In the spirit of giving this holiday season, each student at PS #1 Elementary School in Santa Monica plans to present a handmade gift specially created for a fellow student as part of the school’s annual Holiday Gift Exchange, scheduled Thursday, December 20th.

School head Joel Pelcyger initiated the school tradition during the school’s first year of operation in 1971. The event aims to emphasize among its students the old holiday adage that “it is better to give than receive,” which Pelcyger believes is more often quoted than practiced, according to the school.

The gift exchange also encourages students to establish value beyond what something costs, according to the school.

“In many households today, and particularly on Los Angeles’ Westside, children do a lot more receiving than giving during the holiday season,” Pelcyger said. “With our Holiday Gift Exchange, our students have the opportunity to give.

“And when they see the look of contentment and appreciation on the face of the recipient of their handmade gift, the giver also becomes a receiver.”

At a school where traditions are cherished in order to create significant memories for its students, school officials said that the gift exchange focuses on the more meaningful aspects of the holiday season, while providing an activity in which all students can participate, as nearly 20 percent of PS #1 students are on financial aid.

Preparations for the gift exchange began in November, when students selected a name out of a hat of the “special” friend for whom they would make their gift. The children were asked to think about the recipient of their gift when crafting their item. In past years, gifts have included paintings, poems, friendship bracelets, bookmarkers and pencil holders.

An aspect of the gift exchange that Pelcyger said he particularly enjoys is watching the friendships that develop.

“We are a small school of 185 students and I’ve always sought ways for the children to get to know each other better,” he said.

“Every year some amazing new friendships are created as a result of the Holiday Gift Exchange.”