“THAT” season is coming again – the winter holidays which encompass Christmas, other religious holidays, secular beliefs and a plethora of approaches to an often-stressful time of the year.
For many years, I have tried to practice some form of alternative giving. To me, this actually means an “alternative” to commercialism. To others, it may mean charitable giving rather than a physical present. However you view it, Alternative Giving means that you are making a conscious choice to NOT buy (literally and figuratively) into the commercialism of the season.
I was raised a Christian, and although my faith leans more toward spiritual feminism these days, and my form of “Pagan Christianity”, my Methodist and Family traditions are important to me. My upbringing encompassed being aware of the needs of others, and the concept of giving of self. Your choices may be different, but the basics are that you do not buy from a toy company, online, from large commercial companies (think big box stores – don’t want to name any names here!) ~ that is my challenge to you, as my readers!
Here are some of the things I am doing this year to embrace the meaning of the season – giving of self.
1. Making homemade gifts. These include crocheted items, handcrafted items, baskets of either home-baked goodies or of DIY jars for making baked goods at the recipient’s leisure. Here are two samples of what I mean:
You may have seen this on my crafter’s blog – it is a variegated ripple/wave shawl. I will be giving this to my eldest sister. She is 13 years older than I, and is has an elderly husband (14 years older than her!) and is raising two teenaged grandchildren. I want her to feel my warmth and love when she wraps this around her!
Gifts in a jar! These frugal consumable gifts feature bath salts, cookie ingredients, holiday beverage mixes, baking mixes or bean soup fixings layered in a glass canning jar, or Mason jar… and decorated joyfully, including a recipe or instructions for use. These will go to neighbors and friends, sometimes with a plate of cookies! Organized Christmas has a great page on ideas.
2. I will be giving to charity. This does not necessarily mean a monetary gift, but will encompass both handmade and donation type giving. I have shawls to donate to my sister’s charity (read about it here and check out the Facebook page for Oma Village ) and hope to promote her one-woman-grass-roots-movement to end homelessness in Marin County, CA. Other charitable endeavors of mine include Heifer Project – I love to “give” the gift of farm animals in my grandsons’ names; Habitat for Humanity, a marvelous organization which helps build decent affordable homes, and gives the opportunity to volunteers and donors to give however the can. This includes their Re-Stores, where you can buy new and used building materials; and Kiva, loans that change lives.
3. I buy from alternative giving fairs, or providers. These are organizations such as SERRV Gifts that make a difference, ethical fair trade gift and crafts products from a range of developing countries. Alternative Gifts International has been in existence for 25 years, and is a marvelous source of gifts of food, shelter, trees, gardens, medicines around the world since 1986. You can order a print catalog from them, or view it online.
4. I try to embrace alternative celebrations alongside my alternative giving. You can find ideas for alternative giving for just about all holidays and special days – to move yourself and your family beyond the usual commercialize pabulum. Simple Living has some superb ideas on its site, including (at this link) ideas for alternative celebrations. You can download all kinds of information at their site as well. I have used Alternatives’ Treasury of Celebrations for years, and I love the ideas it presents.
If you have children or grandchildren, help them learn the joys of giving to others by including them in your plans. Have a family meeting, and talk about what you can do as a family. If you are a member of a church or organization, attend a board meeting and suggest an alternative giving faire – or a fundraiser for Heifer and other fine charities. Remember, Children Learn what they Live. Teach your children that the holidays are NOT about receiving, but about giving. It may take some time to change how you do things, but new traditions can, and should, evolve, and along the way, you will be helping your children (or grandchildren) to grow into thoughtful helpers in the world.
Our world is a troubled, fractured place. Open your heart to the possibilities, and your hands to those less fortunate than yourself.