A different way of giving during the holiday season

A mom recently told me about a unique approach to giving which inspired me.

Overwhelmed by the sheer number of gifts kids were getting at birthday parties, she ended up convincing parents in her preschool to give homemade cards instead.

 If only this kind of giving could inspire one of my friends on Facebook who was bemoaning that he’d need for a loan to pay for all the gifts his child wanted for Christmas.

As Black Friday approaches, this timely article in the Seattle Times got me wondering:

Instead of participating in the consumer frenzy and getting mentally and financially stressed, what are some ways to make giving practices more meaningful and fun during the holiday season?

 Some ideas:

Focus on creating experiences and traditions.  Take your family to the theater, sign your animal-lover up for horse lessons, or go to a special event like the circus. This year my family try something different—we will make a fabric calendar with pockets for each of the eight nights of Chanukah.  For each night there will be an activity we will do, like ice skating or watching a movie.  Think about some rituals you can look forward to or initiate during this time of year.

Buy Locally.  Take advantage of farmer’s markets for locally made food and crafts.

 Choose Wisely.  Think about the impact your gift-giving practices can have on the environment. Internet-bought gifts contain packaging with styrofoam and plastic, both of which end up in the landfill.  Will recipients of your thoughtfully-made (and yummy!) baked goods actually eat them, or will they chuck them into the trash?

 Recycle Materials.  There’s nothing wrong with a little end-of-fall cleaning.  You may find something that has been “gently” used and can be passed on.

 Buy Less.  Make handmade gifts with your family.  Use alternative wrapping paper (your kids’ drawings or fabric).

 Donate to an organization you care about in a family member’s name.  Heifer International for those animal-lovers and Women for Women International, which helps women displaced by war and violence, are some examples.

Volunteer for a cause you believe in.  There are always volunteer opportunities, especially during the holidays.  For local Seattle families, this ParentMap article has great volunteer opportunities.

These tips may not work for everyone.  Clarify your own values around giving practices.  Once you do this, it will be easier to articulate to your loved ones what you’d like to see happen around the holiday season.

Start small. Take baby steps if you need to. Don’t try to make radical changes all at once. 

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