I remember Christmas as a child being my favourite day – we were up early, ate a special breakfast as a family, opened presents, and then just hung out all day while the turkey was cooking. We’d play games and listen to old Christmas records or watch movies or just quietly read a new book we’d received. It was a slow and peaceful day of being in the present moment with those I loved.
I still love Christmas day with family, but by the time I get to it I’m exhausted and broke. Between decorating like I’m in a million dollar Instagram contest, the frantically searching my closet and the mall for outfits decent enough for holiday parties, and the worrying about getting enough/the right presents for everyone on my list (and then running around from store to store to get them), the season has turned into a busy and expensive commercial endeavour.
I’d really like to get back to those carefree Christmas days I remember. No, I’m not a kid anymore, but I still want to spend more quiet time curled up on the couch in front of the twinkling tree lights. I want to play outdoors in the snow and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. And I don’t want to give or get a bunch of stuff that will undoubtedly end up as unused clutter in my home or on the thrift store shelves.
I want a simple, slow and peaceful Christmas once again.
And the way to achieve it is to take the focus off of buying and put it into giving.
Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukah and the other holidays that happen around the winter solstice offer us an opportunity. Just as the post-solstice days give us a little more light each 24-hour period, so too can we give each other a little more time and love each day.
We can give the gift of conversation, of laughter, of listening, of singing and dancing, of eating together, of being healthy together and of relaxing together. The gifts we give can be thoughtful, needed and helpful; not plastic, impractical and cluttery. The holidays needn’t be a consumerist event.
Here are eleven ideas for simplifying this season to buy less but give more:
1 | Decorate naturally.
Use greenery and branches and acorns and pinecones and berries – all found in the natural world around us – to decorate at home. Plan an outing to a friend’s woodlot to gather them with her, or walk with some pals or your kids to the local farmer’s market to get them.
2 | Decorate intentionally.
Put your efforts not into purchased and cluttery decor but instead into setting up your home to accommodate your vision of what the holidays mean to you. That may mean pulling out board games and decks of cards, adding cozy blankets and pillows to your living room, having some holiday-scented soy candles ready, queuing up your favorite festive songs, or rearranging your furniture so that the TV isn’t front and center.
3 | Send e-cards.
Instead of buying and sending a gazillion impersonal cards by mail that everyone throws out by the first January, send a simple e-card or even a really thoughtful email that tells the person you’re writing to how much they mean to you.
4 | Say no.
Don’t go to every holiday party you’re invited to. Forget hosting your own big do (if it’s not something you love to do) in favour of spending even more meaningful time with your friends throughout the coming cold months by getting out for coffee dates. It will most likely be even more appreciated.
5 | Give a repurposed gift.
Instead of adding to the nearly-new items bursting off the thrift store shelves, rescue one by redirecting it to a loved one. Purchasing second-hand items prevents more of earth’s resources from being transformed into stuff and reduces the volume of items entering the waste stream.
6 | Give experiences.
Instead of giving stuff that clutters up our homes, give something that will add to the enjoyment of life. Movie tickets, bowling passes, spa treatments, yoga classes, park passes, rock-climbing adventures, museum tickets, ski-lift tickets, a sporting event or concert…experiences will be remembered long after the excitement of ‘stuff’ has worn away.
7 | Give consumables.
The gift of homemade cookies, muffins, soup, frozen casseroles, hot chocolate or an assorted tea pack will undoubtedly be appreciated and enjoyed, with no waste and no clutter left over.
8 | Give learning.
The gift that will keep giving is that of knowledge. Give online learning classes from sites like Skillshare or Udemy, or gift a class from your local college or university. Or gift an art class or cooking class or photography class. Give a guided meditation app to learn how to meditate. Books of any kind, including those that teach something new, are also great gifts.
9 | Give your time.
Giving your time is so much better and more valuable than anything else you could give. Spend a day with someone helping around the house or baking together. Plan a meal together at their favorite restaurant. Wash their car for them. Babysit so someone can go on a date night. Help them paint their house in the Spring. You get the picture.
10 | Buy local and handmade.
If you do purchase any gifts or decorations, opt for locally made items that reduce shipping and support makers, artisans and small merchants. You might also consider purchasing gifts online (or at local craft shows) that support women and makers in third-world countries who are helping build their communities through their businesses.
11 | Ban waste.
Commercial wrapping paper is non-recyclable and burning it emits toxins into the environment. So save our landfills by opting for natural and recyclable wrapping options. Use recycled paper bags, brown or white kraft paper, scraps of fabric, newsprint, old maps, or even a tea towel. Forget the tape and plastic bows and tie up a pretty knot with jute rope or baker’s twine.
Let’s reclaim the true spirit of the holidays by culling our consumerist habits in favor of giving more of ourselves and our time and our love. It will do our souls good, not to mention our wallets and Mother Earth. Simple as that.