As I write this December column, it is mid-August, and I am on a plane headed to Mexico. Though the holidays and winter will be here before I know it, it’s not easy to mentally plunge forward toward that chilly, hectic time as I am presently wearing sandals, toting tubes of sunscreen and wondering what the lounge chair competition will be like at our hotel.
On the other hand, having some distance between now and then gives me an opportunity to think less anxiously, more objectively, about how I will approach the holidays this year, particularly the shopping frenzy. And, I’m thinking, since there is a distinct difference between years past and how things stand in our world today—i.e., a troubled economy, obscene gas prices, the continuing war in Iraq, rising environmental consciousness—it really ought to be a different kind of season.
I admit that in the past, at the last minute, I have overdone, overspent and under-thought my holiday practices. It’s been the easy way out. But now I’m ready (doesn’t all change boil down to readiness?) to break those old habits, to be less wasteful and more meaningful, to hold on to the tradition and the magic of gift exchanging—without losing the spirit.
One way I’ve already gotten a leg up on this is by having saved, all year, every comic section of the Sunday paper. I plan to wrap as many presents as possible in colorful newsprint. Folks will hopefully appreciate my green effort, catch the drift and maybe a little humor at the same time.
Another plan is to give experiences—such as museum memberships, concert and theater tickets, tickets to basketball games and cooking classes—rather than things as presents. It’s a baby step, I know, but if I can treat people to outings that they might think twice about splurging on, and at the same time reduce even minimally the accumulation of stuff we all associate with the holidays, then I’ll feel good about it.
Then there’s also the taboo route of, well, re-gifting. I know it sounds tacky, but hold on. There really are tasteful ways to do it without looking or being cheap. For example, passing down special jewelry or antiques to loved ones, giving a friend that vase, scarf or power drill she complimented you on (the one, by the way, that you never use). These re-gifts have a great chance of being more meaningful and surprising than random store-bought merchandise, not to mention the excellent reduce, reuse and recycle aspects.
Lastly, I’d like to be sure that every member in my family is properly equipped with tuned-up bikes, helmets and taillights. This idea covers the gamut: entertainment, environmental awareness and promotion of safety and good health—all in one.
Yep, I’m determined that this Christmas will be distinguishable from the previous years in my house. Like the wonderful slow pace of Mexico, I’m going to go slowly this December and try to be extra thoughtful in my holiday approach. And going public with my plan is one way to ensure that I follow through.
E-mail Gina Jaber at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—By Gina Jaber
—Photography by Craig Merrill