Receiving a gift given from the heart is something that sticks with you forever.

It's not because of how elaborate or expensive or well-wrapped it is. The best gifts are the ones with the most thought and care poured into them — sometimes from our dearest loved ones, other times from complete strangers. They can heal our souls, help us when we're in a rut, or simply put a smile on our face when we need it most.

Photo via iStock.


We asked you — our readers — about the best holiday gifts you've ever received. Your answers did not disappoint.

Here are 15 of the best gifts Upworthy readers said they've ever received:

Responses have been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

1. Household items to mark the next chapter in life

"My family helped me move into an apartment one November after leaving an abusive relationship. They bought my furniture, paid my deposit and helped me move the things I was able to take from my old place. I wasn't expecting much for Christmas because of all the money they had spent on getting me set in my apartment. When we opened gifts, every member of my family had gotten me something that I needed or wanted. A good set of knives, a vacuum and cleaning supplies, and from my mother — who had spent the most on getting me into my apartment — a laptop. It wasn't the money they spent, it was that they went out of their way to be able to afford to give large presents to me a month after furnishing my home for me." Angela Burlingame

Angela and her mom. Photo via Angela Burlingame, used with permission.

2. An old guitar with a new story

"My brother died from suicide in 2006. I had inherited one of his guitars, but the neck had been broken and he had re-glued it. My wife took it to a repair shop to have it fixed for me without me knowing as a Christmas gift. She said she had never been so nervous taking it, but knew it would mean a lot to me, and it did." — Lynlee Lybrook

Photo via Lynlee Lybrook, used with permission.

3. A gift that waited months to be found

"My husband, who loved Christmas and the joy of giving, passed away in April 2010 while waiting for a liver transplant. When I looked for the Christmas wrapping paper in December, there was a package all wrapped in red shiny paper with my name on it in his handwriting. It read, 'please don't open 'til Christmas.' It was so him." — Noreen Leahy

Noreen with her husband (L) and the lovely gift she found from him (R). Photos from Noreen Leahy, used with permission.

4. 100 outfits, made with love

"There were five kids in my family, and we didn't have a lot of money. A couple of weeks before xmas, I thought I heard my mom sewing on her machine. I asked her one morning what she was working on, but she said I must have imagined it. On Christmas morning, when we ran into the living room, there was a Barbie doll for me and my two sisters. Laid out all around them were 100 outfits that my mom had made. I didn't put the two together until I was a little older. It is my favorite holiday memory." — Virginia Rankin

5.  A teddy bear to adore

"When I was in third grade and my sister was in fourth, she made me a teddy bear. I would hear her and our mom whispering and the sound of the sewing machine for weeks, wondering what they were up to. I am the youngest of 11, and my mom was a working single mother. We had many hard times. Christmas morning I received the bear. It was a little malformed but I loved it! Fast forward 27 years and now my daughter has the bear."
Kimberlee Smith

In the picture on the left, Kimberlee Smith (right) with her sister. Photos via Kimberlee Smith, used with permission.

6. Hair dressing supplies with history

"My grandmother was a hairdresser for years. She passed away three years ago. Last Christmas, after everyone had finished opening gifts, my aunt had one last gift. I was shocked to learn it was for me. She presented me with a small suitcase-looking square box. I knew instantly what it was. I used items from it when my grandmother was too lame to leave her house. I would come to do her hair. I started to cry, and so did my aunt. I was given the case of all of my grandmother's hairdressing supplies. Most items were from the '60-'70s. That was the best gift I have ever received. I miss my Grammie, but I can open this box and remember her!" — Amanda Faunce

7. A blanket to stay warm, inside and out

"My friend Hannah made me a rainbow blanket for my sofa days. I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome amongst other things and spend a lot of time on the couch feeling crappy. My blanket keeps me warm and reminds me that my friend cares, even if we don't see each other very often." — Jess Dell

Photo via Jess Dell, used with permission.

8. Toys from "unkie" and his friends

"A couple of years ago, my husband was out of work, and I was staying at home with our daughter. We had no toys for her under the tree, and barely had enough to even get the tree and some lights for it. A friend of ours, my daughter's 'unckie,' secretly contacted people to get gifts for her so she'd have something under the tree. It was the most thoughtful thing anyone's ever done." Crystal Tracy

9. A gift best given by a sister

"My sister gave me and my siblings each a book for Christmas last year. Completely unexpectedly, it was a beautifully bound selection of our deceased father's [paper] marbling. She had taken [the sheets] for safe keeping after our mother had passed and we had cleared out her house. That was our first Christmas as five adult/teen orphans. We were far from home, but to be able to spend it together with such a special physical reminder of our parents ... well, there were a few tears shed when that gift was opened." — Amelia Keenan Monaghan

Amelia and her sisters (left). The gifts from her sister (right). Photo via Amelia Kennan Monaghan, used with permission.

10. The best kind of re-gifts

"My best gifts were the Christmas after I split from my ex. I had very little money and had been left with massive bills. My kids made me gifts and wrapped up some of their belongings they thought I would like, so I would have things to open for Christmas (they were 12, 7, and 5). I love them with all my heart, and will never forget that." — Kim L. Stirling

11. The gift of brotherly love

"Last Christmas, my son was one and half years old. I bought a wooden toy kitchen that took FOREVER to put together. I wanted it together with a bow on it for Christmas morning. My little brother came over to help. We spent hours getting it together and it was not done. It got to be 2 a.m. and I was exhausted. Turned out, half of the pieces were backward and we had to start over. I couldn't stay up anymore, so I went to bed, upset not to have that magical moment of my son walking down the stairs to find it. Little did I know, my little brother stayed up all morning to finish it ... not for my son, but for me to have that moment. By far the most memorable gift I've ever received." — Jennifer Rebecca

Photo via Jennifer Rebecca, used with permission.

12. A bracelet worth a thousand words

"I adopted my youngest son as a single parent. He had cognitive disabilities from birth and an addictive personality, which made his teen years even more challenging. After so many difficult years of setbacks and struggles, he made a bracelet for me, with the word 'HERO' in big letters. Obviously, it is priceless to me." — Lynda Pratscher

13. A truly one-of-a-kind book

"My husband and son found me THE most incredible and one-of-a-kind gift. One of my favorite authors passed in 2014. His name was Farley Mowat and he was an incredible Canadian author. My husband contacted his estate and was able to purchase a book for me from his personal collection. This gorgeous 1st edition book (one of my favorite childhood stories, originally given to my sister and I by our grandmother) actually sat on Farley's desk in his home for 60 years (it's a bit bleached from the sun) and is signed by the author. My husband snuck off to Port Hope, Ontario, to visit Mowat's home and his favorite bookstore to find me this treasure and I shall be eternally grateful for such a thoughtful gift. I treasure it and will read it aloud to my son and new daughter when they are old enough."Kristen Meyer-Creamer

Photo via Kristen Meyer-Creamer, used with permission.

14. Miles and miles in the sky

"I don't know if this fits the bill, but I'll share anyway. The last three years my friends have treated me by paying for airline tickets so I could come and spend holidays with them. I'm retired and disabled and having a hard time making ends meet, and we all live in different places now. This year it was Thanksgiving in Las Vegas, same as last year, and 2014 brought me to Florida for Christmas. The most amazing part is that these are not my family but relatives of my friend, Mary, who had college Spanish with my roommate Sue in 1972. We have stayed friends since then, with marriages and deaths and births in between. They have become my family and have brought me into theirs and I so value them for it. Thanks for letting me share that." — Pat Martin

15. Cherries that never miss a Christmas

"My mom always gave me a wrapped box of chocolate covered cherries every Christmas. The first Christmas without her, my daughter wrapped a box of the same candy and put 'from Mom' on the tag. Of course there were many tears but I felt her presence, which was the best present ever. It's been 12 years and my daughter never forgets my candy. I can't open it until everyone leaves." — Mary Lou Keith

This holiday season, let's remember that it truly is the thought that counts.

From hours and hours painstakingly creating a perfectly imperfect homemade present, to going the extra mile for a sibling when it really counts, you showed us that the love behind a great gift can stay with us forever. That's what keeps the holidays so merry and bright.

We also asked you about the best gift you ever gave (spoiler alert: your answers were equally beautiful). You can read that article here.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less
Pets

Ginger the dog reunited with family 5 years after being stolen

Ginger's family never gave up hope, and it payed off.

Ginger the dog was missing for five years before being reunited with her family.

A sweet pup is finally home with her family where she belongs after way too many years away.

Ginger the dog was stolen from her family back in 2017. Her owner, Barney Lattimore of Janesville, Wisconsin, never gave up the hope that his sweet girl was out there somewhere. Whenever he'd see a dog listed on a rescue website or humane society website that even remotely resembled his Ginger, he would inquire about the dog. Unfortunately, it was never her. You'd think that after a while he would stop, but if he had, he likely wouldn't have gotten the sweetest reunion.

Keep Reading Show less

"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

Keep Reading Show less