"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:
- Give gift cards
- give experiences instead of stuff - dinner for two, tickets to the theater, tuition for an online class...
- 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.
- Give a health package with vitamins, a colon cleanser, green food, medicinal teas and/ or immune system boosters
- wrap your gifts in paper bags turned inside out. Use rubber stamps and paint to decorate with holiday cheer.
- stop using ribbon and bows to decorate your packages. Instead, top your packages with useful items like mints, a spatula or socks
- 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.
- buy American
- 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.
- 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.
- give an herb garden or fruit tree. Its the gift that keeps on giving!
- give your time. What are you good at? computers, photography, organizing?? create a gift certificate on your computer and put it under the tree.
- replace your current Christmas lights with the new energy efficient ones.
- one word - itunes
- give a subscription to a vegetable co-op.
- 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.
- 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.
- give a photograph in a frame. That is an awesome gift!
- 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!
- 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.