Christmas 2023: Handmade Gifts From Catholic Monasteries

Monasteries and religious communities offer handmade gifts that celebrate the Catholic faith.

A religious sister from the Monastery of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, New York, hand-paints a pitcher.
A religious sister from the Monastery of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, New York, hand-paints a pitcher. (photo: Courtesy of Monastery of Bethlehem)

Looking for unique Christmas gifts? There are many monasteries and religious communities that offer handmade gifts that celebrate the Catholic faith. 

Buying presents online from religious brothers and sisters has the added advantage of lending support to these communities, many of whom depend on a successful Christmas shopping season to continue their lives of prayer and service.

Here’s a guide to some of CNA staff members’ favorite gifts to give and receive.


Hand-Painted China

The contemplative Sisters of the Monastery of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, New York, support themselves by hand-painting chinaware. The exquisite, intricately designed pieces make lovely Christmas gifts, and the china is dishwasher- and microwave-safe. 

The sisters belong to the monastic Family of Bethlehem, of the Assumption of the Virgin and of St. Bruno, which was founded in 1950, when Pope Pius XII proclaimed the dogma of the assumption of the Virgin, which states that Mary was elevated, body and soul, from earth into heaven. They create their beautiful chinaware in prayerful solitude. Plates, serving bowls and platters from $31 and up make lovely gifts. Hand-painted porcelain egg cups for $23.97 are also available through EWTN’s Religious Catalogue. 

Some of the hand-painted gifts available for purchase from the Monastery of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor,  New York. Credit: Monastery of Bethlehem

Some of the hand-painted gifts available for purchase from the Monastery of Bethlehem in Livingston Manor, New York. | Monastery of Bethlehem


Wine From the First Papal Vineyard

The Benedictine monks and nuns of the Abbeys of Le Barroux, a vineyard established by Pope Clement V in 1309 in the Rhône Valley of France, now have a U.S. distributor for their Via Caritas wine. The wine is made in cooperation with local vineyards, and the proceeds help support these winemaking families. The monks’ award-winning wines are available to purchase for $21.99 and up.

EWTN’s Colm Flynn visited the vineyard and witnessed the winemaking process firsthand in this video.

The Benedictine monks and nuns of the Abbeys of Le Barroux run a vineyard established by Pope Clement V in 1309 in the Rhône Valley of France. Credit: Screenshot "EWTN News In Depth"

The Benedictine monks and nuns of the Abbeys of Le Barroux run a vineyard established by Pope Clement V in 1309 in the Rhône Valley of France. | Screenshot via EWTN News In Depth


Soap and Candles

The nuns from the Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, live a life of prayer through Eucharistic adoration and dedication to the Rosary. To support this way of life, they create handmade candles and skin-care products, which they sell at their Cloister Shoppe. Create your own Christmas gift bag of two bars of soap, a hand cream, a jar candle, a face moisturizer, and a handmade rosary made from olive-wood beads from the Holy Land for $50. 

Throw in a pair of Bayberry Christmas Eve Tapers for $18 to give your holiday table a festive glow. 

Dominican nuns at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, make soap and candles that they sell at their Cloister Shoppe. Credit: Jeffrey Bruno

Dominican nuns at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, New Jersey, make soap and candles that they sell at their Cloister Shoppe. | Jeffrey Bruno


Handmade Friar’s Rosary (supplies limited)

The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal handcraft these extra-large wooden rosaries (like the friars use), which are offered for sale through Spirit Juice Studios for $30. The friars live in community, carrying out their mission of evangelization and serving the poor in the tradition of St. Francis. 

Check out their weekly Poco a Poco podcast here, where Father Innocent, Father Angelus and Father Mark-Mary break open the Gospel and offer “practical spirituality” for all pilgrims.

This extra-large rosary is made by a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. Credit: Spirit Juice Studios

This extra-large rosary is made by a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal. | Spirit Juice Studios


Fruitcake

These fruitcakes are not the sort that get regifted. The monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California, offer a fruitcake soaked in brandy and aged for three months. Order a one-pound fruitcake for $26.98.

The Monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani in New Haven, Kentucky, offer a 20-ounce Kentucky Bourbon Fruitcake along with a jar of Trappist Apricot-Pineapple preserves and a jar of Trappist Quince Jelly, which make a lovely Christmas gift for $32.75.

The monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California, are known for their brandy-soaked fruitcake, made with a 50-year-old recipe. Credit: New Camaldoli Hermitage

The monks of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California, are known for their brandy-soaked fruitcake, made with a 50-year-old recipe. | New Camaldoli Hermitage


Fudge

The monks of the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia, make their famous fudge with premium chocolate and real butter. Try a 12-ounce gift box for $15. And for a taste of Georgia, try their Southern Touch fudge, “made with real peach morsels, pecans and a touch of peach brandy.”

Chocolates by Monastery Candy.

Chocolates by Monastery Candy


Cookies

The Capuchin Poor Clare nuns make their famous butter cookies from their monastery in Denver. The “Clarisas” come in a beautiful gift box featuring an image of St. Clare and sell for $18 for a 1.5-pound box.

A box of handmade Clarisas' Cookies. Credit: Francesca Pollio Fenton/CNA

A box of handmade Clarisas' Cookies. | Francesca Pollio Fenton/CNA


Caramels

The contemplative nuns of Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa, are known for their delicious caramels, which they make by hand in order to support their way of life. A 9-ounce box of sea-salt, chocolate-covered caramels sells for $15.55.


Coffee

The Wyoming Carmelites of Mystic Monk Coffee hand-roast their beans in small batches to support their community. The website CoffeeReview.com ranks their coffee among the highest of the coffees it reviews. A 12-ounce bag of their most popular flavor, Jingle Bell Java, sells for $13.95

Since they began their coffee business in 2007, the monks have been able to live out the Carmelites’ vocation of “hidden prayer and union with God for the sake of everyone throughout the Church and the world.”


Hot Sauce

The monks at Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas make a tangy hot sauce from the habanero peppers grown in the monastery’s gardens. Benedictine Father Richard Walz began making his “Monk Sauce” while he was stationed in Belize, Central America. In 2003, he brought back some seeds from the peppers he grew there and created a tangy sauce made from the chilies along with onions, garlic, carrots, vinegar, salt and “a few prayers thrown in for good measure.” 

How spicy is it? According to the abbey’s website, their Monk Sauce has a 250,000 Scoville Unit rating, while Tabasco’s habanero sauce earned a mere 7,000 Scoville Unit rating. Available in green, red, and smoked, the 5-ounce bottles sell for $11 each.


BONUS: More candy choices.

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