“Maybe Christmas Doesn’t Come From a Store, Maybe Christmas Perhaps Means a Little Bit More”

Guest Post by: Jamie D’Souza, Content Manager for Happy Eco News

There’s something magical about the Christmas season. I love all the Christmas songs and hymns, the Christmas food and goodies that only come out once a year, the snow that falls delicately on the ground Christmas morning (okay that one doesn’t happen much anymore, but you get where I’m going). But over the past few years, something has been getting in the way of the Christmas spirit. You can probably guess what it is because I’m sure many of you feel it too. It’s the shopping, the need to buy presents and all the stress that comes with it.

Every year, little naïve me thinks that we’ve finally gotten to a point where people are buying less and thinking more about the environment. And every year around Christmastime, I am shocked to find out how wrong I often am. Whenever I walk into a mall, I’m dizzy with the amount of things that are shoved into stores, all waiting to be purchased. And despite everything we know about waste and overconsuming, people continue to pile things into their shopping carts until they spill over and they leave the stores with bags full of stuff.

Maybe it’s my increased involvement with trying to do good for the planet or maybe I’m just getting older and finally realizing how much of these things we really don’t need. But, I’m finally truly understanding the message The Grinch has been trying to tell us for over 60 years. If you’ve never read this Dr. Seuss book or seen the animated movie (and the two remakes), it’s a tale about overconsumption and a realization that even if you try to take away all the Christmas decorations, food, and gifts, as long as you have family and friends that’s all that matters.

Source: Pixabay

It’s sad to say but Christmas is definitely a good time to see and admit that we have an overconsumption problem. According to Zero Waste Canada, Canadians are tossing out about 50 kilograms of garbage over the holidays– and this is largely due to the 3000 tonnes of foil, 2.6 billion Christmas cards and six million rolls of tape. If that doesn’t make your stomach churn, how about the fact that we throw away over 540 000 tonnes of wrapping paper after the holidays. Ouch. I’m not trying to tell you that you have to give up your Christmas traditions or even that you have to stop buying gifts, but there are ways to take it down a notch and make it more sustainable.

I’m fortunate that with my family, we’ve gotten past the heap loads of presents under the tree, that take hours to unwrap. We’ve found fun ways to give general gifts (on a small budget) that everyone can enjoy. In order to find these gifts, I’ve taken a lot of joy in staying (far) away from the malls and buying products that are locally made. You can find a lot of unique items that haven’t been massed produced during the holiday season at Christmas markets or bazaars. It actually makes me happy and excited to go shopping knowing that I don’t have to push through massive crowds, wait in long lines, only to buy something that 100 other people have.

Over the years, I’ve also shifted to buying more food gifts for friends and family. Alcohol is usually a winner, but there’s also a variety of chocolates, candies, cookies and so many more food items that you can give as gift. It’s also fun because it gives you an opportunity to visit stores you wouldn’t normally go into and to buy products you probably wouldn’t buy on a regular basis. An additional bonus if you have a theme for your gift, it makes the mission to find the perfect food item a lot more enjoyable. Being a baker (not by trade but by hobby), I’ve also switched to giving my friends and family homemade cookies. They are always a winner, and they make people happier than I think a store bought gift probably could.

I go all out with my baking too. I usually make 7 different kinds of cookies

Over the years, I’ve found myself buying (indoor) plants as gifts. Depending on where you live, there are a lot of unique winter plants available this time of year. And many indoor plants don’t require a lot of maintenance, so you’re likely to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list (even if they don’t have a green thumb)! If you have a botanical garden near where you live, I suggest taking a look at their gift shop – they have a unique selection of plants and you’re getting plants from the source which makes it extra eco-friendly.

One year our theme was gifts that started with the first letter of our name- I bought a Jasmine plant

If all else fails and you’re still determined to get someone a gift but not sure what, why not the gift of spending time with them? Go for coffee, a bar, a restaurant, even host a dinner at your place. We’ve all gone through a strange time where we haven’t really been able to see people beside through a computer screen. So I think the gift of connecting in person would probably be more appreciated than a store-bought gift.

In addition to gift buying, I’ve also tried to make my Christmas decorations and wrapping more ecofriendly. Many, if not all, of my Christmas decorations have been rescued from secondhand stores or purchased at markets or local stores. I’m always amazed to see what people buy for the holidays and then donate (or throw away) once it’s all over. I’ve picked up Christmas lights, stockings, wreaths, Christmas cards, mugs, all secondhand. If you haven’t guessed by now, I try to avoid big stores during Christmas, and I have good reason to if I can buy it all preloved!  

Salt Dough Ornaments

I’ve also dabbled in some do it yourself projects. One year I decorated some newspaper with paint and wood stencils to make festive wrapping paper. Another year, I made salt dough ornaments and gave some away as gifts. Last year I decided to make some homemade Christmas crackers. I customized each cracker with a personalized gift, I included a joke and fact, and in the spirit of 2020, instead of paper crowns, everyone got a reusable mask.

DIY Wrapping Paper

I think what we need to remember is that Christmas is a time for joy and happiness and spending time with loved ones. We add so much stress to this time of year to find the perfect gift or make the perfect meal that it makes Christmas feel like a chore. But if it’s not something you enjoy, ditch it, make new traditions. There are so many ways to have a good holiday without overconsuming and buying a bunch of presents that people will likely forget about the following year. I’ve given a few ideas but I know there’s some that I haven’t mentioned and may be more up your alley. Do what brings you the most joy, it might actually make this season more cheerful!

I hope you all stay safe, sustainable, and stress-free this holiday season!

My Christmas tree, purchased at a garden centre this summer, filled with my collection of polar bear ornaments!

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