Assisi identification tag that I purchased from Petblessings.com. Though the strength and beauty of Saint Francis's message crosses all faiths, Pet Blessings is adding a new product to its line this month--a Star of David medal for Jewish dogs. The Pet Blessings website includes photos of engaging dogs and cats wearing the medal, which comes in red, blue, yellow and silver. --Amy Cunningham

Cost: $12.95
Where to buy it: Pet Blessings




A Cup With a Message

Meditation and yoga teachers always suggest reconnecting with your breath to center your consciousness. In the midst of a busy day, it's helpful to be reminded to slow down and simply breathe. This pure white ceramic mug, with the word "Breathe" on the outside, serves as just such a reminder. At 20 ounces, the mug is big enough for soup or a satisfying cup of herbal tea. And when you get to the bottom, the words "Inhale" and "Exhale" add an extra measure of peacefulness. --Wendy Schuman

Cost: $18 plus $5.95 shipping
Where to buy it: www.alteryourlife.com




Indoor Fountains

Being near a body of water, the ocean, a lake or gurgling stream always relaxes me, quiets my mind and helps me connect to myself. Most hours of the day, however, are spent working at an office or home, far away from the soothing sounds of nature. One way to simulate this experience is to buy an indoor fountain. They come in all different sizes, materials and prices. You can get them as cheap as $10-50 from www.bedbathandbeyond.com or as much as $99-$460 from www.Gaiam.com. --Carol Haggerty Reardon

Cost: From $10 to $460
Where to buy it: www.bedbathandbeyond.com, www.Gaiam.com



More Gifts
Unique Yoga Mats

Finding the serenity needed for yoga can be hard to do in the mad-dash culture of New York City, where I live. But for two New Yorkers, that is their mission. The founders of Flying Carpets offer a line of beautiful and fun yoga mats to enhance the yoga experience, changing the urban mindset of yoga from a sweat-at-the-gym experience into a mind-body revitalizer.

I like the red and white hibiscus pattern, which reminds me of a cool sandy beach in Hawaii, a perfect setting for yoga. I also like the Eastern-inspired designs, which come in red and blue. Each mat comes in coordinated handmade sack with a shoulder strap for the yogis on the move.

Flying Carpets mats and bags are available online, order-by-phone, and at a few retail locations around the U.S., Canada, and Europe. --Caryn Solly

Cost: $39
Where to buy it: www.flying-carpets.com




Travel Menorahs

Since Hanukkah usually falls during winter vacation, it's often hard to stay put in one place for the full eight days of the holiday. For Jews who want to make sure they light candles every night of Hanukkah, travel menorahs can be very useful. They come in a few different styles, but the most unique (and useful) one I've come across combines two Hanukkah symbols in one. This colorful menorah, designed by Israeli artist Avia Agayof and made of anodized aluminum, can be displayed folded out, or quickly folded into the shape of a dreidel for easy packing and storage. --Rebecca Phillips

Cost: $120
Where to buy it: www.detailsart.com




Soothing Salts

I gave 5-lb. bags of Bokek Dead Sea bath salts to friends last Christmas. Dead Sea water has a total salt concentration that is ten times higher than ocean water. And according to my favorite supplier of bath salts in bulk, Saltwork.us, the Dead Sea's reputation dates back 2,000 years, when Roman historian Flavius said it "cannot be praised too highly." This brine is composed of magnesium, potassium and calcium chlorides--great for anyone seeking simple relaxation or relief from skin or rheumatic disorders. Personally, I like the squeaky-clean feel I get from the salt on my skin. Saltwork.us sells 5-lb. bags, which leave plenty to go around, or 20-lb. bags for the heaviest Dead Sea heads. Note: it's better to salt your tub heavily once a week than lightly every night. --Amy Cunningham

Cost: $19.95 for a 5-lb. bag
Where to buy it: Saltworks.us
Contact: 425.885.7258




Pure Sound Windchimes

For those who feel a part of spirituality is being in tune with your physical and mental energy, the Grace Note Wind Chimes actually seem to change the vibrations around you to create a feeling of tranquility and good health within. Never before have I felt an energetic change like I do when I listen to these harmonic wind chimes. Created by musician Jeff Kile, the chimes are designed for ultimate clarity and purity of tone. The unique suspension design allows the chimes to resonate longer and clearer while the varying level of the tubes allows the striker to hit each tube in the center, the "sweet spot" radiating the purest tone. They are made from durable aluminum tubing, making them weather resistant. Visit the Grace Note site to see samples, listen to audio files and purchase. --Carol Haggerty-Reardon

Cost: $49-$238
Where to buy it: www.gracenotechimes.com




Encouragement Boxes

One Christmas I stumbled onto the perfect gift to give my closest friends: an empty box, plain box. It wasn't really empty and it wasn't exactly plain. On the top of the box, in black permanent marker, I wrote the verse, "Encourage one another daily as long as it is called Today…" Hebrews 3:13. Inside the box, I tucked a handwritten note thanking my friend for the gift of her friendship and the difference knowing her has made in my life. I also wrote the following:

"Before stashing this box away or finding a home for it, fill it with other notes, cards and mementos from friends and family that mean something to you and perhaps, have encouraged you. So, on those days around here that the sun doesn't shine, or on those days you're feeling lonely and discouraged, all you have to do is glance at this box and remember what's inside and know you are making a difference and that your life is having an impact on others. And use the memories in this box as a reminder to frequently write notes of encouragement to tell those you love just how much you appreciate them."

I buy my boxes to make this gift at Joann's Fabrics. Most arts & crafts stores carry plain boxes in different sizes. --Diana Keough

Cost: From $7.00 to $15.00, depending on size
Where to buy it: www.joann.com



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