As we make efforts to reduce our impact on the earth, Christmas is a very challenging holiday. Within our home, we make many gifts and those that are not made, are purchased second hand. I don’t remember the last time I got one of my kids, or my wife a gift that was purchased new from a retail store.
In addition to giving homemade or second hand gifts, we don’t use wrapping paper. Occasionally we use old newsprint as a wrapping and we will then use it again to start a fire in the cob oven. Most of the time we use handkerchiefs or other fabric to do he wrapping. We take clothes from the dress-up bin, use it as wrapping and then return it when it we are done with it. We generally use newsprint when we are giving to those outside our home.
That is our family culture, that is how we do things, and I like it. But I also worry a little. When my kids go to a friend’s birthday party, we get the gift at a second hand store and never use nice wrapping paper. I understand why we make that choice (less expensive, less environmental impact, and you can find unique gifts), but I suspect that others don’t understand…. And kids can be cruel.
Another issue that we face is those bringing gifts into our home. What makes this especially challenging is that we really appreciate how generous people can be and recognize that people show love by giving gifts. We also recognize that we don’t get to see some of them as often as we’d like, and a gift can help our kids remember them frequently. And yet we are really trying to minimize the stuff in our hous, and others often don’t understand the idea of valuing used and homemade over new. It is a difficult situation.
What we do is send out an email early on giving gift ideas. For the most part, we like the idea of activities rather than stuff. Last year, my dad got our family a pass to OMSI, which is like a giant children’s museum. We went all the time and talked about Grandpa Joe every time we went… And we tried to call him each time. I think we failed at that, but we loved the experience and it didn’t contribute to any stuff in our house.
OK, here is the best thing I’ve discovered about Christmas in the last few years… If I don’t have an actual idea for a meaningful gift for someone, I don’t get them anything just because I should. If there is a person who I should get something, but they don’t need anything (like my mother), we make a donation to a charity on their behalf.
I used to get all stressed out about getting the right gift for everyone, and I would spend lots of time looking for the right gift and eventually settle on something that they didn’t really need and ultimately, I didn’t feel great giving. I just gave up on all that pressure and stress. I still love giving gifts that I know are meaningful, but no more meaningless gifts or stress. It has been quite liberating.