Snow-flake and wreath decorations started cropping up in October, and we knew what that meant: get your wallets. The most consumptive (and possible least eco) time of year was coming!
The problem isn’t giving. Generosity and giving are wonderful things. It feels good to give, especially when you have just the right idea. Other features of the holidays are lovely, too: coming together with family, sharing food, seeing The Christmas Revels or Brookside Garden’s holiday lights. There’s lots to celebrate: Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Solstice, New Years. What’s not to enjoy?
Well… maybe all the stuff. And the pressure and expectation of giving not just one or two thoughtful gifts, but many things to many people! When did gift-giving go from being joyful to being stressful?
It makes me sad that the national holiday devoted to giving thanks (already complicated by US history with Indigenous Americans) has been co-opted by Black Friday, which now starts as early as 5:00 pm on Thanksgiving. The winter holidays too have become enormous sales and marketing opportunities for every retailer imaginable.
As we know, most gifts take energy and water to produce, to transport, and to display. The most affordable ones are often cheaply made and quickly break, ending up in landfills.
Yet this is not a call to ban gift-giving and avoid holidays! There are numerous ways to celebrate this time of year and to give without participating in rampant consumption:
- Home-made Ornaments: Sherry of Young House Love shared the how-to for her home-made tree ornaments this year – made from a repurposed fallen tree branch!
- Chores: one year my sister gave me a week off of doing dishes. I enjoyed every minute I spent not cleaning up after dinner.
- Pictures: and not just photographs. Buy some frames at the thrift store (reuse!) and have your kids or yourself create a picture to fit the frame.
- Dates: take your friend, parent, or family member on a date. To dinner, a movie, play, concert, hike, wine tasting, paint nite, class… the options are endless.
- Cook for people: I can think of lots of people who would be thrilled to have a week off of cooking dinner. This could be for a family member or friend! Imagine how nice it would be if a friend cooked and brought you dinner every night for 1 week. It would be a lot of work, but only for seven days.
- Sweets. ’tis the season! Gluten-free Mexican wedding cookies. Peppermint bark. Vegan and gluten-free pumpkin cake pops.
- Free Babysitting: got nieces and nephews or friends with young kids? Enough said.
- CSA Shares: offer to purchase or split a CSA share and to deliver. Who wouldn’t love regular fresh produce delivered to their house by a friend? Sign up at MOM’s through early January!
- Charitable Donation: in a loved one’s name.
- MOM’s gift card: grocery shopping is an integral part of the routine, and what a treat for someone else to pay.
- Plants: poinsettia’s are popular this time of year, but lots of house plants are pretty, good for air quality, and easy to care for. Some can be planted in the yard come spring, too!