Re-Defining Holiday Traditions
Who would you be and
how would it be if you didn't spend lots of money and time shopping
for gifts for holidays, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries? What
would it look like to step out of the "spend if you care"
norm? Would your family and friends welcome this change or judge you?
What a wonderful opportunity to live in integrity and find out who is
willing to join you on this new path of celebrations that encourage
connection and generosity in a whole new light. What will you
remember about celebrations for years to come?
Why not start new family traditions this year? The earth, all species, and your own health will benefit from moving away from the commercial emphasis on Christmas, Hanukah, New Years, Kwanza , or any holiday or occasion you celebrate.
Do the holidays leave you feeling stressed? Frenzied? Exhausted?
Without stressing your credit cards or yourself, you can have a rich, meaningful, peaceful and fun celebration this year and every year.
(It takes the average
credit card user 6 months to pay off holiday bills. What else could
be done with that same money?)
In the busy-ness of shopping, planning, cooking and cleaning for the holidays we often forget to slow down enough to truly enjoy who and what is around us. When purchasing gifts, we can forget the true meaning of giving from the heart. Would the people on your gift list benefit more from getting a gift or from a donation made in their name to an organization that is working to improve conditions for all life on the planet?
Rather than making these changes on your own, co-create the new possibilities with your friends and family. Together decide what is important to you and how you want to create meaningful celebrations. Once you have decided what you would like to do, you can find unlimited ways to define the concept of "gifts".
As you plan how to celebrate an event, try to think of what will have the most meaning. One of the most meaningful Thanksgivings I remember was spent with my family driving free meals to people who were homebound. We were too exhausted at the end of the day to even make a giant meal for ourselves, but none of us cared. We had spent a powerful day of giving and receiving.
Try simple celebrations with time to dance, make music, and make food together, with activities for all ages.
Here are a few activity ideas:
Ornaments are not just for Christmas. For Thanksgiving we set up a downed branch from a tree that has lots of twigs for hanging white lights on. Then we cut round wooden disks from a downed branch. Each one gets a hole drilled in it and string for hanging. Each person gets to paint their ornament with something they are grateful for. For birthdays, you can do this and each person paints a word or phrase on their ornament saying something they appreciate about the birthday person.
Circles: Gather everyone in a circle and each person can say one thing they appreciate/love about the person being celebrated. The recipient just silently takes it in. You can also circle for other holidays and say what you are grateful for (Thanksgiving) or what freedom means to you (Passover) or what love means to you (a wedding).
Special New Years Circle: Everyone can lie on their back with their heads in the center. In a small enough group, all of your heads will be touching. If possible, do this outside under the night sky at midnight. Or, just on the living room floor with only candles lit. Go around three times. The first time each person say the low point of the last year. The second round, each person says the highpoint of the last year. The third time, each person says what he or she are looking forward to or hoping for in the coming year.
GIFTS: Some Suggestions
The Gift of Time
Make up certificates that you can give as gifts. These could be for childcare hours, making a meal for someone, special events you want to take them to, helping with household chores, a canoe outing, etc.
Volunteer together at
a sanctuary. The holidays is when most sanctuaries have fewer
people available to help out.
Anything from homemade foods to toys to homemade cds can be made for those you love. Handmade and/or hand painted picture frames (Get them at thrift shops and paint them with your own design) do not have to be master works of art for the recipient to appreciate this piece of you shared with them. We are all artists. Many children have not forgotten this, and most adults would be surprised to find out just how easy it is to express themselves creatively. Share this part of yourself with homemade gifts you create on your own or with family and friends.
You can donate money to organizations in the name of the recipient. You can also send them a donation check with the name of the organization left blank on the check. Then include a list of non-profits for them to sit as a family or individual and choose from. They can then fill in the name of the group and send in the donation. Some of the organizations have wonderful, often educational, acknowledgments that are mailed to the recipient. Research the organizations carefully. Do not support any organization that supports cruelty to animals or non-sustainability. Instead of Heifer International, support A Well-Fed World, instead of a charity that uses animals in experiments, support an organization that rescues primates from labs (Jungle Friends and Save the Chimps are two great groups) or a group that is working to end vivisection (SAEN is wonderful). The possibilities are endless. Our resource page will soon include links to many of these wonderful organizations.
Get creative ... Anything can be used to wrap a gift. Use leftover fabric scraps that can be re-used by the recipient. Old maps, nice bags, etc. make great wrapping. A gift can be used to wrap a gift: Try wrapping gifts in quality cotton dishtowels that then become part of the gift! For ribbon, you can use old VCR tape or cassette tape pulled out of its case before you throw it away. It looks like beautiful shiny ribbon and can be written on with silver or gold for an even more festive look.
No matter what your holiday traditions have been in the past, it is never to late to start a new, more meaningful and more compassionate tradition. Although some family and friends may need time to adjust, they will all come to appreciate a more mindful and connected celebration.