Christmas gifts in a jar are unique, enjoyable to make, and pleasant to receive. They've come a long way since homemade candles or glass containers filled with seasonal sweets. Nowadays, it seems nearly anything can be put in a decorative jar and made to look appealing.  Jar gifts continue to grow in diversity and popularity, making them a wonderful addition to Christmas gift baskets and giving.

In order to make this a successful endeavor, a few guidelines have to be observed. The finished products can be very pretty, but this does take a bit of time and a few simple tools to make it successful. Wide mouthed canning jars are easier to fill neatly, and the use of a wide mouth funnel makes this process even more straightforward. Remember also that recipes have to be followed in order, exactly as they are presented. The layers have to be presented in a certain way to ensure success; likewise, if a recipe says to sift something, there's a principle behind this. If the instructions ask for something to be wrapped before it goes into the jar, there is a reason for the request. Don't try to cut corners. It could lead to failure in the long run.

Cookie recipes are easy to put into a jar. Traditional favorites like chocolate chip, sugar cookies, or oatmeal bites layer in very attractive ways. Recipes and instructions are easily found online, or in cookery books such as G & R Publishing's book, Gifts in a Jar, Cookies (1). Present the jar with the full recipe tied on a decorative card, attached with a colorful ribbon.

Soups make another colorful theme for jar gifts. Bean soup, barley soup, chili soup, and more can be given in pretty layers. The colorful dried pulses in layers make the filled jar visually pleasant, and soup is very warming and filing on a cold winter's night. Add a layered jar of corn muffin mix or other bread recipe for a jar as a perfect compliment for a soup. For the complete meal, a jar of brownie or cake mix can also be given. The ideas are endless, and simply take a bit of research.

Foodstuffs are not the only items that can be given as Christmas gifts in a jar, though. Bath salts can be made at home and layered in colorful ways that are both pleasing to the eye, and relaxing to the body when used. Epsom salts, kosher salts, some food coloring, and some essential oil is all that is needed. Try layering pink and white with peppermint oil for a holiday theme, or lilac and white with lavender oil for something truly relaxing.

Finally, why not fill a large jar with a 'thought for the day?' Motivational quotes-printed, typed, or handwritten-can be rolled up like little scrolls and tied with a ribbon, or folded into squares and added to the jar. This is a very sentimental and special way to let someone know that they are thought of, every day of the upcoming year. This idea can also be used as prompts; creative ideas can be given to an artist, thought-provoking themes given to a journalist or an author. The potential of a 'thought jar' is as wide and varied as those who might be giving or receiving it.

Christmas gifts in a jar add interest and participation, for the recipient is going to have to do something with the contents, and that means that there is a tie between the them and the giver. It is comforting to eat a delicious cookie or hearty soup, to relax in an aromatic bath, or to know that someone is helping to encourage and inspire creative endeavors. More than that, a bit of thought given in a jar provides a gift that will last long after the holiday decorations have faded.

1)     Gifts in a Jar 1. (2001). G & R Publications.