While “what to buy for whom” is usually the hallmark of our Christmas quests, the holidays are also a good time to think about more than just swapping stuff. Shopping, buying, and opening packages can be fun, but creative holiday traditions can supplant this material madness and offer a little more in the way of quality, rather than quantity.
Tree trimming, Christmas light viewing, and ice skating are just a few of the activities that share the spirit without contributing to consumerism, but there are many more.
Share a Skill
Instead of a wrapped package, I would be thrilled if I could tap into friends’ and family members’ wealth of skills and knowledge—and return the favor. For instance, I need someone to chop down the dead tree in backyard; in turn, I could dog sit for a week. An uncle that’s a whiz with carburetors could help fix the car in turn for rewiring the home entertainment system. Swapping skills is a great way to start a ritual that shares time, energy, and personal touch—priceless!
Take a Hike
With all the eggnog, goose, champagne, and Buche de Noel’s consumed during the holidays, a Christmas or New Year’s Day hike or walk is one of those traditions that everyone is thankful for. It can be easy stroll,—around the hood to check out the lights—charging up a hill for a cold day view, or through the new powder with snowshoes. Whatever the spot, a ritualistic tromp through the outdoors will not only burn calories, but holiday stress as well.
This year, instead of a gift, my mom asked that I donate the money to a charitable organization. As I research the numerous non-profits that are donation-worthy, I’ve also looked into smaller, community organizations that might spend my dollars well. Either way, it’s a tradition I hope to continue in the future, as it’s interesting, fun to research, and supports great causes.
Baking holiday cookies is just one common tradition, but there’s slew of other ideas for crafting and gift making. You can try flavored salts, infused vodkas, candles, or making cuttings from a plant into a potted gift. There’s still time to whip up some holiday treats like snowballs, butter cookies, and bourbon balls, or to put together a homemade photo album or calendar to give out on Christmas or in the New Year.
People who don’t usually volunteer are usually more apt to do so during the holidays (myself included), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any less of a good tradition to start with friends and family. Food banks and homeless shelters might be particularly in need; the New Year is a great time to donate unwanted gifts or extra clothes. Make the tradition of giving extend beyond immediate friends and family and on to those in greatest need.
Since you’re getting together with your family anyway, this is a good time to start a ritual of telling or writing down some family stories, secrets, and treasures. Have your grandma describe her journey to the United States or your great uncle talk about how he grows his tomatoes so big. The most important resource for your history is your family and the holidays are a great time to share and document the stories. Slides, anyone?
Whether it’s holiday movies, craft fairs, art exhibits, plays, or ripe oranges (at least here in California), there are plenty of seasonal treats that are entertaining, fun, and don’t require bowing down to the material monster that the holidays can become.