Last Christmas I led an Advent study all about trying to reclaim Christmas from the consumerist trappings that have overtaken the true Christmas message. I find it heartbreaking that many people approach Christmas with dread, as it has become a time of insane ‘busyness’, end-of-year parties up the wazoo, and shopping. Jesus barely gets a look-in amidst the Santas and Rudolphs on display.
This Advent season, I’m approaching Christmas just as mindfully. I absolutely love the ‘Buy Nothing Christmas’ movement. Buy Nothing Christmas was started by a group of Canadian Mennonites who had a desire to tell a better Christmas story than one of stress, shopping and debt. They took action, and this initiative has spread across the globe. Their website is full of terrific ideas on how to reduce our consumption and spending at this time of year. They emphasise making gifts, re-gifting or upcycling, and really having a good think about how you might spend your time, money and energy at Christmas. You can find some of their ideas here.
While I cannot commit to a Buy Nothing Christmas (due to lacking certain necessary skills), I can commit to a Buy Less Christmas.
It’s been hard! Christmas was a big deal in my family growing up. My mum filled our Christmas pillowcases (yes, we had pillowcases – thanks Mum) with cool stuff, like felt pens, calendars, chocolates, and these cool soap pens which kept my brother and I amused writing on ourselves in the bath. My family of origin love to celebrate, and I’ve always appreciated this.
It’s hard for me not to go overboard at Christmas. I love seeing my tots happy and excited. I love giving presents. So how to balance this with ensuring the message of Jesus isn’t lost?
We are doing lots of Advent-related things over the coming weeks, to keep our hearts and minds on the right track. We are saying no to lots of events and parties, and yes to those that involve our church, and our other loved ones. With more time on our hands, we can hang out with our special people, or just relax. We are giving to more charities, especially those based in our city. The kids and I will be making gifts for their friends and family members, so they learn how wonderful it is to GIVE to others at Christmas.
Our local friends and family will be getting my world-famous-in-my-own-head chocolate truffles and D’s amazing ginger beer. Most of my closest friends live scattered around the country/world. We have swapped small gifts for years, and unless they decide to stop, I am happy to keep this up as I have so much fun choosing something for them. This year I decided to decorate tote bags for them. They are useful, cute and light to post(!). I really enjoying decorating the bags, and made each one personal. Here are some:
Pinterest was a great source of inspiration, as always. I could have sewed the bags myself, but I sourced these for less than it would have cost me to make, despite them being fair trade cotton! So pleased.
For my tots, I went for a mix of ‘useful things’ and ‘following their interests things’. I sourced pretty much everything secondhand or on sale. The kids get three gifts from D and I, like the wise men gave Jesus. They also get a stocking from us. I usually have a few frivolous things in there, but mostly the items in it are useful. We intentionally keep gifts on the low-key side, preferring to keep big-ticket items for birthdays.
This year, Chip is getting a decent sandpit from D and I. The old one is definitely a case of ‘this town ain’t big enough for the both of us’. Our home came with a raised vege garden planted in a stupid spot – in a corner, that sits in shade a lot of the time. I subsequently put in several more vege gardens in sunnier spots, so this one is now redundant. We put our chickens on it to clear it up, and enrich the soil. D and I will soon remove the topsoil for compost, transplant a rosemary bush, put down some plastic and get a load of sand. The raised garden is the perfect size for our kids (and a couple of friends) and comes with edging for little bottoms to sit on, should they wish. One set of grandparents is gifting Chip with sturdy sandpit equipment like a kid-sized shovel, and they are giving us a gazebo they no longer need to put over the sandpit for shade. The only expense for us is the sand. Score!
Chip is also getting a Superman costume (his latest obsession) that I got for peanuts, and a hefty die-cast bus (another interest) I got for 90% off.
In his stocking some of the things he is getting are: a ball, a mint condition Paw Patrol onesie I got for $4 secondhand, soap pens (Hmm, wonder where I got that idea from?), some chocolate, a super hero cape, undies (toilet training, here we come), a couple of action figures, and secondhand books.
For Sausage, I’ve been dying to make her this idea from Pinterest:
She is starting to recognise numbers, and this is a game that gave me hours and hours of entertainment as a child so I’m betting she’ll love it too. We are blessed to have a big backyard which can easily fit the hopscotch pavers. I had pots of paint already, and sourced 9 pavers for $1.19 each. I’m pleased with how they’ve come out and will post pictures of these in situ after Christmas.
I had loads of fun painting some river stones left on our property by the previous owner, that Sausage (and friends) can use as hopscotch markers.
For her other main gifts, she is getting a Princess Aurora dress I scored for $8 at a secondhand store (which looks brand new, and retail here for $40-50), with an Aurora doll. I’m not keen on the whole Princess thing, but she is. I figure that as I am still a card-carrying feminist despite being entranced by princesses and all things Disney as a kid, so I suspect Sausage will be a-ok too.
Sausage also getting a portable karaoke machine that you plug into an mp3 player and sing along to any song you want. It sounds much flasher than it is, and I got it for 60% off. Again, this is a following-your-child’s-interests thing. If you knew my child you’d know she sings and dances through life, so I thought this would be a good fit for her. Oddly enough, since I bought the machine a few weeks back, she has become obsessed with pretending to be a ‘rock star’ and asking me for a microphone (apparently to be a rock star you must have tap shoes, tutus and microphones). I have no idea where the rock star thing has come from, but it’s funny as heck.
In her stocking she’s getting things such as: a jewellery box, a super hero cape, bubble bath, some chocolate, a sticker book all about sea creatures (her greatest love), and some secondhand books.
The only gifts left to make now are the truffles, which are quick and easy. Christmas Day is shaping up to be a low-key, low-fuss affair with our in-town family. I’m looking forward to eating my Mum’s turkey and my auntie’s meringues, singing carols at the top of my lungs, and going to church.
So that’s it. I bought some stuff, but I tried to keep it on the useful side, and kept costs down by buying secondhand or on sale. I made as much as I could. I’ve probably bought more than strictly necessary, and that’s something I’ll be working on for next year.
What do you do to reduce stress and consumption at Christmas? Chime in below.