Yes, it is finally the best time of the year! I simply love Christmas and I really need to control myself in October already to not start decorating and listening to Christmas songs (this year I was a good person and started decorating on the first advent, which is a perfectly appropriate time to start going Christmas-crazy!). What I love about Christmas is that it’s such a warm celebration: spending time with family, lounging around in woolly socks and drinking glögi (gluhwein is just not an appropriate translation, we need to make glögi an official English word!), getting to listen to Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra singing Christmas classics, etc. Whats not to love!
Ok, there is one thing I don’t like about Christmas. It’s that so many people get stressed out by the season. People do not show their best qualities while shopping during December. Also, the amount of stuff people buy is ridiculous! You shouldn’t need to force yourself to buy presents, it should be something you do because you want to, and you want to give the people you love something you think they will really enjoy. Stressing out about buying your nephew a shirt he will never wear is not what Christmas is about. And naturally, this feast of consumerism can have truly harmful effects on our planet and adds to the already vast amount of junk in the world. If you’re stuck in a consumerist mindset, please read this following list of tips on how to reduce the amount you pollute this season!
- Buy gifts second-hand or make something yourself
Buying gifts from a thrift store may at first seem a bit like a faux pas, or just a really cheap thing to do, but it really doesn’t have to be. This year I’ve been exploring second-hand stores to find Christmas presents for my loved ones, and I’ve found amazing stuff! Especially things like books, cds and films are great to buy at thrift stores. I’ve bought a number of cds and films this year that still have the protective plastic on them, meaning that no one has ever even opened them; I’ve found beautiful, old versions of classic books that can’t be found in regular book stores anymore; I’ve found designer ties for male relatives for just a couple of euros; I’ve found toys that are in great condition for kids, and the list goes on! A lot of these gifts are things that no one would even realise are second-hand, but I will proudly be telling people their gifts are second-hand, because I would love to get second-hand gifts to be a more acceptable idea. Also, most of the people I’m buying gifts for read this blog, so they know now already. And they’ll understand (hopefully) that I’m not doing this because I don’t think they deserve more expensive gifts, or because I don’t want to spend money on them, but they’ll understand that it’s a part of my consumer ideology and I hope I’ll find them gifts that they’ll truly appreciate though they are second-hand.
Second-hand stores are also a great place to buy fabrics or other items which you can use to make something yourself. I will advertise Pinterest once again – Pinterest is full of DIY gift ideas; some are amazing and some are just pure awkward, but most are an ecological and ethical alternative to mindless spending!
- Give time, activities or a donation instead of stuff
A good alternative to buying things is giving an immaterial gift. My husband and I have been doing this for each other for years, because we like to do things together and both of us really enjoy going out to see movies or concerts etc. These are gifts that people will really remember, and I find really valuable, because you’re making memories together. And immaterial gifts come in all price ranges: you can promise to take someone out on a picnic, promise to do their hair or makeup for a party, promise a massage, organise a game night or whatever you feel like! If you’re thinking of buying your father another pair of boxers or socks this year, please, for your father’s sake, consider giving him an immaterial gift he might actually appreciate!
Another amazing immaterial gift idea is a donation gift. A lot of charities have these sorts of Christmas gifts, in Finland Kirkon ulkomaanapu and World Vision are examples of this. This year I’m not going to force myself to find gifts for people – if I see something that makes me think of someone, I will buy it for them, but if not, then those people will be getting a donation gift from me. Grandparents, parents and adult siblings are often difficult people to buy gifts for, because they have everything they need and if they want something, they often just buy it themselves. If someone you know already has a lot of things (and uhm, that’s pretty much everybody) then consider getting a donation in their name, so that someone else who doesn’t have much might get a little.
- Put thought into what you buy
Similarly to my ideas about buying clothes, the most important thing about Christmas gifts is that you think about it before you buy it. Will the person you’re giving it to really enjoy it, use it and appreciate it? If not, then it might be best not to buy it. You don’t have to buy gifts just for the sake of buying gifts. If your father actually likes getting socks and boxers on Christmas then go ahead! But if you’re buying them just because you’re supposed to get him something, then maybe you should reconsider.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time in a store during December to notice that so many people come into the store in a hurry and just get something, and they have no idea what their niece likes so they just get whatever and quickly wrap it up and hope they don’t have to go through the bother of returning it. If you don’t know your niece well enough to know what she likes, then maybe giving her the gift of spending time with you would be a good idea. Think outside the box, and don’t just blindly consume, because you think you’re supposed to.
- Decorating with second-hand or recycled items
Another huge waste of money and natural resources is Christmas decorations. Now, I’m not against Christmas decorations: I genuinely love them (it totally made my day when I noticed my husband had put up Christmas lights!) but once again, it absolutely depends on how you do it. Filling your whole home with tinsel and fake snow which you will throw out as soon as December is over is not a sustainable way to celebrate Christmas. Second-hand stores are filled with Christmas decorations this time of the year, and there are such beautiful things and there’s so much of it, you really don’t need to buy anything new. Also, less can really be more when it comes to Christmas decorations (totally not thinking about Christmas lights in the US…).
One of the things that gives me the most Christmassy feeling is Christmas food: instead of feeling the need to paint your living room red and sticking golden stars everywhere, why don’t you relax with a cup of glögi and a joulutorttu (or two… or five) listening to your favourite Christmas cd to get you in the mood.
PS. If you are somebody who is buying me a Christmas present and you are now thinking “Oh no, what will I buy Helena, because she thinks everything is so unethical and unecological!” don’t worry, if you think I will enjoy whatever you are getting me, it is probably a good gift (and movie tickets or anything from Lush are highly appreciated!).