‘Tis the season to be jolly, if you are a Christian. But a number of holidays for people of all faiths intersect around this time. It’s more noticeable if you live in the Middle East. Over here in Jaffa a couple of weeks ago, Muslims everywhere were celebrating Eid al-Adha; and Jewish people start lighting candles and gorging on jelly-filled doughnuts for Hanukah starting next week.
But whatever the season, or holiday, unique gift-giving is always something on our minds. When it comes to choosing gifts that are “green” the options are limited even more. One nice way to “say I love you” to someone in a way that is soft on the environment, is to give something handmade. Trendy, with no official religious affiliation is the good old hamsa, one of our faves, which means “five” in Arabic.
According to Wikipedia, an alternative Islamic name for this charm is the Hand of Fatima or Eye of Fatima, in reference to Fatima Zahra, the daughter of Muhammad. An alternative Jewish name is the Hand of Miriam, in reference to Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron. It is a kind of “protecting hand” or “hand of God.”
Some associate the significance of the five fingers to the five books of the Torah for Jews, the Five Pillars of Islam for Sunnis, or the five People of the Cloak for Shi’ites.
In recent years some activists for Middle East peace have chosen to wear the hamsa as a symbol of the similarities of origins and tradition between the Islamic and Jewish faiths. The fingers can point up or down.
Among Jews in Israel, it’s considered a Jewish gift, but one appropriate for Muslims, Christians, pagans and the unaffiliated. When I went to see my Catholic cousins in Scotland last year, it was hamsas for everyone.
While the gifts might not be certified green, there are some wonderful gift items in stock on MostOriginal.com, an online jewelry and gifts store that sells handmade artwork by Israeli artists.
Of course you can always check out the crafty folk at Etsy, too, or local craft markets and fairs in your nearest town.
What I like about handmade gifts is that they are usually one-of-a-kind. When I buy them I know I am supporting someone’s dream, and not just a factory somewhere in China.
Handmade goods are usually things you hold onto; they stay around and are less likely to hit the curb on trash day.
And if you are lucky, they will also keep the evil eyes away!