“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”
If this quote had you visualising the ultimate green Christmas character—the Grinch—you aren’t alone. Each year, millions of Canadians snuggle up with this favourite book or watch the animated film while giggling at the antics of the Grinch (and possibly sniffling when he has his epiphany that Christmas “doesn’t come from a store.”) We cuddle our children while enjoying this tale, agreeing that Christmas is about spending time with loved ones and sharing the joys of the season.
All the same, we flock to the stores with gusto each year, plastic bags flapping, as we hit the malls to buy the latest gadgets, stocking stuffers, fancy wraps and ornaments. On Christmas morning, we surreptitiously stash away the presents we dislike from well-meaning loved ones, hoping they don’t notice that we never wear that ghastly frock or drink from the tacky mugs they gave us. Conversely, we hope that our friends and family appreciate the presents that we battled throngs of shoppers to find, and that they’ll be suitably impressed (perhaps even envious) with our Christmas decorations.
Depressingly, by January, most of our efforts will be rotting in a landfill. Tonnes of wrapping paper, ribbons, ornaments, and stocking stuffers will be dumped. The funny gadgets that looked hilarious in the store provide a moment’s laughter, before they’re stacked up with the rest of the gifts and eventually forgotten. The reality – we tend to buy a lot of “stuff ” just to celebrate, meaning we spend plenty of money and damage the environment. But maybe, as the Grinch realized, we could have a wonderful Christmas without it all coming from a store? Maybe we could make this Christmas mean a little bit more?
In my pursuit of a Christmas that would be more about Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Man than destroying the Earth and winding up in debt, I chatted to Tina Barseghian, author of the book, A homemade Christmas: Creative Ideas for an Earth-Friendly, Frugal, Festive Holiday.
As the mom of an eight-year-old daughter, Tina understands the pressures parents face to make Christmas magical for their kids. “As I mention in my book, I try to avoid falling for the easy consumerist behaviour that requires going out and shopping for the gifts. Instead, I encourage making gift-giving a time of reflection—about who we like, what they are about, and what we can do for them. My family rarely looks for gifts in shopping malls or at online stores that require lots of packaging. Instead, we try to use materials we already have in our home for making our gifts. Our house is already so full of material objects that we don’t need to go shopping to create really meaningful gifts for our friends and family—most of what we need is in our home.”
Given Tina’s past life as an editor for Craft magazine, one could be skeptical and say, “Well, you’re already artistic and talented! What about the rest of us?” Tina offers up some great tips that anyone could use to create meaningful gifts without breaking the bank or destroying the earth.
Give the gift of music:
“Create a playlist of songs that the other person would appreciate. Research their favourite type of music, so that you can make a collection of songs you purchase and download online.”
Personal calendars and stationery:
“I have made calendars for family members where each month is a different photograph. I hand-make the dates, and insert the birthdates of friends and families. When making stationery, I create stamps of their initials to monogram the sheets.”
“I’ve compiled recipe books (collected them from friends and family) and hand-written them into lovely journals.”
“I pot plants a lot as gifts, either from the garden or from a nursery. It’s nice to know the gift is both green, and will provide a lot of joy long after Christmas.”
”I love baking so I make cookies, jam, and cakes, for gifts.” Although many parents might baulk at the idea of putting so much effort into having a green Christmas, Tina doesn’t consider it to be a chore. “I find a way of thinking of it as a block of time I can spend with my child where we can have fun learning and creating things by hand together.”
Tina’s tips for green decorations
“A basic thing I do each holiday is to go on a nature walk with my daughter or nieces. We’ll go around the neighbourhood and pick up beautiful sticks, pinecones, and rocks. We bring them back, pick our favourites, clean them up, and put them along the dining table and around the room.”
When deciding whether to go for real or fake, Tina says it partly comes down to what you already own. “If you already have a fake tree, it can be used again and again without harming the environment. Alternatively, a small potted tree can be enjoyed year-round, or a larger one decorated outside. If you choose to cut down a tree each year, opt for the farmed variety where they are grown specifically for that purpose.”
Homemade Tree Trimmings:
“We try to make most of our ornaments. Last year we decorated a whole tree with origami; so many different coloured cranes! It looked very elegant.”
Wrap in “Green” Paper:
“I like getting the paper bags from supermarkets that we can decorate. I also use magazine pages—they spend so much money on these lush photo shoots, why not use certain shots to wrap a gift as a playful hint to what’s inside? I also like to use baker’s twine to dress up the gifts using pine cones, sticks and burs I’ve found out in nature.”