Waking up to a pile of brightly-wrapped gifts is easily any child’s favourite part of the holidays.

But as we get older, the meaning of the season becomes more complex. ‘Tis the season that calls both secular and non-secular groups to care for their communities, and reflect on the importance of personal relationships.

Instead of toys and trinkets, the gifts we give ought to show our appreciation and match the needs of the people around us. Sometimes, this means thinking outside the bow-covered box.

A non-gift gift will enrich the recipient’s life in the long term, and should be especially tailored to their unique tastes. For instance, a music lover will enjoy front row tickets to see one of their favourite artists, while an avid reader will adore a year-long magazine subscription. The point is to make the gift more experiential than materialistic. Here’s a list on non-gift gifts that can be found around town:

Community theatre passes

Appease the drama king or queen in your life while supporting the local art scene. The Grand Theatre and the Palace Theatre offer various ticketing packages, along with membership and subscriptions for avid viewers. Even if these options are out of your price range, a ticket to a play still makes for a splendid evening out to uncover the hidden gem that is London’s theatre scene.

Membership to an athletic club

You can get someone a year or half-year membership to a traditional gym, or you can consider something a bit different like rock climbing memberships at The Junction, a spot on a BATL axe throwing league, or archery lessons at The Archer’s Nook.

Think outside the gift box this Christmas.
Think outside the gift box this Christmas.

If you’re not sure what your giftee might like to do, a seasonal membership to the Forest City Sport & Social Club will ease them into the world of athletics and fun. Why not do yourself a favour and tag along?

A Geocaching adventure

Get to know London terrain you might never have explored otherwise with a Geocaching adventure. Dress warm, bring a portable cell phone charger, and pack a thermos of hot chocolate to sip along the way. You never know where you might go, and what treasures you might find.

Subscription to an “Of the Month Club” service

Who doesn’t love a Jelly of the Month Club certificate? On the off-chance jelly isn’t your giftee’s thing, try a monthly tea, wine, or chocolate. Common Ground Market and CSA Farm, located between St. Thomas and London, offers vegetable box programs during spring, summer and fall. For the price of membership, the Market will harvest and prepare vegetables for pickup, linking their customers to organic, locally grown produce. You’ll literally be giving the gift of health!

Pre-paid lessons in a new skill

It’s never too late to learn. Jill’s Table offers demonstrations, hands-on lessons or even four-course preparation classes, with a guaranteed delicious end result. Meanwhile, TAP Centre for Creativity (formerly The ARTS Project) offers adult drawing, painting and sculpting classes. Additionally, their Arts on Tap workshop series pairs art classes with beer for an extra creative evening.

The recipient of a non-gift gift may be surprised by its unconventionality, but they’ll see in the long run how much thought went into its selection. By creating opportunities to foster relationships, or even rekindle them and start anew, non-gift gifts such as these can help us embrace the deeper meaning of the holiday season.

Photo by Angela McInnes


  1. If you have any young families on your gift list, consider a year-long toy library membership from Childreach! For the price of one toy ($35), families can borrow from over a thousand toys, games, puzzles, play equipment and resources focused on children 0-6 years of age!


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