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FORK IN THE ROAD: Christmas gifts that say ‘love’ and ‘local’

Special times mean being especially thoughtful
Stella Schwartz and Edie Hampton of the Whistler Nut Butter Co. selling a variety of organic peanut butters without added sugar at the Bratz Biz craft fair in 2019. Photo courtesy of Bratz Biz by Joern Rohde.

Ready, folks, for a holiday season like no other? This is the year of Creativia Unexpectedius, when we’re all re-inventing our Christmas and holiday traditions like never before, at least not in our lifetimes. 

You’ve maybe heard my annual “gifts that disappear” holiday theme song, where I spread the word about thoughtful gifts that say “love,” not “landfill,” and keep the “green” in “evergreen.” Now, we’ve all got a new chorus to add, and that’s how to be sustainable, and keep our loved ones healthy and safe, and support local businesses that have faced one setback after another with the pandemic. 

I know, I know, it’s so easy—too easy just to click your mouse and order online these days. But stop. Just stop! And maybe delete Amazon from your browser options. 

Restaurants, cafés, shops, and dozens of suppliers, community organizations and at-home entrepreneurs throughout Sea to Sky are more than willing and able to help you with your Santa shopping during these special times. 

Remember, you truly spread the love when you eat local, shop local, spend local—especially with those who support our local community. 

All those locals? Wherever they’re from, they’re family, too.


First on my gift-giving list of ideas, not just at Christmas but anytime, are the wonderful not-for-profits that keep culture and community in, well, our communities. 

To start, how about an All-Access Holiday Pass to the 2020 Whistler Writers Festival? A pass gives your giftee access to 20 YouTube videos of readings and workshops from this year’s festival, which was totally virtual this year. Still, it attracted writing stars like Caroline Adderson, Waubgeshig Rice and Whistler’s own Leslie Anthony and Stephen Vogler. Priced by donation, all proceeds go to next year’s 20th anniversary festival. See

Arts Whistler, which has been bringing arts and culture to Whistler since 1982, was also forced to do a Covidian U-turn this year, and re-invent a lot. But the Arts Whistler Gift Store in Maury Young Arts Centre is open and well and, until Dec. 20, offering 25-per-cent off the unique, locally made offerings from 60-plus Sea to Sky creators. Arts Whistler, which is especially near and dear to my heart since I started it all those years ago, is keeping with the community-minded spirit I always intended, and cancelling its sales commission so the artists will enjoy a few more bucks in their pockets this season. More at

Along the same creative community vein, but with a twist since all the creators are eight to 16 years old, how about some sweet Christmas gift tags, a jar of handmade organic peanut butter—the candy-cane flavoured one is a holiday favourite—or a Christmas unicorn pillow case, all from Bratz Biz? These and more are available from the youngsters now selling their creations online at since COVID cancelled the annual live market. Especially think of all the edible creations some kids had to prep and store in anticipation of the now-cancelled market—and how many of your giftees will love them.   

As for any bigger kids in your life, remember, “thrift” and “retro” are really in these days. So you can never go wrong shopping at Whistler’s second-hand outlets run by Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS). All proceeds support the 20-plus local services the society runs, including the local food bank. And don’t forget, WCSS welcomes all donations more than ever.

At the Re-Use-It Centre on Nesters Road, you’ll discover everything from kitchenware to cozy scarves and computers, even used skis and boards. At the WCSS Re-Build-It Centre in Function Junction, there’s household treasures, tools and building materials galore. Better yet, how about giving a membership to the Re-Build-It Centre’s popular tool lending library? Your recipient gets to use the tools for a week and, yes, everything is carefully sanitized between each use. Pemberton and Squamish have great tool libraries, too.


All kinds of local entrepreneurs and business operators have been forced to re-invent themselves this year. 

Restaurants and bars are operating at hugely reduced capacity, so why not give gift certificates to your favourite places? Then there are the creative souls like Cary Campbell Lopes of Paintertainment in Black Tusk, who’d normally be painting faces live at festivals but is now painting amazing rocks and canvases you can give as gifts. How about one celebrating a beloved pet? (Contact Cary through Facebook at

For the sweet tooths on your list, there’s The Great Glass Elevator Candy Shop, where you can fill a bag with your intended’s favourites, from Pez to Pop Rocks. And we have so many excellent Whistler-based products, it’s hard to choose: There’s the legendary Namasthé teas (my fave: Mountain Mint, made with wild mint grown in Pemberton). Whistler Chocolate’s organic bars—which even made it to the International Space Station! The gorgeous breads and baked goods from Purebread, and an all-time kitchen must-have, Nonna Pia’s balsamic glazes, made right in Function Junction. 

Throughout Sea to Sky, we have so many amazing, creative ways to pass on the true spirit of Christmas—the spirit of giving—I hope I’ve gotten you started on just some of the possibilities. 

It can be hard to keep Christmas in perspective, but maybe one upside of the pandemic is the enforced simplicity. In that regard, I really like what the Tierney family in Pemberton has to say: “There is nothing we truly need, and all we really want is good, healthy food and experiences with friends and family. 

“We are pretty lucky.”

A big thanks and tip of the elf hat to all those who contributed their ideas, time and effort to this column: Stella Harvey, Sam and Erin Tierney, Kyle Stillie, Rowland Stanley, Lee Erickson, Craig Lovell, Alyssa Noel, Chris Quinlan, Maureen Douglas and Joern Rohde.

Glenda Bartosh is an award-winning journalist who still believes small is beautiful.