Struggling to find the perfect gift or have an impossible-to-buy-for friend? The North has got you covered. Here’s a list of distinctly northern gift ideas that are sure to brighten your loved ones’ holidays, whether you have $5 or $5,000 to spend.
$5 or More
Pressed Northern Flowers
On your next hike (or trip to the florist), keep an eye out for northern flowers like fireweed or purple saxifrage to pick and then preserve. Pressed flowers look impressive but aren’t hard to create. All you need are a couple sheets of wax paper, some books, and a heavy item to set on top. Just make sure to package the delicate flowers safely so they survive the trip.
Price tag: free (unless you go to a florist)
Ragged Ass Road Sign
People kept stealing street signs off this famous section of Yellowknife’s Old Town, so much so that in the ’90s the city officially started allowing the sales of replicas to try and curb the vandalism. Pick up one for yourself and the Tom Cochrane fans in your life.
Price tag: $30
A Vial of the Arctic Ocean
A lot of southerners forget that Canada stretches coast to coast to coast. Northerners are blessed to live near the Arctic Ocean. These chilly waters offer so much of what makes the North, well, the North. Share a little of that magic with your southern friends by sending down a vial of water from the Arctic. That way, even though they can’t be here, a little piece of here will be with them.
Price tag: free (if you’re near the ocean)
Take advantage of the North’s unique berry selection and send some northern jams in the mail. Northern craft fairs and souvenir shops (along with suppliers like the Yukon’s Wild Things Jelly) will often have a selection of locally picked and jarred jams and jellies made out of delicious cloudberries, wild northern cranberries, blueberries, even fireweed.
Price tag: $10 to $20
Polar Bear Plate
Is there a more iconic northern souvenir? The polar bear license plates have been in use since 1970 in the Northwest Territories, which also owns a trademark on the design and sells them through its Spectacular NWT web store. Price tag: $24.95
Help your southern friends relax with a nice cup of the North. From Labrador tea blends that include cloudberry, the North has a wide selection of brews from companies like Laughing Lichen in the NWT. Even avid coffee drinkers will appreciate these unique ingredients.
Price tag: Varies
A holiday card is always a thoughtful way to let people know you appreciate them. This year, wow people by adding a northern touch to your cards. The North is home to so many beautiful places and artistic talent, and many of those artists have cards available to purchase at souvenir shops like Yellowknife’s Down to Earth Gallery.
Price tag: $5 to $15
Dry meats are a northern food staple, and are sure to be a big hit on southern charcuterie boards. Send some reindeer jerky from Inuvik, dried buffalo from Yellowknife’s Northern Fancy Meats, or smoked Arctic char from Cambridge Bay and Rankin Inlet to your loved ones to munch on.
Price tag: $10 to $20
$50 or More
A must-have for any home chef on your list. If you’re going to be prepping that big Christmas feast, you'll want to splurge on a custom-made design from crafters like Yellowknife’s Urban Inuk.
Price tag: up to $450 for a designer blade
Bead the World
Beading is one of the most popular forms of Indigenous artistry in the North, so there’s no shortage of beautiful earrings, necklaces, and other gorgeous statement pieces you can buy directly from northern crafters. Check shops like the Tlicho Online Store or look for beaders selling directly on social media.
Price tag: Upwards of $400 or more
Mukluks and Moccasins
Treat your friends’ and families’ feet to the ultimate in comfy, cozy footwear. Both mukluks (boots that have a sole suitable for use outside) and moccasins (slippers decorated with beaded or embroidered art) are fur-lined, hand-stitched one-of-a-kind creations. Available at most northern art stores and souvenir shops.
Price tag: $200 to $400
Northerners have become experts on how to take care of our beautiful selves in the dry winter cold. This holiday season, share that knowledge by shipping a gift basket of handmade Arctic soaps or moisturizers down south, made with northern-only ingredients from companies such as Iqaluit’s UasaU Soap or Whitehorse’s Aroma Borealis.
Price tag: soaps range from $10 to $15 each, while essential oils and body butters can cost between $20 to $35. A decent gift basket of assorted products will set you back $100.
Northern Book Bundle
Books about the North go beyond adventure memoirs and travel guides. From Arctic recipes to baby books based on traditional tales, northern authors have a wealth of stories that are unique to their homes. Let’s share those stories with our southern neighbours. Check independent northern stories like Yellowknife’s Book Cellar or northern publishing companies like Inhabit Media, to find that perfect book.
Price tag: $20 to $30 per book
Statement Art Piece
People may think northern art is all prints and carvings, but there’s a diverse range of designer pieces up here ready to be displayed in your home. From ceramic ptarmigans by Yukon artist Astrid Kruse to scrap metal fish and birds from youth in Cambridge Bay, there’s something for every mantlepiece.
Price tag: $100 to $300
Keep it casual with the always-classic Tuk U sweatshirt (available from the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation’s craft shop), pick up a Dene rose hoodie from Yellowknife’s Erasmus Apparel, or grab a pair of comfy tights from Arviat’s Hinaani Design.
Price tag: $50 to $80
Wrap Them in Furs
One of the best ways to keep cozy is a good fur product, and up here we have plenty of ethical sources to supply for us, many of which are available from Just Furs in Yellowknife’s Old Town. Wrap your friends and family in a fine fur hat or mittens to stay warm.
Price tag: a quality hat or mitts will set you back between $100 to $300
Your southern friends will be surprised by how versatile furs can be. Fill their stockings with smaller items like fur cellphone holders and boot warmers from companies like Aurora Heat. Also, this gift helps support local businesses and hunters, which is always a plus.
Price tag: smaller items like hand warmers or cellphone holders cost between $50 to $100.
$500 or More
Do you know someone who would rather wear their art than put it on display? Add to your gift recipient's wardrobes with the help of the North’s growing fashion industry. With a rich cultural environment and access to materials you can’t get anywhere else, northern designers are taking over the fashion scene. Many of these designers are Indigenous, too, like Victoria Kakuktinniq and Tishna Marlowe, who draw on cultural symbols to create styles ranging from traditional to contemporary twists. Beaded jewelry, sealskin handbags, and hide-and-fur cocktail dresses are just some of the many options you have to delight a southern fashionista.
Price tag: depends on the designer. Accessories ($100 earrings) will be less expensive than full outfits ($1,000 dresses).
Deck the Walls with Art
If you have an art fan on your list, then you’re in luck: the North is flush with talented artists. A nature lover will appreciate depictions of northern landscapes, like those in Whitehorse’s North End Gallery, and Inuit art connoisseurs will be excited by the many prints available through Dorset Fine Arts. Now’s the chance to introduce them to a whole new visual world.
Price tag: varies considerably but $500 is a good starting point.
Even if you know nothing about the Arctic, you can recognize a parka. This classic symbol of these lands is always a welcome gift for fans of the North. You can also add a special touch to this gift by getting a parka that’s handcrafted to fit the gift receiver’s personal style. Social media is your best bet for finding a designer but get your orders in early if you want it for Christmas.
Price tag: parkas can be priced anywhere
between $1,000 and $3,500 depending on designer and style.
Gems and Gold
The North is well known for its natural resources, some of which sparkle more than others. Give your southern loved ones true northern treasure by sending down an NWT diamond or piece of Yukon gold. The Northwest Territories Diamond Centre offers a selection of diamond jewellery with materials sourced from inside the territory, and the Whitehorse store Murdoch’s will provide you with certified Klondike gold.
Price tag: a simple gold nugget will run $700 to $1,500 on its own. An NWT diamond ring or necklace, on the other hand, can range anywhere between $200 and $4,000.
$5,000 or More
A pricier gift for the art lover in your life, but one that lends a northern touch to anyone’s home. Whether it’s a scene of soapstone seals or Inuit legends preserved in marble, give your loved ones the stories of the North with a carving from galleries like Cape Dorset Inuit Art in Kinngait. Just make sure to look for the Inuit Art Foundation’s Igloo tag to certify the work is indeed made by an Inuit artist.
Price tag: smaller pieces go for only a few hundred, but elaborate pieces can go up to tens of thousands of dollars.
Make Them a Northerner
Are you tired of explaining northern culture to your southern friends? Do you wish you could be with them more often? We have the solution: buy your friends and family a house in the North. They could live next door, down the street, or across the bay on their very own houseboat. Stop sending gifts down there and bring your loved ones up here instead.
Price tag: if you really want to impress your family, a house can go for up to $800,000+ in some northern cities.
A Northern Adventure
Don’t feel like wrapping a gift? Buy an experience, instead. Any number of tour packages will introduce your friends to the many marvels of the North. Send them on a Northern Lights tour across the Arctic, or on a safari trip to see narwhals in their natural environment. Meanwhile, the adrenaline junkies in your group can go on a Nahanni rafting adventure. Or maybe you’re shopping for someone who prefers the classics, in which case a dog sled adventure is the perfect fit. For the price of a few tickets, you can give your friends an experience they won’t get anywhere else.
Price tag: a one-day experience can be priced in the hundreds, allowing for multiple adventures. But if you really want to break the bank, you can spend up to $20,000 on luxury tour packages (plane tickets extra).
We all know the holidays aren’t about wrapping paper or gift cards—the theme of the season is to give back. Donations to charities are welcome at any price point. Here are a few northern organizations you can lend a helping hand to:
• True North Aid’s “Covid-19 Emergency Fund”
• Habitat for Humanity
• Wildlife organizations like the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and CPAWS NWT
• The SPCA
• Seniors community programs
• Salvation Army
• Local food centres or women’s shelters in northern communities
• The Yellowknife Community Foundation
• Environmental groups like Ecology North