Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Sweet Cha-Ching of the Holidays

Well, my friends. It's that time of year again. Time to snap those wallets shut and think about the true meaning of the holidays (even if you are not religious). I really love tradition, and celebrating with my family and friends. And usually, making the green choice involves having forethought and carefully planning how to tackle an event. So here are a few successful strategies I've found for limiting the giving-and-getting beast over the upcoming holiday season. Consider this a to-do-list for myself for the fall.


  • Make our costumes; the more I can upcycle the better (signed up for a basic sewing class!)
  • Buy pre-packaged treats to offer kids at the door (I just ordered fair trade chocolates from Global Exchange) including non-food options like stickers and pencils, but make (more alluring) homemade stuff for the kids we know -- like caramel apples or silly looking cookies
  • Get my kids to collect for Unicef
  • Order kit to educate adults about fair-trade chocolate issues (from Global Exchange - deadline is Oct. 1 for groups and Oct. 13 for individuals)
  • Make our decorations (ghosts out of tissues or handkerchiefs, paper-and-paint old-school decor)
  • Head out to the country for apple picking, hay rides, and selecting the perfect jack o'lantern from the pumpkin patch
  • Have a blast carving pumpkins and eating roasted pumpkin seeds

  • Bask in the brief, merciful respite from sugar-laden and gift-glorching holidays
  • Eat favorite family goodies like oyster stuffing, stuffed peppers, and make-ahead potatoes; take walk through woods if weather allows
  • Cook and then wolf down some of these pumpkin goodies (note to self: cook actual pumpkins to make puree rather than using BPA-lined cans)
  • Read books on giving thanks and make a Tree of Thanks like my sister-in-law did last Thanksgiving (cut out kid-sized hands out of construction paper; everyone take a moment to write notes before dinner; have everyone read aloud, then attach to branch centerpiece)

  • Try to get family members to get sustainable/used goods that we really want/need
  • If we can stop ourselves and others from celebrating with things (depends on the relationship), ask for donations to charities we love
  • Give others homemade items (shop Crafty Bastards today! shop Etsy online)
  • Give the gift of time (babysit, shovel snow, rake leaves, make dinner, walk dogs, corral kids into playdates, generally allow people you love to breathe)
  • Make sure that the holidays are about special traditions (like seeing lights/holiday displays, making gingerbread houses, singing carols, reading special stories, seeing loved ones)
  • When wrapping gifts, use reusable cloth bags instead of wrapping paper; if using giftwrap, buy recycled and reuse both it and the ribbons

Don't Forget the Solstice!
One of the most wonderful things about this time of year is the ancient tradition of honoring the seasonal changes as the light dwindles and the evergreens promise ongoing life. Honoring nature adds to the wonder of the winter holidays.

Take A Breath
And a final note to self? Relax! Remember that even if your darling children have never eaten anything but hemp granola for breakfast, they won't grow a third arm if Lucky Charms come in that Christmas stocking (hey, my children's Easter Bunny brings fresh spring vegetables... couldn't Santa just bring pickled carrots? I'm just sayin!) 'Cause although I wrestle every year with the emotional connections we sometimes build through giving vs. the materialism that undermines the genuine sharing and love of the holidays, I do think that we all need ways to kindle warmth with each other. Hope you have a great fall building traditions with your families and strengthening your ties to your community.

This is my contribution to this month's Green Moms Carnival, hosted on Monday, Sept. 29 by GreenBeanDreams. Go check out the other entries on the commercialization of the holidays!


Mary said...

I especially like giving the gift of time - if not yours, than others, i.e. maid service or a gardener. No one ever turned down a helping hand.

Mindful Momma said...

Great list! I love the Thanksgiving tree idea - my son did that in preschool one year! Also thanks for the link to the reverse trick-or-treating promotion by Global Exchange. I also heard that mini Z-bars (from the Clif Bar company) were going to be available for Halloween - another option for healthier treats! (haven't seen 'em anywhere yet though)

Diane MacEachern said...

Great ideas! We're making a huge commitment to slowing down. We've never gone overboard on holiday shopping, and are trying to do less of it than ever before. Halloween and Thanksgiving are the two favorite holidays in our household: lots of dressing up, goofing around, baking, hanging around, etc. Whenever I ask the kids about their favorite holiday experience, they say, "Remember the time we..." not "Remember when I got..."

Jennifer Taggart said...

I so agree with the gift of time . . . especially a babysitter for a mom.

Smart Mamas Do It All Naturally

Nora Bee said...

MamaBird, You make me want to be a better person. Thanks for the great ideas.

Tech Savvy Mama said...

This is a fabulous list! Thanks for always inspiring me!

And to mindful momma- thanks for the tips on the ZBars. They are a fave in our house and I'll be on the lookout for them!

Anonymous said...

My favorite is "Take a Breath." Maybe that one should be first on the list?



Kellie said...

I'm coming to spend the holidays at your house MamaBird! That's okay, right? :)

Anonymous said...

Oh awesome tips. New Zealand half-heartedly gets into the Halloween thing, but it's quite nasty, so we tend to ignore it all.

Pink & Green Mama said...

Love your blog. I added you to my favorites list. Thanks!

Thrift Store Mama said...

Great post. We try to downplay gifts at Christmas more for economic reasons than environmental one, but the end result is the same. Value Village is a great place for previously owned holiday decorations if you like to decorate.

Jessica said...

We created paper window clingers for our Halloween decorations. No need to buy, buy, buy to celebrate the holidays, right?

ellaella said...

Thanks for linking to one of my pumpkin recipes. I love your blog; we're on the same page, especially with respect to sustainability. I'm adding you to my blogroll in hopes some of my readers will enjoy your blog as much as I have.

Mother Earth said...

Say no to spending, slap that wallet shut! I see a slogan on the horizon!

I sat with a lovely elderly lady at the hospital and she said she was decorating for Halloween today. She said she has boxes of stuff and has always wanted to reduce the volume of it but didn't want it to end up in the garbage - we both agreed that perhaps someone else would enjoy the novelty of our collections, and both made a pact to donate to our local resale shops rather than pitch. I have an Amvets truck coming in two weeks and appreciate the opportunity to purge without having at curbside. We all have boxes of things that could be useful to someone else.

whymommy said...

What a beautiful post!

Green Bean said...

Really helpful, practical list. It so easy to say "I want a more sustainable or meaningful holiday." Thanks for the step by step.