A favorite family dish steaming on the table. Great-grandma’s menorah perched high atop the mantel. The macaroni-adorned ornament you plastered together in pre-K, making its annual return to the Douglas fir. The holidays are filled with sentimentality and tradition—and this season, the most popular presents under the tree are following suit. “Gifts this year are all about nostalgia,” says Etsy Trend Expert Dayna Isom Johnson. “We’re seeing a return to all things retro, from vintage toys to mid-century gift wrap, reminding us of the holiday celebrations of our childhoods.” And Etsy sellers are interpreting the timelessness trend in loads of imaginative, gift-worthy ways: no-cords-required games that encourage good old-fashioned quality time, custom family portraits with a modern twist, and even wilt-proof “plants” that will please through all seasons. To help you get started, we’ve rounded up six of the top trending gift ideas on the holiday scene—plus four blow-your-mind-creative options for wrapping. Happy holidays!
“Remember hanging out with your family and playing hours of board games on end?” asks Dayna. “Those days are back.” So pick up an interactive present you can enjoy together without a cell phone in hand—like a personalized tic-tac-toe board fashioned from redwood in the letters of your choice or a make-your-own kimchi kit, designed with your most fermentation-obsessed friend in mind. “It’s time to unplug, get creative, and spend time with your loved ones.”
If 2016 was all about the selfie stick, this year is all about handmade portraits with staying power. “You heard it here first,” says Dayna. “Custom illustrations are the new selfies.” Whether you opt to commemorate the whole fam with a set of wooden figurines hand-painted in your likeness, or up your fridge decor game with a pair of cut-paper face magnets, there’s no shortage of ways to immortalize your crew through a thoughtful gift they’ll treasure for decades. And with stylized portraits and sculpted clay jewelry, even pets can get in on the fun, too.
If you know someone who fell hard for the succulent craze only to discover that keeping a hoard of tiny cacti alive in a windowless room wasn’t as easy as the internet promised, we’ve got the gift for you. “People don’t have to miss out on becoming plant parents just because they lack a green thumb,” says Dayna. “Cactus candles and pillows are great gifts for anyone who wants to incorporate a touch of greenery in their lives without having to worry about maintenance.” Sweeten the deal with a handmade terra-cotta planter or vintage rattan stand.
It’s hard to capture the intangible magic of a beloved family recipe passed down for generations—but a custom ceramic serving platter or tea towel featuring the ingredients and instructions in the original handwriting comes awfully close. “Etsy sellers are helping shoppers preserve old memories and capture new ones with custom pieces designed to be cherished for years to come” says Dayna. So gift Grandpa a leather tray embossed with a special message from his favorite grandson, or show Mom how much you care with a fresh take on your family tree or a rose gold bangle engraved with a note just for her—and watch as a new heirloom is born.
Dial up the nostalgia this holiday season and introduce the tots in your life to the toys of your childhood. “Vintage home decor has always been popular on Etsy, but now the focus is on toys,” Dayna reports. Parents (like this celebrity mom) are buying vintage toys by the bushel—from old-school rocking horses to miniature toy trucks. While many older pieces past their playable prime look great displayed tchotchke-style on a bookshelf, kid-friendly options abound, too—just be sure to double check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for relevant safety information before gifting to a little one.
It’s no secret that we love unicorns—in mug, ornament, and wall decal form—but this season, there’s a new herd of intriguing animals joining their obsession-worthy ranks, just in time for the holidays. “Right now it’s all about exotic animals that are still of this earth,” says Dayna. “Narwhals, which I like to call the unicorns of the sea, are especially popular. Other favorites include llamas and sloths.” They’re perfect for the pal who can’t stop adopting new pets—and in some cases, like this leather fox wallet, these playful finds are even downright practical.
What’s more fun than getting a present? Getting a present that’s fun to open! “This year, shoppers are upping the ante with interactive packaging that’s just as exciting as the gift inside,” says Dayna. Thanks to color-in wrapping paper you can print out at home and paper doll–style sheets designed for playing dress-up, gift wrap has never been more inventive. But be warned: With packaging this clever, it might take a while to reveal the present within!
“This holiday season sellers are whipping up everything from cheeky gift tags to quirky wrapping paper, adding a dose of humor to the most festive time of the year,” says Dayna. From “Oh deer” gift wrap complete with antlers to printable “Happy llama-kkah” labels covered in—you guessed it—llamas, there’s a bevy of funny finds on Etsy guaranteed to make you chortle. We’ll be laughing all the way!
Sure, it’s the most wonderful time of the year—but it can also be one of the toughest on Mother Earth. “Americans throw away 25% more trash during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than any other time of year,” explains Dayna. “Luckily, shoppers are becoming increasingly conscious about the items they purchase and opting for sustainable alternatives when it comes to holiday packaging.” One environmentally friendly option? Reusable fabric, like traditional Japanese furoshiki cloths, which come in prints as diverse as moonlit skies and beagles. “It’s is an impactful way to reduce waste, while still making your holiday gifts pop.”