Let’s be truthful here, if we wanted to have a truly eco Christmas we’d probably not even celebrate at all… but I love giving gifts, and I love any excuse for family to gather around a special meal together. And if once a year we all make the extra effort, perhaps it’s worth it. Also - it’s absolutely and totally possible to celebrate without forgetting the ethos that you live with the rest of the year, and also a great time to share that with others in your family through your choice of gifts (that you either give or ask for).
I thought I’d share a few ideas of what we work through each year. And to be truly honest here… every year is different, some years I get it more right, other years I throw up my hands and let some things go. Every year is a learning lesson for me, in being more humble in my opinions, guiding my children through the crazy drama of the world, and their expectations, and other people’s expectations. In learning what to push my ideals and wishes on, and what to step back on. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you might work through it too - in a gentle way…
Make something. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you make, it’s the made item that really matters. That fact you took the time to create something with your hands and heart, rather than picking something off a shelf. It’s a good way to talk about your environmental, political, socially-responsible ethos with friends or family… perhaps a simple note on the gift, so they could look into it later, rather than heated discussions on special days.
Gift special food items - jams, chutneys, pickles. If you can’t make your own, don’t worry, there’s lots of little markets around at the moment where people are making lovely things to share like that. This way you’re also supporting someone else in their making. Imagine a whole box of cherries, mangoes or stone-fruit gifted - something that might be out of the financial reach of your giftee.
Buy handmade, from a local market or artist or gallery. Or find a local online person - searching on Etsy local is a good way to find your community.
Gift an experience or a voucher to help them around the house or garden, or the commitment to take them somewhere special - even a picnic at a local creek might be something they don’t do very often.
Plants are always a beautiful gift, in my mind. Think about the space they live in, and what time they available to care for the plant. Sometimes a pot of living herbs is enough, or a fruit tree and the promise to help plant it.
A family photo or art work by your children - framed perhaps. Older family members often don’t need more things, and artwork is a beautiful and special memento for them.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. The best gifts, in my heart & mind, are the ones thoughtfully gathered for that person, rather than the mad dash to a shop to meet a specified budget. (I used to work in retail, and saw way too many people on Christmas Eve doing that horrible mad rush - it made my heart sigh and huff while I tried to guide them to the best options on the almost empty shelves).
Gifts to ask for:
While it would be ideal sometimes to not have to give gifts, I know my children would not be happy with that option. And my in-laws love giving gifts too. And, actually I love gifting things as well. So.. if you know you or your kids will be receiving gifts, then pre-empt the plastic throwaway junk, by getting in early with some suggestions.
New sheets - send links to beautiful organic or thoughtfully made items, rather than a vague suggestion
An experience or membership to somewhere.. local art gallery, museum, music, drama or sports lessons for a year (or a term), a ticket to a concert or live performance
A voucher to an art or book shop - let them know the details of your local shop, so you can support local businesses
While it’s not entirely personal, teenagers often seem to want vouchers for music downloads
We asked for a tent as our family gift one year - so think about one big purchase that would help your whole family
And if you know they’ll want to purchase a toy or a ‘thing’ let them know about easy options for places that fit your ethos. Biome* is a great online site with so many options for everyone in the family. I particularly love many of these wooden toys.
Or suggest something very practical, from a shop they’re more likely to feel comfortable shopping at, such as a trampoline which will last for years and be a great addition to any family garden.
I’ve shared a few ideas here, that will guide you along a more sustainable path, but also make for unique and beautiful gifting. And it’s likely you or your children will receive cheap throwaway wrapping paper and cards - a few options are to try and save the paper to reuse (talk with your children about how to carefully unwrap gifts prior to Christmas Day), or make sure that it’s recycled rather than lumped into the rubbish bin with everything else. A few extra moments to remove sticky tape and plastic ribbons, and put them in the right recycled boxes or bins depending on your local council. Sometimes you doing this, quietly in the corner on Christmas day, sparks a conversation that might make a small change in others.
I suppose the simplest I can say about this is; if you’re part of deciding what food you’ll have for your family or friend celebrations remember that less can be more. Choose locally grown where possible, less packaging, order organic meats from your local butcher (we don’t eat meat - but I know that lots of butchers have this option, if you keep on asking them), make less food.
Make a menu plan, and talk with your family about who will bring what. Don’t over cater - children seem to eat less when they’re running around playing, and adults seem to overeat when there’s too much food sitting in front of them.
If you do have left overs, keep in mind the excess plastic that many people use for putting food away, and look into these alternatives - beeswax wraps (buy these beautiful handmade ones here, or learn to make your own here), or invest in some reusable containers. Or simply put things in the fridge, in a bowl with a plate over the top. Or I love the idea of these linen covers.
Simple Days & Slow Moments:
The lead-up to Christmas and the final weeks of school term, and even the year, can be full with events, gatherings, stress of things to buy, places to go, things that we need to do. Try to look at your diary, and say no to some things. While there might be some guilt around not going to the neighbourhood party, it’s also important to be gentle with yourself and give yourself and your family quiet down-time. A Do-Nothing Day really is the best thing for everyone in these full and busy days. Especially if you live anywhere near me, where it’s hot and tiring and the weather seems to sap all energy from you.
Choose what feels most important to you, and work with that. Don’t be forced into a full 24-day Advent Calendar of events, perhaps try a simple tree of moments instead (I’ll share more about this soon… my girl is making one this weekend). Write letters and cards, rather than needing to drop in on everyone in your address book.
Hop off devices for a little while, and spend time in the garden or looking through books for inspiration. Sit and make some gifts, instead of spending every weekend at the shopping malls - I promise that you can make gifts almost in the same amount of time as it takes you to drive, park and trawl the aisle of the shops… And you’ll be much saner for it.
And if finding / making / creating time just isn’t happening - remember to breathe. The simple, yet often rushes past, practice of deep breathing nourishes our bodies in the best way. Breathing through your nose, gently and deeply slows our bodies and minds down, and allows us to think clearer and be a little more peacefully in the moment. Exhaling, though your nose (not mouth) in a mindful intentional manner let’s go of so much pent up stress and energy. Try it at the supermarket, when you’re in the middle of a busy stressful morning or ‘negotiation’ with children, or when life is making you feel overwhelmed and anxious. It’s the simplest way to reset yourself.... I’ve been practicing it more than usual lately and feeling the benefits immediately.
*I receive a small commission if you purchase through this link; it doesn’t affect what you pay, it’s just a way for Biome to thank me for spreading the word about the good that they do. Thank you for supporting me in this way.