Traditions are great, but where do they come from and why are we so attached to them? There are family traditions, national traditions and those invented by businesses trying to sell you something.
Here are a few - guess which ones are invented to make you buy things?
First created by artist John Horsley in 1843 to encourage people to use the new Post Office service! So what are the options? i) Don’t send any, you can still donate the money to your favourite charity and explain that to people. ii) Be selective who you send them too – perhaps only those people you don’t see very often, live far away or are a little lonely (although a visit would be worth much more)
Whatever you do think about making your own if you want to send one or reuse images etc you have from previous years or magazines. You’ll find you become a little fixated on keeping and reusing things!
This year I’ve done a mixture of things designed and sent an image via email, used up cards I’ve already got in my stash and made others. I’ve had a positive response to the email version – as always things take a bit longer.
Unlike in other European countries the Christmas tree only arrived in the UK in the 1830’s, the evergreen version in 1841 – so again not a very old tradition. It seems that more people are buying live potted versions and reusing them each year.
There is also a hire version – but nothing local I could find. Or of course you can fashion something from an indoor plant, or a branch from the garden or step ladder – this is my favourite find this year. It’s nice to have your own tree decorations, but they can be hung elsewhere. I admit this is one of my must do better next time as I have a dead tree – so if you do buy a cut tree make sure you recycle it.
Bournemouth has been good at collecting & chipping them (and probably selling back to us for the garden), better still diverse abilities charity will collect for a small donation or you could compost it yourself.
Again invented in the 1840s by a sweet maker making the ‘crack’ when pulling apart made them popular and the hats and novelty gifts were again a later addition that his sons did. So I think everyone would say the ‘crack’ is probably still the best thing about them. Everyone agrees the novelty gifts are mainly rubbish to start with and no one likes wearing the hat!
So make your own. I’m going to have a go this year – toilet paper rolls, paper, a hand written joke, and a handmade chocolate. You can buy the crack or they’re called snaps for the crackers and I’ve been tempted to buy them but I haven’t as I would bet that they’ll come in a plastic bag! I’ve also got some masks from an event I did that we’re going to use instead of hats. Making crackers with children should be fun – give it a go.
Is a little older tradition and comes from St Nicholas, the gift giver. Who legend has it sent a bag of gold down a chimney for a poor man who had no dowry for his unmarried daughters that fell into his stockings left hanging to dry – he became our Santa Claus.
So a sock will do, or pillowcase is what we had as children and they held the main present(s) not the extras. If you want the fun of the stocking then put in the Satsuma and edible things – they don’t have to be wrapped.
Christmas ADVENT CALENDAR
First used in the 19th and 20th Centuries by the Lutherins as a count down to Christmas. Originally religous scenes linked to advent devotions yet another excuse to hype up spending and waste at Christmas. It’s nice to have a treat of chocolate every day.
But you can make your own. Collage one from old Christmas cards, magazines, scrap fabric. Include a poem or something that’s meaningful to the person you’re giving it too. I’ve personally ran out of time this year so haven’t bothered, and am not suffering any ill affects!
Love what you have or give it away
I’m certainly not perfect – but being a hoarder, I do have many home made Christmas decorations for, and I love taking them out each year.
If you have too many, gift them on or, if you have enough room, you can rotate them year to year.
Thoughtfulness and planning
As with many things that we’ll talk about, thoughtfulness and planning are key if you’re going to make changes.
So I’m doing what I can, and having thought about it more this year means I will be better prepared for next year.
Like all things, starting something is the most difficult part .....
When I started to seriously think about reducing my plastic use and making less waste around 2 years ago, I was overwhelmed. Everything seemed to be wrapped in plastic, especially food. I didn’t know where to go, what or not to buy or whether I was really making a difference. But like everything it is an on going journey of discovery and I won’t lie, it takes not just lots of time but a lot of planning.
THE SEASON OF OVERINDULGENCE
So then there’s Christmas, the season of overindulgence and commercialism. I personally love giving and receiving presents, so I wondered how I can do this with less negative impact on the world?
Firstly, I emailed all my close family and friends (those with whom we exchange gifts) and suggested that we all just stop and think about what we're doing this year.
These are some of the things I suggested:
Firstly 'Refuse': Do I / they need it? I think this is difficult as if I'm honest we're all so used to having lovely things, and generally they are really cheap. But are they? Think about the true cost, how they’re made? Do the receiver need it and 'will they love it'?
Reduce - This may mean only one present per person, in big families that may be a 'secret santa' type of approach or buy consumables, chocolate, home made sweets, soap…
Recycle - You could decide to get some of your presents from a charity shop or re-gifting things that you already have but don't love, to someone who would.
Reuse – As above, re-gift those things in your cupboard (try not to give it back to the person that gave it you!)
Refashion - Take something you have and turn it into something new. Make a tote bag of an old t-shirt or a pillow case.
Rather than giving a thing, you can give someone an experience, such as a ticket to the cinema or the theatre or pottery course. Something you know they might appreciate. These gifts will usually live longer in the receivers memory than an item.
Or you could just donate money to a worthy cause, unfortunately there is lots of need out there.
If you resort to buying something new, buy something that is plastic free and give your money to an independent local business, rather than a big chain store.
And here's some ideas on how to WRAP your presents sustainably