to Have a Merry Non-Commercial Christmas by Wendy Priesnitz
Christmas has traditionally been an important time in the
life of many families. But for
many, this time of year has
become just another commercial
opportunity, benefiting retailers, and manufacturers of
electronics, toys, and candy. In fact, it often
becomes an orgy of excess packaging and unhealthy eating, tempting some
natural living families to try
and ignore it altogether. However, the holiday season won't be ignored, and it
doesn't have to be consumer-oriented; it
can be a great opportunity for sharing the principles
behind our conscious lifestyles with others,
especially with the
children in our lives and our extended families and friends
who aren’t as
environmentally or socially aware as we are.
There are many ways to enjoy the holiday season with our families
and friends, but not forsake our eco-ethics.
Here are some suggestions
that will get you thinking about
alternative gifts...some to give to the children you love
and some for children to help you make for giving to others.
Handmade gifts are often the least
expensive kind. And because they involve the gift of your time and thought,
they are usually the most treasured. Even the least crafty person can
assemble a collection of family photos, record family interviews, or
Children love personalized gifts, so create a simple book about the
child, written and illustrated by you.
Collect all the makings for hand puppets — brown lunch bags, googly
eyes, scissors, markers etc.
Record interviews of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles
and share them on CD
or video; you can ask them to discuss their memories of the person
you plan to give the collection to, or your family’s history, especially funny
or meaningful anecdotes.
Frame one of your best photographs. Buy a frame from a local business
or artisan. Or make one yourself out of stiff paper or cardboard,
decorated with colored paper, old wrapping paper, beads and/or leaves,
small pinecones, or seeds.
Make your own calendar using cut-out pictures, photos, and/or
Assemble a collection of favorite recipes.
Get out your video camera and make a film of the kids putting on a
play. Mail it to the grandparents with a holiday song as the finale.
Bake a basket of muffins and cookies and deliver them to neighbors.
Create a hand-decorated coupon for your best friend promising a
weekend of babysitting while she and her spouse take a weekend away from
Create a coupon book of certificates for your children – ten gift
coupons for them to redeem during the year. One could promise a Saturday
afternoon building a playhouse. Another might be a promise of tennis
lessons or an afternoon of making cookies.
Your teenager could make a coupon to give to Dad, promising to wash
the car or to make dinner three times.
Promise your significant other some special activities – a candlelit
dinner, a massage or an outdoor activity that you both enjoy.
Assemble a gift basket with compact fluorescent light bulbs, forms
for getting rid of junk mail, healthy recipes, some weatherstripping and
cozy slippers (so they can turn down the heat a few degrees).
Gifts of Experiences
Give a membership or a donation to a local cause such as a soup
kitchen, a shelter for battered women, a local environment group, etc.
Call local churches, synagogues and charitable organizations for ideas.
Give a membership to your local zoo, museum or art gallery, or
"adopt" an animal at the zoo or to support an endangered species.
When you do buy things, remember principles like buying
locally-produced, fairly-traded products with environmentally friendly
or no packaging. Recycling or re-using is also a good principle to keep
in mind when considering Christmas gifts. Any way you do it, you can
challenge our over-consumptive lifestyle and how it affects global
disparities and the earth.
Instead of buying wrapping paper, use younger children’s artwork as
wrapping paper. Or reuse old paper, like the Sunday comics section, old
maps and decorated paper grocery bags. Or wrap a gift in a colorful
piece of scrap fabric or make the wrapping part of the gift...as in
encasing a sushi bowl and chopsticks in a tea towel, or some bathroom
soap in a plush bath towel.
Take a Break
Too much focus on gifts –
even of the handmade variety – can become
overwhelming. Couple that with other aspects of holiday madness
like cooking, cleaning, parties,
out-of-town relatives, and even the kids can feel stressed out with all the
anticipation and distracted parents. However there is a great antidote
when things get hectic and overwhelming: Head outdoors. Even if there is
a chill in the air, time outside connecting with Nature can lower the
stress level, revive the spirits, and add to the enchantment of the
Outdoor Tree-Trimming – Adopt a
tree in your yard or neighborhood – find out what kind it is and decide
to visit it regularly. Decorate it with things birds
like to eat.
Scavenger Hunt – Give the kids a
list of natural objects to find in the yard or neighborhood – pinecones,
acorns, different shape leaves – and make it a contest to see who can
find everything first.
Decorate with Mother Nature – Have
the kids use some of the treasures they found on the scavenger hunt to
create pretty centerpieces, wreaths or other holiday décor.
Christmas Bird Count – Get
outside, learn about your feathered neighbors and help scientists
monitor the health and well-being of local bird populations. Find out
how to do this at www.audubon.org/Bird/cbc.
Make An Elf House – Santa’s elves
need a place to stay while compiling Santa’s list. Create an elf house
using the Nature in your neighborhood:
sticks, stones, leaf piles, pinecones, moss, bark. Either fashion them
free-form or glue them to an empty milk or juice carton that has been
wrapped in a brown, paper grocery bag. Don't forget to create a door and
windows! Secure in a nearby tree.
Have an eco-friendly Christmas this year!
Wendy Priesnitz is Natural Child Magazine's
editor, has been a journalist for over 35 years, has written 12 books, and has
two adult daughters and two step-granddaughters.