A Non-Consumer Christmas, Part 2

As much as simple activities make happy times and wonderful memories, most people still love giving and receiving gifts during the holidays.  I love it too, and I don't want to stop doing it just to prove how minimalist I am.  Yet I agree with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits.  He says,

I don't love Christmas shopping, or the overconsumption, frenzied malls, consumer debt, environmental waste... and over-accumulation of needless stuff that goes with it.  Bah humbug!  
I love Christmas, but the shopping has got to go.

heart of the holidays

We don't have to buy in order to give.

Think about it.  We shop like mad for a month or more, rip open the gifts in a few minutes' time, and then forget about them, break them, or exchange them the next day.  Shopping monopolizes our time, attention, and money. 

"We seem to think that buying is the solution to any problem, but that has led to a society that is deeply in debt and piled high with needless stuff," says Babauta.  "We can find other ways to give."

So forget those holiday countdowns reminding us of so many shopping days until Christmas.  Forget the pressure to find the "perfect gift" for everyone on your list.  We already have so much stuff that we can't possibly treasure everything.  Why add something that will probably just end up in a closet?

To keep the focus off of shopping and bring it back to giving, you need to think like an anti-consumer.  When we don't hurry out to buy gifts, we can tap into our talents, creativity, and love.

16 gifts you can't buy in a store

1.  Homemade goodies such as cookies, fudge, jam, soup-in-a-jar mixes, barbecue spice rubs, etc.

2.  Homemade coupons for a car wash and detailing, for babysitting or pet sitting, for a foot massage and a mani-pedi, or for any other chores you can do.

3.  An offer to teach a craft or skill such as knitting, sewing, drawing, beading, leather crafting, cooking, gardening, coding and web design, etc.  Provide a get-started kit from your own surplus materials.

4.  A handmade doll or stuffed animal.

5.  A personalized journal.  

Use a plain notebook and embellish the cover with photos, drawings, or a collage made with scrapbooking supplies.  If you design a gratitude journal, you could write all the reasons you appreciate the recipient on the first page.  If you design a prayer journal, you could write a few of your favorite Bible verses on random pages.  Or simply write in a few inspirational quotes about the value of keeping a journal.

6.  A book from your shelf that you think your recipient will enjoy.

7.  A bucket of outdoor toys.

Consider sidewalk chalk, bubbles, a crocheted frisbee made from leftover yard (also safe for indoor use), homemade bean bags, a homemade teepee, even a bug bottle!  The bucket itself can be used for sand or water play.

8.  A basket of sleep aids.

Try these sweet and spicy herbal tea bags,* homemade lavender pillow spray, and a homemade neck support pillow.

9.  A homemade memory/matching game for the young child in your life.  Use pairs of printed photographs of the child and other family members, pets, favorite dolls or stuffed animals.

10.  A keepsake you already own that you think your recipient will like and use.

Consider items such as jewelry, a silk scarf, a vase or candle holder, a vintage (but well-maintained) baseball mitt, a classic CD or vinyl record (if they have a way to play it), golf clubs, a chess set, etc.

11.  A used bicycle that you repaint and recondition.

If the gift is for a child, she could work on the project with you, and learn repair and maintenance skills as well.

12.  A "Garden Gift of the Month."

This could include items such as homegrown roses, tomatoes, pumpkins, homemade zucchini bread, dried lavender sachets, daffodil bulbs, fresh herbs, or whatever you like to grow.

13.  A dress-up kit for kids.

Use items you declutter from your closet or buy at a thrift store.  An old purse (especially if it has snaps, zippers, and pockets), scarves, hats, glasses, gloves, a lace tablecloth, a silky skirt that can be turned into a cape, costume jewelry, a flannel shirt, a construction vest with reflective tape, an eyepatch, etc.

14.  A photo album or scrapbook created by you.

Highlight baby's first year, a special trip, a wedding, the grandkids, etc.

15.  An adventure you share together.

This could be a hike, a trip to the beach, a trip to the zoo, a flower arranging or cake decorating class, an art show, or something else.

16.  A gratitude jar for the new year.

Decorate a Mason or other jar and provide a nice pen and slips of paper for writing gratitude statements.  The benefit comes from noticing and writing about things to be thankful for, which nurtures a slow but sure shift in mindset and focus.  Later, the saved strips can be pulled out and read one or two at a time as a reminder of the wonderful things in life.

You can also make the process of opening presents special by creating a treasure hunt for the recipient.  Concoct a trail of written clues with riddles and puns, or with "heroic" tasks to complete such as:

  • Say "Merry Christmas" in a foreign language.
  • Name at least six gifts mentioned in "The 12 Days of Christmas."
  • Play "Silent Night" on a kazoo (or on the piano, or your violin, or whistle it, or whatever's appropriate).

Let's reclaim the holidays for what they're really all about.

That would be love, generosity, kindness, remembering the poor, and giving thanks for the many blessings we have.  Let's not just say "Peace on earth" or "Joy to the world."  Let's make the changes that will bring our actions and traditions into agreement with our values.  This may sound preachy, but if we don't focus on peace and goodwill at Christmas, when are we going to do it?

The holidays are a great opportunity for us to learn (and to teach our kids) to show our love without shopping, without buying and spending and debt.  We can choose to focus on spiritual and family values, but that will only happen if we reject the busyness and consumerism that have hijacked the holidays.

Updated May 2023


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