I’ve got a bad word I want to say. It’s a really scary word, brings about many mixed feelings and often results in its hearers grasping their wallets, either in glee or horror.
It’s only 55 days away!
So what does Christmas mean? For those of religious persuasion, it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. For many others it’s a day like any other, except with higher pay rates. For most though, it’s a day where you give and receive many gifts, a day spent with family and friends, overindulging in fine foods and drink. It’s a day, generally celebrated with excess.
But who pays for that excess?
Firstly, we do! Our credit cards will be groaning and the retailers we have visited will be rubbing their hands in glee at the glut of spending.
But who else pays?
When we purchase that gift to give someone, who is paying the true cost behind the gift? Who bears the brunt of the manufacture costs, production waste and then who performs the labour? What is the real price of the t-shirt you’ve just bought for $20? Well, if you think about a cotton t-shirt, where is the cotton grown? Is it GMO cotton and what impact does that have? Who picks the cotton? Then, where is it transported to for spinning, dyeing and finally weaving into a t-shirt? Who deals with the waste products and dirty water after dyeing? How far does the t-shirt then travel before it reaches the shop where you pick it up, purchase and package it into the shops bag which may well be plastic, before it comes home and is wrapped in paper before resting under the tree.
It’s pretty scary when you stop and look at what it takes to produce a simple t-shirt. Or pair of jeans, shirt, shorts or even the good old fallback jocks and socks. But is it any different from a technology gift? What is the footprint of an iPad, or a new laptop, or for the kids, toys. Plastic toys made from crude oil fossil fuels. Hmmm.
Christmas for us is also complicated by the addition of Allegra’s birthday just a fortnight before and my nephews birthdays in early January and early February. It is always a challenge to find appropriate gifts for them that don’t compromise our values (I try to avoid buying plastic when and wherever possible) and don’t cost the earth, figuratively and literally.
So, what can you do to reduce the impact of Christmas?
1. Make your own gifts. Pinterest is a wonderland of gift ideas that can be made at home, often using ingredients found in your pantry. From homemade body scrubs to cookies in a jar, there is a great idea here for many people. If you can sew, knit or crochet, there are heaps of ideas out there for small or larger gifts that can be made.
2. Buy an online gift. I’m not talking about shopping online for a gift but rather buying a gift that can be downloaded to their phone, computer or kindle such as a book or a film or tv series. These are great gifts for people overseas as the carbon miles are reduced greatly. Yes I know there is still impact, but the environmental cost of a digital book would surely be less than a paper book.
3. Give an experience. You could make up a book of vouchers or simply buy tickets to an outing or event for the person, and you could even buy tickets to make it an outing that you share together. Take the kids for a ride on Puffing Billy (for those in Melbourne), a trip to Luna Park (Sydney or Melbourne) or another theme park or even a trip to a local trout farm, or fishing on the bay. Make it a special day out including vouchers for ice-creams, fish n chips for dinner or other things the kids will enjoy that may be a bit of a treat. Chances are they will remember the experience far more than a gift that may well be obsolete or forgotten in a few weeks. For adults, tickets to a concert, lunch at a flash hotel or restaurant in the city or even a voucher for a spa treatment could be the perfect gift. As a full-time mum, the idea of an hour off for a massage, or even just a haircut is gold! (No, I’m not dropping hints.) Alternatively, give the gift of a short course or class. This may be a little harder when you have to plan dates but what about a cheese making class or a French cooking lesson?
4. Give a growing gift. In these times of rising food costs, buy a nice pot now, plant a variety of tomato seedling you think would be appropriate and remember to water it until Christmas. How lovely it would be to have your Christmas gift ready to start giving you tasty fruit that you could even use for Christmas lunch if you’re lucky. Plant some basil and chives around the bottom, buy a tub of bocconcini or a mozzarella cheese (or make your own if you’re a cheese-maker) and a box of crackers and you have ready-made fresh bruschetta to go!
5. If you do choose to buy a gift, try to buy one that is environmentally sustainable. Toys made from sustainably raised plantation timber, not old growth forests, organic and fair trade items whenever possible or even something that helps reduce energy costs like a bicycle or solar charger. Or support a local business. You could even look for a gift that replaces a disposable item such as a reusable coffee cup.
The impact of Christmas is not just in the gifts we give but also in the day itself. However, I have rambled enough for tonight and it’s time for this little hippy to get some sleep. That will be another post for another night.
Yep, I groaned a little when I ventured into a shopping centre on the weekend (I avoid them where possible), and saw the Christmas decorations up. I give something I’ve made to my nieces and nephew, but my eldest niece at 8 has decided she doesn’t like dresses or skirts, so that makes it a bit tricky. Last year I gave her some organic cotton knickers and a natural lip balm (both bought). For my parents, brother and SIL we kris kringle a gift up to $50, and we can have input into our own gifts. I usually nominate subscription to a greenie magazine. For the Inlaws we started charity donations as they all live quite a distance away now, but unfortunately they like to give us tangible gifts in return. Grrr! 3 of my grandparents are still alive, so I give them some of my handmade soap, as they love it, and don’t need much. I’ve been giving River Cottage DVDs as birthday gifts this year, I like the message he gives, his enthusiasm, without being in your face greenie, to those that are freaked out by that 😉
My groan was more along the lines of a giant and rather audible “Are you KIDDING me?” in the Ballan supermarket. *blush*
For the little girls we buy for I buy hair ties. A friend makes them (http://www.facebook.com/madeEmBits), they’re cheap, post well and are extremely useful. 🙂
I meant to add that my youngest, Livinia, turns four 9 days before Christmas, so yes, I feel your pain. My birthday is in early January, my dad’s is 2 days before mine, so we usually have a little family gathering for that, but I keep mine a pretty quiet day.
These December babies hey! We also have my Mum’s birthday on the 20th which is rotten hard as she will NOT accept a joint Christmas/birthday gift. We can join up into 1 big one as long as there is a small token gift for the other if that makes sense. This year it’s her 60th which is triply hard, and she has everything and has just come back from the USA so I am totally stuck as to what to get her, let alone adhering to our principles. 😦
Christmas this year we are keeping simple. We don’t really do adult gifts (giving or receiving) and for those that do gift us we usually get money (my MIL is in the UK and she resents having to pay exorbitant postage rates). Our kids will give a gift each to the grandparents (probably something along the lines of a Christmas ornament or a photo or something) or a potted and living gift. Our extended family Christmas is held much earlier in December and we have opted our family out of gifts again this year.
A great post and most poignantly, posted BEFORE the great Christmas rush hits home and everyone starts panic buying and lives to regret the tale (barely after all that food…). We decided this year that we were going to do a Christmas less travelled this year. 6 years ago we left Western Australia with the promise of free rent echoing in our ears thanks to my (then alive) dad and one of his town rentals that was vacant. We changed tack in our lives and started all over again in Tasmania as penniless student hippies studying horticulture with a view to starting our own landscaping business. When we left W.A. we left the son and heir to his own devices working in accounting in the rented house that we lived in…child 1 deserted…when we inherited both Serendipity Farm and our ex rental in town from dad when he died we moved out to the property leaving my 2 daughters in situ in town…children 2 and 3 officially deserted. That makes us middle aged penniless hippies without kids! We did the Christmas thang last year thanks to my sister buying my mum a ticket over here for Christmas. She promptly took over our non consumer Christmas and consumed it out the wazoo! At the time I was a bit angry at her for doing so but it turns out it was her last Christmas with us and she died a week or so after and I am SO grateful that she hijacked our last Christmas! This Christmas the son and heir has his American sweetie to celebrate with… the girls want to do their own thing themselves and we have decided to donate ourselves to our local community in an effort to both negate consumerism and give ourselves back the true meaning of Christmas.
We are volunteering at a community Christmas event on Christmas Day. I am a qualified cook, Steve is a qualified bottle washer and between us we are keen…all of these qualities should make for a degree of help that can ease a bit of the seasonal loneliness that hits people on their own and homeless people around the world at this time of year. We intend on returning to our doggy family after this wonderful event and sharing a very simple but incredibly satisfying meal comprised of our personal favourite foods and simply feeling grateful and thankful to be in the position that we are now where we get to choose our lifestyle rather than have it forced on us. Life is good and we want to give back. Consumerist Christmas? “Forgedaboudit!”…come February…if we HAD a credit card, it would be pristine and white and a clean slate. We stick to an agreed low limit gift for our immediate families and actually think about the gift to fit the person rather than how much we can spend. As tree lovers we can’t bring ourselves to cut a tree down and I HATE fake trees (all that plastic makes me itch!) and so for the last few years we have made our own “trees” out of branches and other ingenious things. The last few years tree was made out of a large inner straight branch with a spiral of ever decreasing sized twigs running in a single helix around the trunk. The borers ate it while it was overwintering in the wood shed so we have to get creative again this year…it is going to be interesting to see how creative we can get! ;). Cheers for a wonderfully thoughtful post and one that is right up there with top priorities when most of the world are feeling the pinch right in the hip pocket at the moment. Time to rethink Christmas and make it less commercial and more about being thankful for our lot as the new year becomes an alarming possiblity.
That sounds like an amazing Christmas! Isn’t it about the spirit of giving? And you are both giving of yourselves which is a lovely gift. We’ve had “waifs Christmas” before, inviting those over who may not have family to be with on Christmas Day.
Our Christmas too will be homemade/homegrown. We will be getting ducks, one of which will be called Christmas. I am hoping we might have some early baby potatoes, beans and carrots to harvest for lunch too. I planned to make croissants last year for breakfast but never did get there. Ham and cheese croissants is a tradition from my childhood but I will be sourcing locally made, preferably organic ham and cheese this year. I plan to use as much home grown produce as we possibly can and what isn’t homegrown, local. Wrapping paper will of course be the kids artwork from the year just gone.
Great post Ms Hippie – love it 🙂 xxoo
The thing that irks me every year, is the expectation from some people (relatives more so than friends) that one must buy a gift and it be of a an obvious value. I have been trying to keep the Christmas event a coming together and sharing food & company rather than an obligation to visit purely to deliver and receive a gift. I am honestly tired of having to come up with a suitable gift idea for those who simply “rack them up”. Well, this year I really can’t afford it, and they’ll just have to appreciate shortbread and jam. Look out if I come over for coffee and see last years jam in your pantry people!
Sent from my iPhone
If anybody has last years jam in their pantry then they need their heads read! I’ve tried your jam and it’s divine! Well, we will have 2 mortgages to our name this year so anyone expecting expensive gifts from us needs their heads read! lol
Oh, I saw my jam in the MIL’s pantry! Didn’t even bother to open and try it. Not wasting it there again! I’d rather it go to those who appreciate the time, effort and taste of homemade jam made from locally grown fruit.!
Seriously?! Crazy! Your jam is majorly superior! And low on the carbon mileage too. 😀
The thought of Christmas unduly stresses me out. I think that’s become the point. There are intrinsic expectations. If you don’t at least try to meet them, stress will be ladled up. Whether you like it or not.
This year, I think we will try and make the most of the time we have off and eat nice things. We will drive in the opposite direction to the one everybody else takes. We will have the place, wherever that may be, to ourselves. Now I am looking forward to it.
Sounds nice. 🙂 Setting expectations that suit personally, rather than subscribing to the dictated consumer expectations of the retail sector is a much better way to ensure that Christmas is an enjoyable time for all.