Lots of discussion on social media this week by Martin Lewis and Treading Your Own Path* about the vulgarities of Christmas and how Christmas has seemed to have lost its magic, and become more about the material side of life.
When I sat down to think about this post, I realised that I am quietly dreading Xmas. I have no excitement or wonder. I am just thinking about the huge list of things I have to do, shop for and pay for.
For the last few Christmas’s I have verbalized the wish to just go away and forget about it. Not an easy thing to do when your youngest still waits for Father Christmas to visit.
Things that bother me include:
- Expectations – The expectation to see and have a dinner or drinks with all family, friends and your hobby groups at Christmas time. Sit through a number of substandard restaurant meals that you had pre-chosen months ago.
- Expectations on gifts – A gift for all and sundry. Such a waste. Half of these gifts will be never used. One tip from a teacher friend, they don’t want your kids’ handmade biscuits or smellies gift boxes. Have to buy them a gift? Buy them an Amazon Gift Voucher.
- Kids Presents – Kids get so many presents. Again, opened, looked at and discarded in a lot of cases. What does this teach them?
- Buying a Puppy for Christmas – Don’t. Dogs can live for on average 12 years and they are a cute puppy for about 6 months. Every year, on the run-up to Christmas older dogs get dumped or let loose ready for a new puppy to be bought. Then after Christmas people realise just how much hard work puppies are and they get dumped too.
- Writing a List to Santa – A problem for some. You may not really be able to afford what your child has written on the list, but the expectation is there that they will get it anyway. They may get it, but as it is from Santa, can they really appreciate how much it was and how much you had to work to get it for them and say thank you?
- Stocking Presents – For children it is hard to buy quality small presents. Stocking gifts are often made of plastic and made in china. Often they are used once for a laugh and then discarded.
- Food – The gluttony of Christmas is horrendous. Apparently, you would have to run 2 Marathons to run off the calories of a traditional Christmas dinner. The widespread raising a slaughtering of baby turkeys and pigs should leave a bad taste in your mouth according to this article in The Independent.
- Alcohol – Drinking alcohol is expected. If you are one of the few that does not imbibe, you can be made to feel that something is wrong with you. Over 50% of visits to A&E are caused by alcohol-related injuries or illnesses. When you mix alcohol and stress together you quite often get violence. Domestic Abuse sees a big increase over the Christmas Period and last year 455 people filed for divorce (online) over the Xmas week.
- Rubbish – Gift wrap and more processed foods make for a full landfill bin after Xmas.
So what can we do? How do we return to the real traditions of xmas when it was just about family, friends and good food.
Stop Buying Unnecessary Presents
I think Martin Lewis has a powerful lesson in this video. Some people cannot afford Xmas and put themselves in a never-ending cycle of debt to pay for it. No one should feel like they have to buy anybody anything. If you really feel you need to give them something, try saying thank you or leaving a note in a Christmas card (if you do them). One example of this is Teacher’s presents, it is sadly becoming quite competitive between parents.
If you buy an experience rather than a thing, you are helping reduce valuable resources used, preventing excess rubbish going to landfill and you will also be contributing to a memory that will last longer than ripping off the wrapping paper.
- Buy a Family or Child Experience – I bet the memories of trying something new last longer than a toy.
- Adopt an endangered animal* – Adopt an animal from the Aspinal Foundation and it gives you free entry into their parks
- Premium Bonds* – Recent rule changes mean anyone can buy a child premium Bonds
- Charity Gift – Great discussion piece, buy the gift of water, seeds or a health check.
- Theatre Tickets – Buy Gift Voucher’s or tickets for the theatre. This year Mary Poppins has 5* reviews!
- Theme Park Tickets – Buy theme tickets for everywhere in the world.
Be wary and thoughtful when the children are young, set your traditions mindfully otherwise before you know it you have 3 children and your tradition’s end up something like the list below. That’s a lot to do and pay for.
- Advent Presents not Chocolate – Expensive and do you really need 25 presents on the run-up to Xmas?
- Elf on the Shelf – Fun, but thinking up Elf mischieve to do every day, just adds to your stress level.
- New Xmas Bedding every year – Used for one week.
- Christmas Eve Boxes – Presents on the day before Xmas.
- New Xmas Eve Pyjamas for the whole family – For that Instagram Xmas PJ picture. A new pair every year. Worn once.
- Stocking Sacks, not stockings – My children once had 28 presents in their stocking sacks, I have 3 children, it took us all morning to go around the bed opening them all up.
Spend Christmas with whom you want to spend it with.
A nice idea when your children are older is to hire a cottage or lodge for the Xmas period. Life can be busy and if you have teenagers they will still hide in their rooms at Christmas time. By having a new environment, perhaps with a hot tub and a fire, they might be persuaded to spend some time with the family playing board games or sitting in the hot tub. Perhaps a pub lunch for Xmas dinner and a boxing day walk to help burn off that lunch. Coolstay’s do some great quirky properties, such as lighthouses. Hoseasons* do some great lodges and Oliver’s Travels do some fabulous villas in sun.
Food & Drink
- Be mindful of where you source your food from.
- If you are a meat-eater, do you have a local smallholder or a box scheme* you can buy your meat from?
- If you can afford it, eat Christmas Dinner out that way you are less likely to binge on left over’s.
- Start slowly preparing in September and freeze dishes you would normally buy processed like Bread sauce. Mary Berry Christmas Collection has lots of great recipes we use year after year for meat-eaters or Bish Bash Bosh for Vegans.
- For help pacing your self, try some non-alcoholic cocktails from the book Dry, we have ordered this to try out this Christmas
Reduce your Christmas Contribution to Landfill
- Consider if you really need to send Xmas cards.
- Reuse Xmas card fronts as present tags
- Reuse Gift Bags and wine bags from last year
- Decorate brown kraft paper. Use brown paper tape & string.
- Buy reusable Gift wrap or Recycled Paper Recyclable Gift Wrap
- Buy a refillable Advent Calender
- Buy experiences not physical gifts
- Food Shop at local smallholders or vegetable Box schemes*
- Pre-prepare as much food as you can or eat out.
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