Creative and thoughtful gift ideas to surprise your friend with

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Whether it’s your friend’s birthday or you just want to make them a nice surprise and show them just how much you cherish their presence in your life, a small, yet thoughtful gift can warm their heart and put a smile on their face. But as exciting as buying a gift may be, the process can also feel pretty challenging because you want to get something that shows you put some thought into it. Amazon gift cards sure are useful, but they don’t exactly convey how special your friendship is, do they? Fortunately, there are many creative, thoughtful, and culturally appropriate gift ideas that you can pick from when you need a little inspiration.

Depending on the occasion, here are seven stunning gifts that will make your friend’s day better: 

  1. Smachot Benchers

You really can’t go wrong with getting your friend a personalized gift from Smachot Benchers. Depending on their age and preferences, you can find many unique personalized covers, personalized benchers, personalized stamping on siddurim, even Benchers with two nusachim, all coming in a wide range of designs. Benchers are available for many occasions, including anniversaries, birthdays, and special events, serving as reminders of your friendship. For example, you can buy your guest a Birkat Hamazon with delicate silver embossments or a Birkat Hamazon with elegant lace decorations. 

  1. Yarmulkes

Does your friend wear a kippah or yarmulke? Why not buy them a new one? Apart from the classic designs, you can get pretty creative and get them a personalized yarmulke that they can’t find anywhere else. It shows you went the extra mile and that you know them well. Beyond the basic black yarmulkes, there are yarmulkes with colorful print patterns, movie references, tie dies, cartoon characters, even sports teams. Of course, you have to be mindful of your friend’s preferences and buy them something they would be comfortable using.

  1. Essential cookbooks

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a chef to enjoy a good cookbook. Cookbooks are incredibly useful gifts that your friend can refer to when they want to try a new dish, rediscover traditional cuisine, get some culinary inspiration, or even learn to cook.

Here are some of the bestselling Jewish cookbooks: 

  • King Solomon’s Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World, by Joan Nathan, for that friend who loves to cook, but is also a bit of a history buff. In fact, Joan Nathan is a staple in Jewish households. Other popular books of his include Jewish Holiday Cookbook and Jewish Cooking in America.  
  • Sweet Nothings: New Twists on Traditional Jewish Desserts, by Amy Kritzer – for that friend who has a sweet tooth and always likes to try new dessert recipes.
  • The Israeli Cookbook: What’s Cooking in Israel’s Melting Pot by Molly Lyons Bar-David. Apart from having many delicious recipes, this book also describes different kinds of culinary customs and the tradition behind them.
  • The New York Times Jewish Cookbook. This book includes 800+ kosher recipes, from easy to make appetizers to intricate cakes. Apart from traditional recipes, it also includes many modern variations, so it’s a pretty comprehensive tome to have in one’s kitchen.  
  1. Menorah

A menorah is another timeless gift that is well received, no matter the occasion. And again, it’s one of those traditional gift ideas that has been reinterpreted over the years and is now available in a wide range of stunning designs. For example, you can buy your friend a nature-inspired menorah, a stylish metal menorah, or a minimalist ceramic menorah. If they travel a lot, a travel-size menorah is also a good idea.

  1. An item from an up-and-coming local designer

If your friend is fashion-obsessed and always keeps up with trends, you’ve probably thought about gifting her a designer item already. But before you walk into the nearest mall, you should know that there are many talented, up-and-coming Jewish designers who are worth supporting. Elisheva Rishon, Simin Rouhani Taghdiri, and Ruti Zisser are just a few of the buzzworthy names that are bringing something new to the Jewish fashion scene through their creative and sustainable designs.

  1. A beautiful Hamsa wall hanging.

A Hamsa wall hanging is one of the best housewarming gifts, and the good news is that it comes in so many designs that it will always match any interior design style. You can go for a traditional Hamsa, an abstract Hamsa, a metal engraved Hamsa, or a clay Hamsa handmade by a local artisan.

  1. A collection of handcrafted candles

Did you already buy your friend a “main gift” and you’re looking for a little extra something? Why not get them a collection of handcrafted Havdalah candles? They’re available in many colorful designs and, since they’re handcrafted, you know you’re supporting a local artisan. Tip: while the design is important, you should also look at the type of wax the candles are made of. Ideally, you should only buy candles made with natural beeswax or soy wax, preferably sustainably sourced. Typical mass-produced candles are made from paraffin, which may cause allergic reactions and other side effects.

 What makes a gift be thoughtful? Three rules to follow

The art of creative gift-making can seem complicated, but if you follow these three golden rules, you’ll never buy a bad gift again:

  1. The perfect gift doesn’t have to be expensive. Many people assume that spending a lot of money on something will automatically impress the recipient, but that’s not necessarily the case. First and foremost, a gift has to be thoughtful and personal.
  2. The perfect gift has a beautiful story behind it: the first time you met, your favorite memory together, something that your friend has always wanted, etc.
  3. The perfect gift shouldn’t be about you, but about your friend. So, as tempting as it might be, don’t choose an item based on what you like, but on how your friend is like. Think of their personality, their hobbies, their goals for the future, and the things they want to cross off their bucket list.

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