Make Christmas about traditions not just presents
Christmas for me is all about traditions. Every Christmas morning we would wake up to find our stockings stuffed full of gifts, hanging from the door. We’d all gather on mum and dad’s bed, them with a cup of tea and us taking it in turns to delve into our stockings and open a present. Then it was time to go downstairs and discover the mass of presents under the tree, dad would make breakfast and we’d sit and rip open the colourful, glittery wrapping paper to see what plastic clad gifts Father Christmas had brought us. Then it was off to Nana and Grandad’s house for Christmas dinner. Such happy memories!
I can’t wait to start some Christmas traditions with Gilbert, but I definitely want it to be more about experiences than presents. Of course we will be getting presents for Gilbert, but my most treasured memories aren’t what was in the stockings, but rather the experiences that we had as a family.
I know so many parents who worry about saving up enough money to ensure their children have a good Christmas. But it really needn’t be that way. A friend recently told me that his 10 year old child always asks when receiving a gift asks “how much was it?”, it’s like we’ve got into this rut of thinking that the more you spend the more you love your children. It is simply not the case.
One of Gilbert’s favourite toys that he got for his birthday cost me 50p from Facebook marketplace. And that was the only toy that we bought him, as we knew he’d be getting lots from other people. It’s the same in day to day life, Gilbert’s clothes are almost all second hand for example. Does that mean we don’t care as much about him because we don’t shower him in expensive gifts – of course not! It means I can continue to work part-time and spend more time with him. And it means we can afford to spend the money where it counts, like going to the classes that we like to go to each week.
My biggest tip of all is just not to sweat it when it comes to money. You can do Christmas on a budget, you just need to change any mindset that tells you that you NEED to spend lots to show your children love.
So here are my top 10 tips to a more sustainable Christmas – maybe even saving you a few pennies along the way.
1 Make memories
I plan to carry on our family tradition of opening stockings on Mum and Dad’s bed, and I’m really excited for us to be the ones sat drinking tea watching our children delight in the magic that is Christmas.
Other Christmas traditions to start could include reading a Christmas story before bed on Christmas eve or a Boxing Day family walk. One of my friend’s family has a wonderful tradition of Christmas biscuit making and decorating, which we were so happy to be invited to last year.
It’s all about making memories, and I know that is what will stand the test of time, not the presents under the tree.
2 Advent calendar
Chocolate coins, or foil wrapped chocolate are a good option for filling them if you wanted to stick with the confectionary theme, alternatively you could get creative in whichever way works for you.
How about a couple of jigsaw pieces each day – you could make the puzzle first so you can choose pieces that fit together each day, so that a picture slowly emerges as the days go by.
Or what about little notes with Christmassy activities on them. If you really plan ahead, you can coordinate it with trips to see Santa, or your local Panto. Maybe even your new biscuit decorating tradition!
3 Second hand shopping
Kids don’t care if something is second hand. We’ve bought so much from Facebook Marketplace and Charity shops. As Christmas approaches, lots of parents like to clear out the old ready for the new, so often there are plenty of bargains to be found.
Speak to your friends who have children, you never know, you could do some toy swaps to give some unloved toys a new lease of life.
4 Stocking “fillers”
If you want to have stockings at Christmas, use the same stocking each year (more Christmas traditions), if you’re crafty, why not make your own for a really special Christmas keepsake. If you’re buying, try to shop small and local. By supporting local businesses you are supporting your local economy and saving on delivery, which is better for the environment.
Stocking fillers shouldn’t just be a “filler”, think of useful but fun gifts. This is obviously very dependent on age, but try to think of a few useful items, rather than packing it out with cheap plastic tatt. Think new pj’s, or slippers, a homemade hot chocolate kit in a jar, or homemade Christmas biscuits, seeds to grow their own flowers or herbs etc. The possibilities are endless!
5 Brown paper packages tied up with string
These are a few of my favourite things… to wrap presents with 😉
Have you heard of Who Gives A Crap toilet roll? Their toilet roll comes wrapped in lovely colourful paper, perfect for wrapping presents! Or if you’re anything like us, then we have a whole cupboard full of gift bags that people have given us, we reuse these year after year. Or why not wrap your gifts in left over wallpaper, newspaper or magazines. I cannot claim this ingenious idea, but check out this persons fab scarf wrapping – beautiful and a useful gift for winter to boot! And if you are using bought wrapping paper, try to avoid the glittery and plastic coated ones that can’t be recycled, I love good old fashioned brown paper and string and we have huge rosemary and bay bushes in our garden which makes for lovely smelling sprigs to add some festive decoration.
6 Cards and gift tags
I’m not really one for sending cards, not in a ‘bah humbug’ sense, but because I think they are often a bit of a waste, and to be honest I don’t really see the need to give a Christmas card to my co-workers, whom I sit opposite on a weekly basis. I do send cards to certain people, family who we don’t get to see very often, and so on, but stripping back your Christmas card list can be a great way of being a bit more eco… and if you still want to send your co-workers a card, try an e-card instead. If you are buying cards, try to by none glittery, recyclable ones.
And on the subject of Christmas cards, why not save and cut up last years cards to use as gift tags or tree decorations. Another fun and crafty family tradition maybe?
7 Secret Santa
Now when I say “Secret Santa” I can almost see some of you recoil in horror, envisaging awkward office gift giving, but that is most definitely not what I mean.
For the past few years now our family has done a Secret Santa between me, my husband, my siblings and parents. We’re all adults, we don’t need to have hundreds of presents under the tree, and let’s be honest, as soon as you become parents the joy of Christmas is all about the kids anyway.
It works really well though, one year we did a stocking for each other, this year we’ve set a lower limit as we’re all a bit skint. Ultimately it means you can put more focus on the one person, rather than getting all flustered and rushed, running around buying presents that you hope the person will like.
We use a great website to draw our names and there is the handy option to add a wish list to help the gift giver out if needed.
8 Gift experiences
Another of my fondest childhood Christmas memories is going to the Panto with my Mum, Nana and Sister. We went every year for years, and it was always something to look forward to on the run up to Christmas.
Why not ask family members for experiences rather than gifts, and experiences that they are involved in is even better. My Nana had a very severe stroke years ago and for the last decade or so of her life she was wheelchair bound and couldn’t talk. I still have lots of fond memories of my Nana from after her stroke, but sometimes it is hard to remember how she was before it. But when I think of those trips to the Panto, I remember every little detail, even the walk from the carpark to the theatre, giggling with excitement and swinging holding hands. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t remember the toys my Nana bought me over the years, but those memories of the Panto I will treasure forever.
9 Christmas Trees
I’ve been holding out on writing about this one, as whether you go for real or fake, there are cons to both.
So I’ll keep it short and sweet, and if anyone has any other ideas, please do comment below.
If you are buying a real tree, maybe consider a potted tree, that you can use again, plant yourself, or take back to be re-planted. I believe real tree rental is a thing these days, although a quick search in my area came up blank. We’re thinking of buying a small potted tree this year and keeping it in the garden, so each year we will watch it grow with Gilbert. Christmas trees can take between 7-15 years to reach 6-7 feet tall, so we’re hoping to get a good run out of the one tree.
If you are going for a fake tree, get one to last, use it for as long as possible, and maybe consider buying second hand.
Alternatively, do you have a potted plant that you can decorated? Rosemary is a wonderful substitute, it’s hardy, and useful for after Christmas too!
10 Christmas feasts!
One of the things we often think about when we think of Christmas is all of the wonderful food we’re going to eat. Now I’m not wanting to take that joyous experience away from everyone, but there are definitely things that we can do to reduce food waste and to be a little more sustainable.
Have you thought about buying your parsnips and sprouts from your local Greengrocer? Buying locally from independent shops like these often means you are buying locally grown produce, and you’ll be supporting your local community and businesses at the same time! Win win!
If you are a meat eater, again why not try to shop locally, local butchers are dying out because of mass, cheap and poor welfare produce, whereas our local butcher supplies meat that is all from a 25 mile radius of their shop, how fantastic is that! And yes, this may be a little more expensive, but you could substitute some of the meat with a delicious nut roast to go with it (we love this Jamie Oliver recipe).
Make Christmas all about the important things in life, spending quality time with those you love. I’d love to hear your eco Christmas tips, please share below and lets help everyone to have a more eco conscious Christmas!