The female gift of creativity

— by Nilgin Yusuf

All photos courtesy of Molly Mahon

It’s not Father Christmas, elves, Lidl or M&S who make the festive magic happen. It’s women. A predominantly female army of silent project managers festoon the tree, conjure decorations, diligently write cards, wrap gifts and cook dinner. Ditto: Diwali, Hanukkah, Eid, Chinese New Year and Thanksgiving. It’s largely the effort, stamina and creativity of women that makes these celebrations happen on time, year after year. Not to say men don’t contribute or play a role – but I suspect it is mainly women who do most of the planning and heavy lifting to manifest these big days.

I’ve always been struck by this quiet and unassumed female attribute, one that often goes undeclared but does so much to enrich the lives of others. This gift of creativity, drawn from the heart and mind is freely given, and translates into many things: food, presents, hospitality, parties and might be called other things: duty, life, stress, the way things are, a load of hard work. All this making of memories requires vision, imagination, organisation, problem solving and orchestrating which is a creative skillset, even if many women don’t recognise it as such.


Turning the banal into beautiful and domestically dreary into something more delightful is a creative channel for many women and this isn’t an unfeminist or unsisterly aside. These legions of women might not be artists with a capital ‘A’ or making an entrepreneurial go of it, flogging handicrafts on Etsy, but this urge to create motivates many who find satisfaction through pursuits associated with home and family. Martha Stewart built an entire empire on this idea and it’s worth considering as table decorations are automatically planned, fairy lights habitually arranged, and seasonal chutneys prepared in jars.

When in 1968, Dr.George Land conducted The Creativity Test, he concluded creativity is not something that is learned, but is rather unlearned. As young children, we make up games, paint, draw, play instruments and sing, but at some stage, most of us will classify creativity as a childish thing to be put away for the serious business of maturity. But creativity is serious; a life of stymied or repressed creativity can have a negative impact on health and wellbeing.

This quiet, everyday female creativity that makes the world go around spans generations. Our mothers did it and their mothers before them, taking resourcefulness (making ends meet, rustling up something from odds and ends) and bright ideas in their stride, fashioning a more fulfilling life for themselves and those around them. In her book, Big Magic (2016) Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “a creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more of an interesting life.”

While in the festive context, this creativity is about spreading happiness and a positive experience, it also brings benefits for the gifter – or creator. Creative activities can reduce stress and anxiety, cultivate a state of flow, keep things fresh and interesting, build personal confidence and bring people together.

Creative pursuits are often used to support recovery after mental illness and living a fulfilling life can help individuals live longer. ‘The world just seems brighter when you make something that wasn’t there before,’ said writer, Neil Gaiman and that’s just as true for a figgy pudding as it is a book of fantasy fiction. So, let’s lift our glasses to the gift of female creativity without which life would be unbearably grey. Happy Holidays to all the women who make our holidays happy!

Nilgin Yusuf is a writer and regular TNMA contributor. 


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It’s not Father Christmas, elves, Lidl or M&S who make the festive magic happen. It’s women.