This Christmas we’re doing things a little differently:
Our New Christmas Gifting Rules
I’d like to start out by stating that my family is incredible for indulging me and agreeing to a new set of gift giving rules. I would also like to mention that we did not start out with the rules and abandon western gift giving traditions “cold turkey”. Though, if you like this idea, I don’t see why you couldn’t as I do think it’s a win win for all, except of course corporations (hehehe).
How it began
I have an amazing family dynamic as my immediate family is very good friends with my husband’s immediate family and therefore we get to spend most holidays together. The past couple years on Christmas Eve the “adult children” – aka my siblings and my husband’s siblings have exchanged gifts from second hand stores. We did this for a few reasons. It saved us money and took off the pressure of buying something expensive, or the latest and greatest. We also didn’t have to travel from store to store in search of something that we felt was “perfect” for whomever. This new tradition turned into the best gift exchanging experience. We we have never laughed so hard and felt so touched by such simple gifts. Some gifts were funny and others were shockingly perfect for the recipient. My sister in-law found me a second hand jacket that I still have and adore to this day. My brother received a murder mystery game that turned into one of the most memorable evenings our family has spent together.Last year, I suggested we try doing a homemade Christmas for our immediate families on Christmas morning, in addition to our second hand gift exchange. This was well intended, however people were tentative and felt they needed to buy gifts on top of the homemade presents. And therefore it was double the work and didn’t quite fulfill its purpose. It made the homemade gifts feel lesser to the store bought, and we didn’t really save money either.This year I pushed everyone a little bit further and suggested ALL gifts for Christmas must be second hand or home made. I really stressed to everyone that we wouldn’t buy anything new. My family has now experienced just how much fun it is to give a gift that you found for someone at the thrift shop that you know now will have a new home! For myself, I’ve felt more touched by the scarf my sister in law knit me by hand than any gift that came from the store. I can’t even count how many gifts I’ve bought at a department store simply because I needed to get someone something and it was the best thing I could find.
The Newest Tradition
Initially, we had set out to save a bit of money, time and stress but in doing so we inadvertently reduced our environmental footprints. The gifts we bought had new purpose and new homes, instead of the landfill. These gifts had already gone through manufacturing, shipping and packaging processing, so in purchasing a used gift, we avoided contributing to the environmental strain caused by new products. This year we are consciously intending to reduce our environmental impact and avoid the stress that comes with shopping for Christmas presents. Therefore, there are 12 less people in the malls purchasing from department stores and contributing to the environmental crisis that is “Capitalist Christmas”. From the manufacturing pollution and energy consumption, to the packaging and shipping, it adds up. And that’s not even considering the actual sustainability of the product itself. I recently read an article, The Ghost of Christmas Waste, Consider the Environmental Impact of those Gifts, by the Irish Times discussing the environmental impact of Christmas gifts. The author addressed the need for a broader cultural shift in Christmas consumerism. Though we are only one family, hopefully by talking about our choices we may plant a seed for someone else to do the same.
In addition to reducing stress to or Mother Earth, I’m excited to start out my daughter’s Christmas experiences in this manner. I want our Christmas traditions to be rooted in sustainability and kindness towards our earth. She will grow up without the idea that Christmas comes from a store. Hopefully she will truly appreciate homemade gifts, and items that have been used but still have a lengthy life left in them. I don’t want her to think of Christmas as a time of needlessly purchasing more and more things. The true meaning of Christmas, as I’m sure many of us know, seems to have been lost along the way. But hopefully by reducing our consumerism foot print and being conscious gift givers we may be one step closer!