1. Don't try to make anything in the last couple weeks before winter break. If it's not done by then, let it go. It's always fun to do something special when you return in January to celebrate the New Year, and the emphasis is off specific religious and cultural traditions.
2. It doesn't have to break the bank for kids to appreciate and enjoy it. One of the most successful gifts I ever gave was a coupon book unique to our classroom. There are all sorts of coupon templates out there. Here were some of the things I included: A new pencils(I just kept a bundle of cool pencils in my desk), a skip the homework pass for one assignment(The coupon had to be stapled onto the skipped assignment--this was the most popular coupon!), a bye-bye blues treat (fruit snacks I kept in my desk), 15 minutes of extra computer time, and eat lunch with the teacher at her desk. This was the least expensive gift I gave, and there were always kids who saved the homework pass all the way until the last week of school!
3. If time permits, make a gift to show the value you place on work done by hand. The last few years I made hats on the knitting loom for everyone in my class. I started in the summer, and it was way cheaper than therapy. I would work a little bit most evenings, and I let myself watch TV while I did it! I was worried that 4th graders might not like this, but they wore those hats with so much pride. It was a lot of work but fun. If it had stopped being fun I would have stopped doing it.
4. Consider inviting families to give gifts to the class rather than the teacher. I would send a nice little note saying that I was already so blessed, and I would appreciate gifts for the class. I asked for fairly specific things--gloves that could be community property for anyone who needed them, games for indoor recess, magazine subscriptions, etc. Not everyone followed this, but it was lovely to be able to leave on the last day before winter break with just a couple bags and the knowledge that the class would be so excited to enjoy new games in January.
5. Don't stress about it! There will always be folks who do more and folks who do less than you. The best gift you can give your students is a teacher who cares for herself or himself in such a way that they know how much you care about them all the other times of the school year.
What do you do to show generosity of spirit to your students, coworkers, and others?