Only 55 Days Until Christmas: Simple Gift Suggestions for Friends Who are Not LDS

I know it’s only the day after Halloween, but I’m already thinking about Christmas. Christmastime is especially hectic at our house. In addition to two different employer’s holiday parties, the ward Christmas party, Christmas cards, gift shopping for family and close friends, 100+ tithing settlement appointments, and traveling across the country to see our families in Utah, every year we have a list of probably 10 to 20 casual friends whom we’d like to give gifts to. These are the nice people at work, school, or in the neighborhood who have either given us a gift (necessitating reciprocity) or who deserve something more special than a card. A few years ago, we discovered a wonderful gift idea for these friends—something that is simple, meaningful, and inexpensive—Christmas-themed DVDs ordered from the LDS Catalog online. The only catch is that in order for the DVDs to arrive before Christmas, you have to place your order as early as possible (read: now). Many of the titles available would be especially appropriate for friends who are not LDS (people who you don’t want to scare off with anything too “Mormony”), such as:

Mr. Krueger’s Christmas: 25th Anniversary Edition, $4.50 each, or $50.00 per case of 50 ($1 each!). Mr. Krueger’s would be my first choice, given the cost, classier DVD cover, and, of course, Jimmy Stewart.

Joy to the World, $6.20 each, or $145.00 per case of 50.

Stories of Christmas, $5.00 each, or $125.00 per case of 50.

As soon as the DVDs arrive, I would recommend preparing them for distribution in one sitting. For extra Christmas-y effect, you can slap a bow on top of each DVD or wrap them in holiday paper. Or, if you’re really feeling ambitious, the DVD could be wrapped up with a treat (store bought or homemade depending on your time constraints).

In addition to the simplicity and inexpensiveness of these DVDs, I have found that the DVDs provide a non-threatening way to introduce my friends and acquaintances to the church. Each DVD contains not only the listed title, but also several other menu selections such as Finding Faith in Christ, The Restoration, etc. I figure if my friend watches the more generic Christmas title, if they’re interested at all in the church they’ll make another menu selection afterwards. If they’re not interested, then they won’t. Regardless, they’re receiving a thoughtful gift about something that is important to me. I can’t imagine receiving a similar gift from someone and not being touched by the gesture.

A word to the wise: I would recommend making a list of the people you plan to give the DVDs to and then adding 5 extra DVDs to that list. These extra DVDs have proved invaluable over the years as last minute gifts (especially as reciprocity gifts for people we didn’t expect would give us anything).

P.S. Struggling over what to give your bishop and his wife for Christmas? Please, please, please just sign up (and show up) early for your tithing settlement appointment. Fitting in hundreds of extra appointments during the month of December is NO fun for the bishop or his family. I seriously almost pulled out the veto card on J’s calling after last year’s tithing settlement rounds. If anyone at the Church Office Building is reading this, can we please just postpone the appointments until January? I’m sure everyone would still have plenty of time to itemize their deductions before April 15. 🙂

You may also like...

No Responses

  1. Janna says:

    I think that these gift ideas are fantastic for Christians. However, most of my friends are Jewish or atheists. Thoughts?

  2. Nick Literski says:

    Yes, it’s always important that you qualify your gifts to non-LDS friends as conversion opportunities, lest they get some strange idea that you care about them as individuals, rather than potential new LDS members. For extra points, you can give them the latest Amway or NuSkin promotional video for the next gift-giving holiday opportunity!

    Humor aside, I think most people would find what amounts to proselyting materials as a holiday gift to be in questionable taste. Really.

  3. Maria says:

    Janna,

    Good point about these being for Christians. For holiday gifts to my Jewish friends I have always given food gifts–like pre-packaged candies that are kosher-certified. Oh, and one year I gave an orthodox staff member a gift certificate to a kosher pizza restaurant.

    Atheists, though, I have no idea. I have no experience giving atheists gifts. Pardon my ignorance, but how do atheists feel about holiday gifts in general?

  4. Maria says:

    Nick,

    If you’ll note what I wrote above, I selected these 3 DVDs specifically because they are NOT that Mormony or proselytizing or whatever you would like to call it. Especially Mr. Krueger’s Christmas–if you’ve seen it recently you’ll remember that it is pretty much generic-Christian, on par with other Christmas classics. Call me crazy, but giving out a warm-fuzzy Christmas DVD for this holiday we call CHRISTMAS doesn’t seem that pushy to me.

    Still, though, I can understand why this gift would not be appropriate for every person on your list. I just put up this post to share with others what has honestly been a great gift idea for me and my husband over the years. We’ve had no negative experiences with anyone who received these DVDs; in fact, almost all have responded (without inquiry) with enthusiasm and thanks. I mean, really, who doesn’t love Jimmy Stewart at Christmas?

  5. Nick Literski says:

    Oh, I agree that Krueger is a “safer” choice than most church-produced DVDs. About the worst you can point to there is the big Mo Tab scene.

    My point is simply that one should use considerable care, and for a variety of reasons, should not select gifts based on their “conversion” potential.

  6. Janna says:

    Thanks, Maria! I really like the ideas for my Jewish friends — particularly the gift certificate to kosher restaurants. I live on the upper east side of Manhattan, so that would be easy.

    Good question about how atheists feel about holiday gifting. I’ll ask!

  7. a spectator says:

    I like this idea. I wonder about honoring a more important holiday for Jews? What if I gave a gift around Rosh Hoshana? I don’t know–maybe it is not a gift-giving holiday. Frankly, I had to laugh last year when the 2 Christmas cards I got from colleagues were from my Jewish colleagues. It wa very thoughtful of them.

  8. Deborah says:

    I like this idea — cheap, thoughtful gifts for that long list of people who you want to give a little something to. I tend to make cookies — but I end up throwing out half of the baked goods *I* receive because I’m so inundated by cookies and chocolate and pastries (teachers get a lot of little holiday gifts). So I’d love to collect other ideas of simple, cheap, non-edible gifts for neighbors and colleagues.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Ornaments…we exchange ornaments. It is really quite easy for us as we live overseas so each year we have unique ornaments to share. It is thoughtful, inexpensive and adds to your collection with memories.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I am not crazy about the “potential for conversion” packaged in a generic Jimmy Stewart frame idea either. My academic colleaques would see through it in one second. But I’m glad it works for you Maria. We should celebrate the Christ in Christmas whenever we can. For myself, I love to bake. And my homemade cookies have been well received. Maybe because they are family recipes handed down for at least 2-3 generations and so the gift giving also leads to good conversation.

  11. Ana says:

    Last year we made a pact as an office to skip the gift and treat exchange and donate all funds to a worthy cause, instead. We raised more than $1500 for a worthy cause. In our case, we donated to two student organizations at the university where we work – one that puts on a big Lunar New Year festival and one that mentors local elementary school kids to encourage them to plan for college. I got to serve on the committee that chose where to donate the money. This was so much more fulfilling than buying and getting more and more STUFF! We are doing it again this year and I think it will grow! I totally recommend this for your office or group of friends … bring it up now, you could get it done!

  12. Jess says:

    Homemade Jam.
    You can make it way ahead of time, tie a ribbon round it and you’re done. It’s rarely duplicated and always loved.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Having been on the receiving end of Christmas gifts with a Mormon “hook,” not to mention the several BOMs, The Work and the Glory, etc.,etc. I beg you to send appointments for root canal in lieu of anything even remotely related to LDS. Receiving such gifts feels like a burden rather than thoughtfulness.

  14. Caroline says:

    Ana,
    I LOVE that idea. In my family, I’m trying to push a no gift Xmas for the adults, with us instead donating a bunch of money to charity.

    As for little things that are thoughtful and inexpensive, I have always loved cd’s that are burned with some cool music on them.

  15. skyeJ says:

    Christmas gifts for atheists… Perhaps just something you think they’d really be happy to receive. Because you love them. You can say you are celebrating a holiday that is about loving others just because we are all part of humanity. Atheists love people, just like anyone else. True, we say Christmas is about Christ, but isn’t Christ just our idea of perfect love embodied? So just show love. To all. You don’t have to believe in any kind of organized religion to appreciate a gift given with a loving spirit.

  16. Louise says:

    How come I’ve never gotten a copy of Mrs. Krueger?

  17. Bookslinger says:

    Nick,
    Not as many people in the world are as cynical as you seem to imply. Jews are probably less anti-Mormon and less anti-Christian than most atheists, and less anti-Mormon than most mainstream Christians.

    The Mo-Tab music in Joy to the World is enjoyed by people of all faiths. Mr. Krueger is a good story and is entertaining, and is also enjoyed by people of all faiths.

    There are reasons to read/view this material other than just religiosity or proselyting!

    As many Muslims tell me, we need to stop apologizing for our beliefs.

    Deborah and Maria have stumbled upon something that I do all year around under the “language” heading. It’s sharing something that we believe in that gives us joy, and something that others might like to see/read even if they don’t subscribe to the views contained therein.

    Nick, you’re a grinch, and a nattering nabob of negativism.

    Maria, I think you stole this idea from me. 🙂 Thanks! I’ve been buying the videos by the case and giving them out for over a year now.

    Joy to the World is in 10 audio languages besides English, plus sub-titled in 6 languages besides English.

    The dubbed alternate audio-track languages are German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, and Korean.

    Subtitles are in: Danish, English, Spanish, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish.

    I’ve had some really special moments sharing church videos, like this one.

  18. Nick Literski says:

    Whatever, Bookslinger. I’m not the one who brought up Jewish persons or atheists, so I’m not sure why you’re even directing your comment about cynicism to me.

    I’ll assume that you didn’t actually read all my comments in this thread, or you’d have something to say that actually addressed my point, rather than “refuting” something quite opposite from what I said about Krueger. I already agreed that it was more appropriate than the other DVDs suggested, and that the “worst” (as in, the only thing that someone might think of as heavy-handedly LDS) you could possibly find was the Mo Tab scene. That was not an indictment or criticism of the choir, but simply saying it was the only thing that anyone could possibly complain about–and then only if they were looking to complain.

    I stand by my point—the thing you never actually addressed—that using proselyting DVDs as “holiday gifts” is in poor taste. No matter how much you might believe that promoting your faith is a “gift” to others, it remains a subtle message that you see them as conversion material, rather than friends who you respect for who and what they already are.

    If you want to do missionary work, be honest and upfront about it, rather than hiding it under holiday ribbons and bows.

  19. Bookslinger says:

    “I stand by my point—the thing you never actually addressed—that using proselyting DVDs as “holiday gifts” is in poor taste. No matter how much you might believe that promoting your faith is a “gift” to others, it remains a subtle message that you see them as conversion material, rather than friends who you respect for who and what they already are.”

    That’s just false, and I believe cynicism is preventing you from seeing it as false.

    There is a good reason for giving out the Christmas-y material that goes far beyond proselyting/conversion.

    Hopes of proselyting/conversion is a lesser priority in giving Christmas-y DVD’s such as Joy to the World, or Mr. Krueger. It’s also a second place in my project of using the BoM and the DVD’s as bilingual ESL material.

    Although I identify the Book of Mormon and the DVD’s as coming from a CHURCH, and identify them as Christian material when I present them, I allow the recipients to determine whether or not to have a gospel conversation.

    Cynics, even among active believing LDS members, just don’t get it. I’m delighted that Deborah and Maria have caught the vision, and learned to be unafraid, and learned that people are generally not offended to receive church/religious material when the primary reason is something other than proselyting/conversion expectations.

    There is a way of doing this and being polite and respectful towards other people’s beliefs. That is key.

    Giving people a choice and an easy way to decline the gift is another key. I always get their verbal okay before handing people something, and then give them opportunity to hand it back.

    It’s unfortunate that people equate this with more aggressive “in your face” full-time missionary efforts. It’s bold, it’s out of the ordinary, but when presented in the right manner as Deborah and Maria have discovered, it’s liberating.

    And the Spirit often seems to approve. In fact, just between you, Deborah, Maria, and me, I sincerely believe that the Spirit sometimes tells me who to give material to. Complete strangers. And sometimes they don’t even speak anything other than English. Yes, I’m going to use the same “excuse” Nephi used for killing Laban. I have given some people Bibles/Books-of-Mormon/DVDs because God told me to. There, I said it. And I affirm that it is true. (And there are even more people I was told to offer something to, but I didn’t, because I chickened out.)

    A lot more of the world’s population, including the US population, is much more religious than our North American white-bread middle-class afraid-to-mention-God culture gives people credit for.

    We need not be ashamed of God and Jesus Christ and keep them in the closet.

    Of course we have a hope inside us that the person who receives the DVD will have their interest piqued and will investigate. But that’s true of any material from any organization from Boy Scouts to the Peace Corps.

    HUNDREDS of contacts have taught me that religious themes are not out of bounds in gifts. And many Muslims have chided me for being too demure when I say “Is it okay if I give this to you, even though it’s Christian?”

    I’ve witnessed hundreds of people who have been ecstatic to receive bilingual material in Arabic, Wolof, Bengali, Chinese, etc.
    The fact that it was religious was irrelevant to them. The Bangladeshi Muslims in particular have told me not to be apologetic with the “even though it’s Christian” line.

    Church-going American-born African-Americans have also been very receptive of LDS DVD’s, especially “Together Forever,” “Finding Faith in Christ,” and “Joy to the World.”

    I think (I hope) that I’ve found the happy medium somewhere in between the extreme in-your-face bible-thumper, and the other extreme of the cold secular North American style Protestantism.

  20. Nick Literski says:

    Bookslinger, it appears that I may have given you an overly-broad impression. I was not at all my intention to criticize distribution of church DVDs in general, such as what you have detailed. You remind me of an acquaintance of mine, who makes a point of acquiring copies of The Book of Mormon in various (sometimes even fairly obscure) languages, and then invariably manages to find a recipient who speaks that native tongue. As you note, these recipients are generally delighted to receive something in their own language. I certainly don’t criticize you for sharing a positive message with others, whether for proselytizing purposes or not. Assuming you have tact and are careful about choosing your recipients, you certainly have nothing to “apologize” for.

    My objection was only to the situation discussed in the original post—that of using proselyting DVDs as a holiday gift. The original post mentioned gifting these DVDs (especially as reciprocal, “obligated” gifts) to people at work, people at school, and neighbors. Most of these people would far rather receive a nice plate of cookies that you and your kids made on family home evening. Really. Seriously.

    Keep in mind also that this sort of thing can get you into a bit of trouble under certain circumstances. When I lived in Nauvoo, we had a ward mission leader who was a supervisor at a nearby manufacturing plant. He taught us in priesthood meeting all about how we could give church materials, such as pass-along cards, to coworkers. In his examples, it became clear that he was giving these to subordinate employees, and “following up” with them afterward. Within a few weeks, he was suddenly terminated from his employment–not for his religion, but rather because he was using his position of authority to urge his religion on subordinate employees.

  21. Bookslinger says:

    Nick: I’m sorry. I have read some things into your comments that weren’t there. I guess I occasionally need reminding that I have a tendency to be a “One-note Johnny.”

    You do good to point out that the work-place requires slightly different rules of interaction than do other friendships, neighbors, and associates in other organizations. And superior/subordinate relationships at work require even more rules and restrictions of interaction.

    It does require tact and diplomacy to share things of a religious nature in various settings and within various relationships. Oftentimes the best message is merely a good example. And it does require a bit of knowing the other person to figure out if they would be receptive to a Christmas-y church DVD

  22. Nick Literski says:

    Thanks, Bookslinger. I’m glad we understand each other better. 🙂

  23. Kiri Close says:

    FOR FUTURE CHRISTMASES, etc.:

    Maria, the LDS DVDs you selected would certainly not be my pick for nonLDS (or even for LDS). However, I’m sure you are far more atuned to whatever their level of acceptance is to LDSness than I ever could be with your friends.

    In our home, a kazillion missionaries give us these kinds of DVDs which i never feel the Spirit from. Overall, LDS/LDS-like DVDs are threatening to my friends–@ least that is my personal experience.

    So, a stock of Christmas gifts–cheap or free, lovely, & handy:

    -gift cards (a few bucks each if you’re budgeting)

    -cool stuff from the Dollar Store (girl, my latest hot pair of high glossy, red faux designer flats cost me a buck-seventy nine!)

    -little sacks with cheap, but awesome goodies inside them: hot chocolate packs, tea bags, bag of unpopped popcorn,candy etc.

    -homemade gift certificates to: a free babysitting swap, chores for a day, homemade cookies, Family Home Evening together (easy on the preaching), a walk together over ice cream, etc.

    -used books (get a sense of your friends’ tastes) nicely wrapped, or put a bow on it, or add a homemade/store bought bookmark.

    -pimp out a kazillion little cheap notebooks to look cool

    -homemade clock kits

    -Order a ton of gourmet candies. Lately, organic chocolate covered almonds from Italy are fabulous & come in bulk! Take a simple baggy (not a ziploc) & fill it with about a cupful of the candies. Tie it with a pretty bow & cute little card on it, & suddenly you have a kazillion ready-to-go gourmet gifts. Add your family photo with it if you like.

    I could go on & on, but I think you get the picture.

    I prefer these since they don’t come right out & corner my friends toward any kind of weird obligation to my beliefs, but instead show that I love & appreciate them (LDS, Samoan style). In the end, this is what has mattered.

    Also, I find that when I give gifts like these (for Christmas, birthdays, etc.), my friends who receive them love their FREEDOMS with it independent from what church I belong to & any obligations they may feel toward me in that.

    also, Happy New Year!

  24. Kiri Close says:

    Hmmm…been thinking about more gifts to give:

    -a stack of 5-10 cute or regular envelopes with stamps already on them.

    -small bouquets of beautiful flowers.

    -lotions & potions

    -used & washed cool scarves and/or mittens in a gift bag.

    -blankets

    okay! okay! i’ll stop….

Leave a Reply