The yearly Christmas-mania has come upon us and maybe it’s just me, but is it getting earlier and earlier every year that we are assaulted by Christmas ads, displays of Christmas merchandise and out of season festive music that’s blaring through shopping centre’s loudspeakers? There are special offers on a vast amount of mainly plastic toys: Buy two for one, buy one get the second half price, 33% off etc. Shopping centres are bursting with an ever expanding array of new toys.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, especially the weeks of Advent leading up to it. But this year I spotted the first chocolate Santa Clauses lurking around in early September, in the week that our kids went back to school after the SUMMER holidays. I was really hoping that we would see a change in people’s consumerism due to the global crisis we are finding ourselves in. What message are we sending our children? I completely understand that much of this is down to the manufacturers, marketing agencies and shops, it’s their prerogative to sell and make a profit. But what good are small levies on shopping bags and coffee cups if it’s still acceptable to manufacture vast amounts of cheap plastic toys packed in more plastic.
I get it, I understand that people don’t want to hear about plastic pollution, climate change, extinction etc. and much rather put their hands over their ears singing “Lalalalalalala” and get on with life as they know it. It’s scary, it’s frightening, it’s throwing all the plans for our and our children’s future into a heap if we think about it too much, but what are our options? Should we just give up and have one last party?? What would our children think if they knew we chose to ignore the signs and didn’t try our very best to make a change if there was even just a little bit of hope? It’s not just down to politicians, global corporations and scientists, it’s only if we all make better choices, that we will be able to make a difference and change things for the better. Especially at Christmas time the need for change is amplified by the onslaught of seasonal marketing. It’s still possible to enjoy Christmas, to give presents, to eat beautiful food and I want to give you some very simple tips of small changes, that everyone can make:
When buying Christmas Presents for children, think outside the box. Many children receive much too many presents at Christmas, which causes overwhelm and an unrealistic expectation for the future. Pool resources with grandparents, aunties, uncles etc. and plan for one or two presents that the child will really love and make use of, and that many parents might not usually be able to afford. This could be a new bike, a musical instrument, a voucher for riding/ music/ ballet lessons, a trip to the zoo… there are so many options. When buying toys try and source more sustainable, good quality products which will last for years and even the next generation. Many toys such as building blocks, wooden train set, play kitchen/shop etc. are still children’s favourites when they get a chance to immerse themselves in imaginary and role play rather than pressing buttons on a modern technology based plastic toy.
Here is a small list of shops offering more sustainable and lasting options for Christmas Presents (I have no affiliation with any of them) and if you google your own area, there is a growing number of shops and producers who make a more sustainable way of living their priority:
When it comes to choosing presents for adults there are so many lovely homemade gift options:
Make some home baked biscuits and pack them into a pretty tin.
Homemade liqueurs, vinegars, oils, chutneys, jams.
Art/craft projects such as pottery, knitting, handmade jewellery.
Vouchers for a dinner, spa treatment, cookery class, cinema, concert.
When wrapping Christmas Presents, use decorated brown paper rather than wrapping paper, as it is not recyclable and often plastic coated. For homemade presents you could use tin boxes, recycled jam jars and glass bottles for example.
Christmas time and Advent is the perfect time to get back to basics. The evenings are dark and cold and it gives us an opportunity to connect as a family. Children love spending time with their families and what can be better than preparing for Christmas together. Rather than buying all the goodies plan a family event to make some mince pies, gingerbread, Christmas cakes and puddings. Make Christmas ornaments for your tree, they will be greatly treasured, especially in years to come. There are countless activities that save money, make things more sustainable and most importantly gives us the opportunity to spend time together. There are so many forgotten skills which are part of our heritage and children love learning about them. It’s also important we don’t let these traditions die out completely, they are the glue that connects us to our ancestors.
When shopping for your Christmas dinner plan ahead. Rather than going overboard with buying loads of bits you mightn’t need, be mindful of what you buy, and where you buy it. Maybe buy a large organic chicken instead of a whole frozen turkey, write down what you need and pre-order with local shops and food producers. If you’re having a large family gathering involve all members to make one homemade element each. This saves time, is more sustainable and literally pulls the family together with everyone able to contribute.
I understand that every family is different, not everyone has the time and interest in baking, or arts and crafts for example. It’s not about throwing the Christmas we know into disarray, it’s about becoming more aware of our often automatic habits and choices, and then making conscious changes that fit in with our lifestyle. We can all do our bit and many of the changes are easier done than you think. It’s all about breaking year old habits and creating new ones. Not only are they going to make a difference to our planet and our future, they’re going to connect us back to the things that really matter in life.
We can all do this together, go on, give it a try.
Wishing you a peaceful and sustainable run-up to Christmas.
To read more about introducing a more mindful lifestyle and being part of a positive change check out “Roots and Wings – Childhood needs a Revolution” and our Mindful Games. Thank you!
Also available now: Mindful Games for parents and educators.