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guerilla gift giving

Last weekend, I did something that felt wonderful.

I gathered some of my favourite people and we went out and gave gifts to strangers on Whyte Ave in Edmonton.

I thought you might want to try the same kind of thing so I thought I’d share what we did and what we learned.

Why did I do it? I saw a video that inspired me.

It’s about a man who, on his 30th birthday went and gave gifts to 30 people in Sydney, Australia.

You can watch it here (might make you cry):

[vsw id=”EW8tt7hNpGc” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

Then, I created a facebook invitation that said this:


The Grand and Gallavanting Guerilla Gift Giving Gathering

We’re going to come together to wrap gifts and then go out onto Whyte Ave and spread some love. And maybe some free hugs.

I want to do the same thing and spread Christmas cheer to our fellow Edmontonians and then come back together at my place to share stories and drink some drinks.


Hells yes.


– anything you’ve got at home you’re not using anymore that could make an AMAZING gift for someone else (e.g. an old football or frisbee you’re not using right now, old CDs, books, that sweet shirt that someone else could love). Bring as many as you’d like – but be choosy. Only really great stuff. Something you’d be thrilled to receive.

– wrapping paper, boxes etc.

– a bit of a potluck – any food or drinks to tide us over while wrapping.


– could anyone film this and edit it into something youtubeable?

People gathered at 6pm and were welcomed in from the cold with a hot cup of spicy apple cider. They brought snacks and drinks and we got right to wrapping up gifts. Is there a better way to spend two hours than in the company of friends wrapping presents for strangers? I doubt it.

We headed out around 8pm to Whyte Ave, a main street in Edmonton and began handing out gifts to strangers.

In the end, we weren’t able to get it videod (alas) but! here are some photos (and then some lessons below):







Four Lessons Learned:

  • Supplies: Have extra scissors, tape and wrapping paper as the host.
  • Stick together as one group: I noticed that I felt more comfortable giving the gifts with more people and having more people added so much more fun and celebration to it. It made giving the gift a shared event – a bit more magical for the giver and the receiver. 
  • Designated photographer (or video): if you’re going to do it, why not record it so you can share it with people after and spread the love and maybe inspire other people to do the same.
  • Slow it down: my second reflection is how vital it is to have folks like Olivia Joy Love and Dolphin Kasper with their t-shirts and signs engaging people with hugs first. Some people were a little taken aback by being offered a gift out of the blue. “What charity are you with?” they would ask in suspicious tones. It’s probably important to establish a little trust and safety first by stopping to chat and engage with them. I think the ideal order of things is 1) have your ‘free hugs!’ people engage folks (think fun pink spoons) 2) this sparks a conversation where they say something like, ‘what’s going on? what is this about?’ 3) Offer them a gift. I noticed that when we slowed things down so it was less ‘drive by’ gift giving and more about really creating a moment and a connection it felt better. Foreplay makes gift giving more pleasant for everyone. Says my friend Olivia, “It’s all about engaging strangers in an enthusiastic way. Obviously when a ‘gang’ of lantern yielding, hugging and gift giving guerillas swoop in on someone, the experience can be overwhelming but explaining away the magic can often take away from the fun of it all as well. I loved watching people open their gifts in front of us. That was so much fun. For the most part the reactions were of genuine amazement and we made people feel so great with the unexpected nature of receiving….I really felt that people really received well overall- which is nice to see.”
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