I have a confession to make. I'm not much of a Christmas person. Shocking, I know. I used to be of course. I have fond childhood memories of bursting with excitement on Christmas Eve. The magic of the season was charming and I fully revelled in opening my generously bursting stocking.
Now, Christmas is a little different. As the magic fell away, I started to see the cracks in this joyous holiday. The traditions, once fondly indulged in, were somewhat soured. The extensive buying started to grate on me. The endless parade of generic presents, stuffed into plastic packaging, as shoppers mindlessly fill their trollies out of a sense of obligation. The shops become full of garish decorations. Items that are on show for, at most, one month a year, then just become clutter that is ever growing as décor goes out of style. Then there's the food. I am a foodie so this will always be a favourite part of Christmas. However, as I am vegan, many of the common foods of Christmas do not appeal. Food waste can also be an issue at this time of year as tables groan under the weight of unrealistic portions and even food that is disliked but bought as they are 'traditional' (ahem, Brussel sprouts). The environmental impact of Christmas can be devastating.
It doesn't have to be like this. As I've grown, I've slowly evolved the way view Christmas so that it is more aligned with my values. I've selected the elements of this holiday that I do enjoy. Believe or not there are some! Time with family is by far the most important part of this season for me. With a busy job and living far from home, the time at Christmas is a blessing. This in itself is worth celebrating. That, and I adore the cosiness of winter, so warm vegan mince pies in front of the fire is always going to be divine.
As for presents, these have become more and more minimal and I am now at a point that I ask people to donate to a chosen charity rather than giving me gifts. Often an animal sanctuary as no gift I get can match the warmth of knowing that these animals will be well fed during this season. Today, I thought I would list some gift ideas that perhaps more appropriate for those who live more minimal and sustainable lives...
Lets start with something simple. Consumables. By definition, these are items that will be used up so not end up as clutter. The perfect gift for a minimalist. These can be thoughtful tokens to treat a loved one to something they may not buy themselves. It is so much easier now to find ethical consumables, such as vegan and cruelty free brands. I personally enjoy receiving skincare gifts, with Body Shop being a preferred brand. They have some lovely, ready-made gifts which are already cruelty free with vegan items clearly marked. Or perhaps consider some artisan chocolate from a local chocolatier? Or some wonderful smelling incense for a touch of peace to someone's home? The possibilities are numerous.
Reading is such an enriching activity. Books are one of my favourite gifts to receive. I keep a few of my favourites in my home that I can go back to again and again. To make this even more sustainable, why not try and purchase one second hand by visiting your local charity shop? Books are timeless and can add such value. Gifting a book is more akin to an experience as new worlds can be visited or new ideas spark imagination. Even if these books are not held on forever, it is an item that can easily be sustainably disposed of as charity shops often welcome new additions. Or you could even consider e-books if you have a clutter-conscious friend. I'm certainly considering treating myself to a new recipe e-book to try some festive treats this year...
3. Gifts Cards
I think gift cards have an unfounded bad reputation. These can be wonderful gifts as it allows someone to choose for themselves, which means whatever is bought is much more likely to add value. A generic Amazon card might not be the most sustainable, but most businesses offer this option. It can be a fantastic way to support small, ethical businesses, that have products that someone can really enjoy. Consider giving someone the excuse to treat themselves this year.
4. Thoughtful décor
Décor items can be a tricky one, especially for minimalists that may view this as clutter, even with the best intentions. Plants can be a great option. These are lovely, natural gifts that can brighten a home and often fit with a more minimal aesthetic. Just make sure you buy one that is easy to care for if your giftee isn't very green-fingered! Another idea is to gift items that are aesthetically pleasing but can also be used, such as candles. Even mugs, if displayed nicely, can be decorative as well as useful. These are a special favourite of mine.
5. Experiences and giving back
One of my all-time favourite presents was the year that Santa adopted a polar bear for me. Such a joyful gift for an animal lover. Giving back with meaningful gestures like this is the ultimate sustainable gift. Experiences can run as a close second. Options could include a vegan cooking lesson or a guided wildlife tour. These experiences allow someone to add value to their lives doing something they love so these memories can be treasured
Some more general considerations for your gifting this year:
Gifts sourced from sustainable businesses, preferably small local businesses, will no doubt by more unique and also often far more sustainable than the big brands
Put some thought into your packaging. Most Christmas wrapping paper isn't recyclable so sourcing some that is will add an extra thoughtful touch. This can be as simple as brown wrapping paper that you can decorate yourself or there are plenty of affordable options online.
Handmade gifts will always have an extra special touch. This doesn't have to be the entire gift, perhaps just the card or making your own gift tags.
Christmas can be whatever you want it to be. If nothing else, it provides the gift of time. As the world slows down over the festive period, it is an excuse to take a break from working life and spend some time doing whatever enriches you. Being more mindful about your Christmas can often take the immense pressure off that seems to surround this season. After a difficult year, taking some time to rest with the people you love is all the more important. You may just find you didn't need the tinsel after all...