Editor’s note, October 2020: This story, originally published in October 2019, has been updated to reflect the latest decor and gifting trends and shopping guidance for the 2020 holiday season.
A colorful row of personalized stockings hanging from the mantel just so. Matching family pjs, complete with monogrammed details. A freshly baked batch of cookies delivered to your neighbor’s doorstep in a beautifully decorated box. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the biggest difference during the holidays. So to help you make the most of this year’s season and focus on the moments that really matter, we’ve compiled a simple month-by-month shopping timeline, chock full of expert tips and tricks for finding the best of the season on Etsy, from cheerful decorations to oh-so-perfect presents for friends and family near and far.
“On Etsy, you can find unique and thoughtful gifts for everyone on your list, plus one-of-a-kind trimmings guaranteed to make your home feel warm and bright,” says Etsy Trend Expert Dayna Isom Johnson. “There are more than 72 million items to choose from, created and curated by Etsy sellers around the globe, so with just a little bit of basic planning and a few handy search suggestions you’re sure to find just the right thing.” Whether you’re counting down the days until you deck the halls or just want to get a jumpstart on gift shopping, read on for the inside scoop on everything you need to make the holidays feel special this year, and rest easy knowing you’re prepared.
With fall in full swing and Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is the perfect time to begin dreaming about decorating your space for the holidays. Start with versatile staples you can use throughout the season—think modern wreaths, playful doormats, and cozy essentials like chunky knit throws and seasonal scented candles—to establish a decor foundation that effortlessly transitions from autumn to holiday.
Then, stock up on all the handmade tree skirts, inventive advent calendars, and stockings that suit your unique taste (tie-dye, anyone?) to layer in and dial up the festive feeling as December nears. October is also a great time to pre-order personalized milestone ornaments to commemorate a recent wedding, new baby, or first family home. Have a specific vibe in mind? “No matter what your personal style is, you can find holiday decor to match it,” says Etsy’s director of merchandising, Mary Andrews Vidra.
Tip: Try adding terms like “classic”, “modern”, “alternative”, “colorful”, “minimalist”, “boho”, “farmhouse”, or “Scandinavian” to your search to find holiday decor that matches your preferred aesthetic.
Custom and made-to-order gifts
One of the best parts of shopping on Etsy? Many sellers are willing to create custom items just for you—or rather, just for the lucky recipient of your ultra-personalized present. This year, some of our favorite custom creations include recipe cutting boards (which let you preserve a cherished recipe in its author’s original handwriting), kid-friendly name puzzles and mom-friendly name necklaces, charming illustrated ceramic mugs, and frame-worthy family, pet, and house portraits. Since these made-to-order gems can take a bit more time to whip up (and may be offered in limited quantities each season), beginning your search in October is a good idea.
Good news for slightly-less-early birds: Etsy offers a treasure trove of lightly personalized presents that still feel unique to your giftee, but don’t require extra time for customization. Thoughtful options include birthstone or initial jewelry, zodiac-themed tokens, and city- or state-specific pieces that let the recipient show off their hometown pride. For more specific ideas, try describing your intended recipient in your search (see: gifts for mom, gifts for grandpa, or gifts for pets), then filter your results by “customizable”.
Vintage decor and gifts
From glitter-encrusted putz houses to nostalgia-inducing mercury glass ornaments, Etsy is a wonderland of vintage holiday decor with unparalleled one-of-a-kind appeal. And for the retro fans on your gift list, throwback faves like old-school botanical prints and art-deco-style cocktail rings make for delightfully different presents. Thanks to their ready-made nature, vintage pieces also often boast the bonus benefit of quick turnaround times—but remember, once they’re gone they’re gone for good, so when you see something you love, don’t wait to snag it!
Tip: If the IRL present swap is on pause this year, don’t fret. Many sellers offer gorgeous gift wrap options and would be happy to send your order right to its recipient (often with a handwritten note!). Check individual listings for details, and reach out to sellers directly with any questions or special requests.
“Our social calendars might look a little bit different this year, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be showing off our festive spirit every chance we get,” says Dayna—so make sure your closet is stocked with all the merry must-haves. From matching pajama sets perfect for holiday cards or Instagram, to comfy Christmas sweaters (including over-the-top vintage pullovers from the ‘80s and ‘90s and modern sweatshirts adorned with custom family crests), cozy choices for snuggling up on the couch with your loved ones abound.
Still, there’s no reason you can’t also bring a little glitz and glamour to at-home celebrations. “I love the idea of going all-out and getting dressed to the nines in your favorite cocktail dress even if you’re just toasting the season in the kitchen with your family,” says Mary. “Or embrace a happy medium and top off your festive loungewear with a crystal-studded headband or gemstone-encrusted brooch and bring a touch of above-the-keyboard shimmer to any virtual shindigs.”
Tip: Looking to save on meaningful items? When searching on Etsy, you can filter your results to see items on sale or with free shipping. Many Etsy sellers will also be running sales during Cyber Week in November, so be sure to keep an eye out.
What would the holidays be without a stocking full of pint-sized surprises? This year, give the gift of self-care, and treat your loved ones to a home-spa day with an assortment of bath and beauty items. “More than ever, shoppers are interested in items that promote relaxation,” says Dayna. “On Etsy, there are thousands of items to discover for the wellness enthusiast on your list, from beautiful bath bombs to DIY essential oil kits—everything they need to keep their zen intact.”
Other unexpectedly delightful stocking stuffers include socks and mittens featuring cheeky phrases or playful patterns, DIY embroidery kits, tech accessories like cable organizers and multi-use phone stands, and plenty of goodies like name crayons and playing cards for the smaller members of your crew—plus treats for the pets, too. “A lot of these items can be personalized to make them even more special,” notes Mary. One more practical everyday option? A festive face mask, of course, with the attractive accessories to match (bonus points for coordinated masks for the whole fam).
Local and fast-shipping gifts
A stunning pair of statement earrings for your super-stylish bestie. An extra-cozy throw blanket covered in sushi for your takeout-obsessed aunt. Scarves shaped like swans for your bird-watching nephews. Etsy is brimming with one-of-a-kind, ready-to-ship presents guaranteed to feel just as special as the custom kind. One of our fave feel-good trends this season? Care packages loaded with comforting cooking and crafting finds, intentionally assembled and mailed directly to some of the hardworking everyday heroes in our lives (looking at you, teachers). And for more surefire finds, be sure to check out Etsy’s curated holiday gift guides.
Tip: Need a gift delivered fast? You can filter your search results to find items ready to ship in as little as one business day. You can also filter by shop location to find Etsy sellers in your area, which may help reduce shipping times. (It’s also a great way to support local artists!)
Printable cards, gifts, and decor—and of course, Etsy gift cards
For the inevitable last-minute need or two, sellers are at-the-ready with a slew of creative solutions. “This is where Etsy can really come to the rescue,” Mary says. Whether you need a cheerful greeting card or set of stylish place cards for an intimate family dinner to remember, save time and money with a budget-friendly printable option. You can even purchase a downloadable piece of wall art, print it at home, and frame it for a quick but memorable gift. Last but not least, Etsy gift cards, which you can email directly to your recipient or print for in-person delivery, are always a holiday hit.
Photographs by Kate Mathis unless otherwise noted.