Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Obstacles and Objections to a Homemade Christmas

Lets face it...we live in America, a society of get it done, keep up with the Jones' and mega-consumption. It is hard enough to limit our kids sugar intake, monitor their television exposure and teach them how to be kind, productive, tolerant members of society. Even with the best of intentions, we find ourselves detoured into the Taco Bell drive-through instead of preparing a home cooked meal. We can't get away from the temptation to turn on Cartoon Network for just a few minutes of quiet time. A parent would have to make it a full time job to prevent their children from getting exposed to all kinds of unproductive behavior whether it be through the media, at school or on the playground. So, to try to impose yet another "healthier choice" can be a difficult undertaking. Especially when the media is showing all the cool STUFF you HAVE to get for Christmas. I imagine many a parent has been tempted to combat the commercialism but decided that it was too big of a fight to win. I get it. I'm right there with you. (Between you and me -sometimes I don't even bother serving vegetables because I know it will end up a battle of wills and I don't have the energy for it.

"And now you propose a Handmade Christmas?? Are you mad?" Oh please...let me clarify. What I suggest is that we do our part to counterbalance the insanity we call the holidays. Instead of giving into this emphasis of "buying", lets look at this season as a time to be kind to one another and to ourselves. To be generous without filling our closets and cupboards and landfill with unnecessary stuff. To be thoughtful in our shopping, to repurpose when possible and to keep our kids out of the chasm of want. That dark abyss that distracts us from being good people and that is destroying our planet. It can be a lot of work, but if you think strategically, you can make an impact.

The trick is to recognize that if our attitudes toward consumption don't change, they will be changed for us in the not-to-distant-future.

Now our family does not subscribe to an exclusively hand made Christmas. We do a hybrid. For example, I never buy new gift bags, but I do recycle the ones I have from last year. My kids like toys and I am not a toy maker so those items are store bought. Sometimes they are brand spankin new-straight from China and other times they are items I bought on Etsy, ebay or at the thrift store. If it is from Etsy it is usually something handmade but I always confirm that it has been tested for lead. If it is from ebay, I am careful that the seller has a good reputation and do my due diligence to make sure the item is in tact and clean (i.e. wooden train tracks and trains) and if its from the thrift store, it is usually something like kid videos or a cool chess set. I feel good about looking to ebay and the thrift store because it is recycling but I also have little kids who don't notice if something isn't brand new.

For those of you with teenagers, you face a much more difficult situation when you try to push handmade or recycled items onto your teen. Their entire culture is built upon their stuff... brand names...expensive...cool. In this case, the best you may be able to do is wrap your gifts in recycled newspaper, magazines and grocery bags, skip sending store bought Christmas cards, do away with envelopes and give gift certificates. Maybe, if your lucky, you'll even make your own wreath? You are doing something and that is so much better than not doing something.

So here is a list of 20 ways you can change your Christmas/ Holiday practices without making your kids mad or adding more stress to your life:
  1. Give gift cards
  2. give experiences instead of stuff - dinner for two, tickets to the theater, tuition for an online class...
  3. Shop on Etsy - support artists and avoid wasting gas, time and releasing harmful ommissions by driving to the mall and hunting for a parking spot.
  4. Give a health package with vitamins, a colon cleanser, green food, medicinal teas and/ or immune system boosters
  5. wrap your gifts in paper bags turned inside out. Use rubber stamps and paint to decorate with holiday cheer.
  6. stop using ribbon and bows to decorate your packages. Instead, top your packages with useful items like mints, a spatula or socks
  7. ask for and give gifts that are practical - scratch the candy cane boxers and knick knacks - give them their favorite face mousterizer, hair conditioner or a new tool.
  8. buy American
  9. don't send store bought Christmas cards. Americans buy about 7 billion greeting cards each holiday season and most of these cards are made from paper from virgin forests and end up in landfills shortly after arriving at their destination. Instead send ecards or make your own from last years cards and supplies you have in your home.
  10. ask people if they have a big ticket item that you can contribute to and get one lined up for yourself. I have a sewing machine on lay away and when asked what I want for Christmas I suggust putting a little money down on it. I give them the store name and tel # so they can take care of it without actually handing over cash.
  11. give an herb garden or fruit tree. Its the gift that keeps on giving!
  12. give your time. What are you good at? computers, photography, organizing?? create a gift certificate on your computer and put it under the tree.
  13. replace your current Christmas lights with the new energy efficient ones.
  14. one word - itunes
  15. give a subscription to a vegetable co-op.
  16. don't stock up on extra gifts just in case you need one last minute. Buy a few starbucks cards if you must, but it is OK to downsize on your gift giving.
  17. give re-usable grocery bags instead of gift bags to wrap up presents. I do this every year and I feel really good that my friends and family may save a few trees because of it.
  18. give a photograph in a frame. That is an awesome gift!
  19. don't buy your stocking stuffers at the dollar store. We are all tempted to take advantage of those inexpensive, colorful goodies but most of it ends up in the land fill. Instead fill their stockings with fruit, nuts, lip balm, hand lotion, an eco-friendly water bottle, hand sanatizer and of course candy!
  20. give privledges -this is bound to be a hit with your teens! an afternoon off of school, a 1-hour extension on bedtime, pass on a chore for a week or movies on a school night.


  1. Speaking to the teenage consumption thing, I am SHOCKED and APPALLED by how much money our neighborhood kids are given by their parents for "allowance" (or just plain allowances, if you ask me). The teenage girl next door exchanged $150 presents with her boyfriend last Christmas... WHERE do they get that money, I ask you? They don't have JOBS!! My neighbor just says, "What are you going to do? All the kids get that much money, I can't let my girls be the only ones who don't...." Ohhhhh, this really chaps my hide! Sorry to hijack your blog post! What I mean is that I'm so glad that you're teaching your kids what is REALLY important... too many people are not and it truly saddens me. WAY TO GO for you for encouraging this Homemade Holiday!! :)

  2. Oh Jilliene - I love you! Really, you are awesome and I am always, always amazed with how much we think a like! I love the reusable grocery bag idea and will definitely be using that one and I already do a lot on your list :) I miss you - wish you could pack the kids up and come over next week to make cookies, pretzel hugs, and ornaments with us!

  3. I am living vicariously since I am not having a christmas...well not of the variety I grew up with. Just move to Thailand to avoid the holiday craze!!! missing the vibe so listening to streaming carols on my headphones at work while I type away on my endless email replies...what happen to using the phone a bit? love you tons

  4. You are just plain beautiful, Mrs. Jilliene