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A Buy Less Christmas

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.

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Sausage choosing her ‘Wise Woman’ costume for the Christmas Parade

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:

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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!

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This will soon be a pit o’fun

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:

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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Non-Toy Christmas gifts for toddlers

I know Christmas is still a wee while away but toys, and the way they seem to take over your house when you have kids is a subject dear to my heart.  I am not anti-toy.  There are many wonderful toys out there which become cherished possessions.  I myself still have my Belle doll (Snoopy’s sister, who had a dazzling array of outfits, complete with a hole for her tail) that my Mum saved for me.  Heck, I still love Belle.

What I hate is how many toys kids have today.  It’s crazy.  I am constantly fighting the flow of toys in my own house.  In fact, I swear they breed, because one day Sausage held up a toy that I’d never seen before in my life.  Despite being selective as to what toys my children have, I still find myself culling them every few months and donating full-sized bags to charity.

I think it’s really hard for the older generation in particular to understand that children today are drowning in stuff.  People my parents age were lucky if they had a train set and a doll.  Childhood is very different now.  Toys are readily available, often cheap (and nasty, so they break within seconds), and it’s just the done thing to give them as gifts for Christmas and birthdays.

Today many children have so many toys that their parents have to devise cunning rotation systems, so the toys aren’t all out at once.  More and more children have entire rooms dedicated to their toys.  The ‘rise of the playroom’ is an interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed of late (When I was little, I knew one other kid who had a ‘rumpus room’ and boy was I jealous of them!).

If the toys are breeding at your house, and you want to stem the tide, here are some non-toy Christmas gift alternatives for the toddlers in your life.  And if you’re an aunt, uncle, grandparent or friend, you might find these ideas more appealing than braving The Warehouse toy section on Christmas Eve…

  1. pyjamas
  2. bathrobe
  3. beach towel
  4. sleeping bag and torch/flashlight
  5. trip to the movies
  6. trip to the ice cream parlour
  7. pony ride
  8. pay class fees for a term e.g. ballet, kindy gym
  9. clothes
  10. shoes
  11. a special one-on-one outing somewhere really cool
  12. garden tools/gloves/seeds
  13. birdhouse and binoculars
  14. photo album all about them
  15. quiet book
  16. tool box and real kid-sized tools
  17. art easel
  18. noticeboard to display their artwork
  19. duvet cover
  20. dress up clothes
  21. jewellery box
  22. hair ties and hair clips
  23. poster/art for their bedroom wall
  24. magnifying glass
  25. their very own box of chocolates(!)
  26. calendar
  27. sunhat
  28. swimsuit
  29. tent
  30. lunchbox
  31. piggy bank
  32. wallet or purse with a few coins in it
  33. wooden name sign for their bedroom door
  34. toddler couch (my kids have one that was inexpensive which folds out into a bed)
  35. cutlery set/plate/bowl
  36. drink bottle
  37. hairbrush and hair ties
  38. suitcase/travel bag (ones they can sit on are great)
  39. clock (weary parents love gro clocks)
  40. first aid kit
  41. And my favourite, books

 

This Christmas give gifts that last, that children really need, and that get them out and about exploring the world.