Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Better Celebration

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Think about how you celebrate the season.

Do you spend too much? Eat too much? Does each year bring less and less satisfaction? More and more frustration? More debt? Less happiness?

Change things. You can do it. Probably everyone around you will be grateful. Be a hero.

Get your everlasting Christmas tree from possibiliTree. Or use a live tree that can be planted in the yard, or get a tree that can be recycled. Many places offer to pickup trees after the holidays, or they give you a chance to bring in the tree for chipping (and take home some of the chips to use as mulch in your yard). Even better, pick a live tree already in your yard and decorate it for the whole neighborhood to enjoy, and skip the cost of a tree altogether. Festoon your yard tree with suet blocks and seed balls and berries and un-buttered, popped popcorn edible by the birds.

Look for bazaars or craft shows in your area where you can get locally made (or locally grown) gifts. Buying locally not only supports your local economy and keeps smaller businesses going, it also reduces your gift-giving carbon footprint by avoiding items that have been shipped thousands of miles to get to your door.

Visit thrift and consignment shops for your gifts, especially for things that are outgrown quickly (like toys and children's clothing). You may be able to get brand-new (with tags) home d├ęcor items, even high-end clothing.

Give donations rather than gifts, especially for family and friends who don't need the basics. Just remember to make the donations in their name, and to choose a charity they would want to support -- especially if there is a cause that is near and dear to their hearts. Don't know what charity to donate to? Send them a card that includes a certificate for a donation to their favorite charity, and ask them to send you the charity's information so that you can arrange it. If you do this remember to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope if family and friends are far away. Or ask them to send the info via email. Remember, you want them to know you actually made the donation!

Pick a local cause and have a "community service" holiday. Your whole family can get involved for one day -- a shelter or food bank the family can work at, an adult living center or rest home where you all can volunteer time, or even pick a neighbor who's been under the weather and needs her yard prepped for the coldest part of the year. Coming together to offer service to your community can bring a family together in ways nothing else can, and it can remind us that putting the focus on giving of ourselves, rather than on getting more "stuff," is healthier for all of us (and the planet). Your children will always remember that you gave of yourself and encouraged them to do the same.

Don't buy gift wrap. Many gifts don't need to be wrapped -- a bottle of wine is beautiful all by itself, simply add a bow. You can also make your own gift wrap out of used and outdated paper maps, hand-painted or hand-stamped butcher's paper (you can get the kids to make this for the family's gifts), or even fabric scraps or bandannas. You can also use part of the gift as the wrapping paper -- a kitchen towel with a loaf of bread inside, or a washcloth that bundles hand-made soaps, are both attractive and useful.

Make all your holiday gifts -- even if you don't have any craft skills, a gift that is created by hand can make a heartfelt addition to the recipient's holiday. Food is always a wonderful gift, especially for people who are hard to shop for! Gift certificates that offer your skills to help with repairs or upgrades around the house would be a truly wonderful gift.

Share some of your time. Possibly the most valuable gift we can give is the gift of our time, and it's the one gift that everyone appreciates. Babysitting, pet care, house cleaning, or even just helping to plant a garden or repaint a kitchen can be amazing gifts to an overworked, under-funded, busy person or any of your older relatives.

If you simply must give purchased gifts, look at the Green Gift Guide. Pick something from there. Actually, there are several really nifty things to see--including a "lump of coal" soap in a muslin sack. Put that in the stocking of someone you love!


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