Yes, it's that Christmas neighbor gift time of the year.
I've heard from some neighborhoods that they've abolished gift-giving in favor of donating to a charity. But others say they really enjoy that little expression of love from their friends and neighbors.
Some people say the last thing they need is a plate of treats, so they are just giving ordinary household items, or a baking mix that can be used later. The key is the tag line, which usually has some type of pun that reflects the holiday season.
I checked the comments posted on one of my columns from several years back. Someone wrote, "My family moved last year from a large city to a small neighborhood in a different state. I cannot tell you how these little thoughtful gifts helped our family feel loved and welcomed. Thanks for the cute ideas my family and I can use this Christmas."
So with that spirit in mind, here's a round-up of neighbor gift ideas. A few are the best ideas from past columns (click here for the column from last year and here's the one from 2010, and a few came from my Facebook friend, Cyndi Boyer. Others have shown up on my own doorstep, or I've heard about them from my friends and relatives.
Decorative soap: Purchase bars of soap and bars of paraffin wax. Moisten one side of a bar of soap slightly and attach a holiday picture (or any other appropriate picture, such as an outdoors scene for a hiker). Carefully dip the side of soap with the photo into melted paraffin wax, making sure to completely coat the picture. A tag line: "We wash you a Merry Christmas!"
A box of tissues (and who doesn't need them during the cold-and-flu season?) Tag line: "Bless You!"
A roll of paper towels with a note: "May the ABSORBING Spirit of the season BLOT out problems, SOAK up sorrows, WIPE AWAY difficulties. May your holidays be shining and bright!" (A cloth dish towel will work for this idea, too.)
Light bulbs or mini-flashlight: "May your days be happy your heart be 'light,' your Christmas Merry and the New Year Bright!"
Box of long-handled matches: "To our matchless friends, may your Christmas be bright!"
Bag of Hershey's Kisses or Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies: "Santa's been busy granting our wishes, So he dropped off this bag of Santa kisses!"
Dishcloth and dish towel, with the following poem:
"Finally we found you
A gift to admire
We hope you enjoy
Your new washer and dryer!"
Homemade (or store-bought) cookie dough: "Everyone needs a little extra 'dough' during the holidays!" or "We're sharing our extra 'dough' with you!"
Or, you could use this poem:
"Pop these cookies in the oven
On the night of Christmas Eve,
Then arrange them on the platter
(Eat a few before you leave).
Put them by the fireplace
With a note for You-Know-Who
And if he never shows up
I guess they're meant for you!"
A bottle of water with a homemade label that says: "Spring Water from the North Pole."
A can of chili and a bottle of root beer with a note: "We hope you have a rootin' tootin' good Christmas!"
Hot chocolate in a jar: In a pint jar, layer cocoa mix, marshmallows, chocolate chips and crushed peppermint. Add a plastic spoon and a tag line, "Not a creature was stirring."
A jigsaw puzzle with the tag line : "Piece on earth!"
A roll of transparent tape (always handy during gift-wrapping marathons): "So glad we can stick together!"
Loaf of bread: "No matter how you slice it, you're a great neighbor!"
Jar of jam: "Hoping your Christmas is 'jam' packed with cheer."
Dried pasta: "Have a pasta-tively happy holiday!"
Box of powdered milk (ideal for food storage) with the poem, "This gift isn't fancy with satins and silk; But in times of need, you'll always have milk!"
Jar of honey with a poem: "For years of love and friendship, and the fact that you're so sweet, We remember you with honey; it's a Merry Christmas treat."
Snowmen ornaments with this note attached:
All I needed to know about life I learned from a Snowman:
When snowflakes pull together, they can have a ball.
It might take a few extra rolls to make a good mid-section.
We are all made up of mostly water.
It's OK to be a little bottom-heavy.
Stand firm when the heat is on.
Don't get too much sun.
Wearing white is always appropriate.
Some of your best friends are "flakes."
Snowmen fall unassembled. It's how you pull yourself together that counts.
Accessorize! Accessorize! Accessorize!
Let the good times roll!