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Gifts from the Heart that are Gentle on Earth

The Christmas season is upon us and many of us feel the high expectations of gift-giving. Stores began to put Christmas decor on display in October! Ideally, this time of year should be a time of joy, thankfulness, connection with loved ones, and meaningful traditions. However, for some, Christmas is a time of stress and sometimes sadness. If we can focus on the real meaning of Christmas rather than what popular culture tells us, we can decrease the stress while at the same time, helping the environment.

Blog by Associate Karen Martens

For me, Christmas is a time of love; God becoming man was the ultimate act of love. Being born to a young woman who said “yes” despite the uncertainty and fears she must have had showed her extreme act of love. This time of year gives us time to deeply reflect on how well we love one another and Mother Earth.

Christmas is often excessively wasteful. Each December, American households generate 23% more waste than in other months. This wastefulness uses fossil fuels, trees, and other natural resources to produce, package, and transport unnecessary gifts. About a third of Americans feel stressed during the holiday season because of worries about affording holiday gifts (50%), meals (39%), and finding and securing holiday gifts (37%). Other research found that 90% of respondents wished that the holidays were less materialistic. They believe that the holidays should be about family and caring for others, not receiving gifts.

If you find yourself agreeing with this point of view, this may be the year for change for your family and friends. It is certainly in keeping with what we are called to do as stated in the Laudato Si. Pope Francis wrote: “The pace of consumption, waste, and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes, such as those which even now periodically occur in different areas of the world.”

Over the years, our family has increasingly focused less on the gifts than on being together. One year, each of us wrote an affirmation for every other person. Each person had a small container with their name on it in which our affirmations were placed. Then, we read them to one another. It was very meaningful for everyone. When our grandchildren were small, they created puppet shows for everyone with finger puppets. They also loved having to find their presents which were hidden throughout the house, only found by following clues. As grandchildren have gotten older, game playing and cooking together is a favorite.

If you want some new ideas about gifts, here are some that you may find helpful.

  • Give experiences such as cooking dinner together with family and friends, setting up a treasure hunt outdoors for children, dancing lessons, or visiting a local historical spot. You can create these experiences yourself.
  • Give a gift of your skills such as teaching someone how to garden, knit, or play an instrument.
  • Give a charitable gift to an organization in a loved one's name.
  • Give a gift of your time by doing such things as taking care of children, doing yard work, cleaning, or organizing a closet. Some people like to put these in a homemade coupon book.
  • Give a DIY gift by making something. There are many ideas to be found in libraries, craft stores, and online.
  • If you are purchasing a gift, find out what the person needs rather than getting something that may end up in the landfill or never used. Also, shop local and try to avoid ordering online to reduce the carbon footprint of your gift.
  • Remember that second-hand gifts are often great. Books, antiques, record stores, and clothing from consignment shops are great resources.

As it has been said….we are in a climate emergency that doesn’t align with business-as-usual habits. The small shifts each of us makes can have a huge impact on the planet. Perhaps it is time to change how you approach Christmas.

4 thoughts on “Gifts from the Heart that are Gentle on Earth

  1. Beautiful Thank You! Teaching children what is really important, while they are still young, is the best gift a parent can give them.

  2. We give small gifts or experiences, as you said. And we still have treasure hunts for the gifts! They are a lot of fun and help a lot to bring us together across Zoom. Thanks for ideas and reminders to focus on our loving God made human!

    So appreciated all your creative ideas in your blog for all of us to remember where Christ’s love is born in our hearts by loving one another in simplicity. God bless you abundantly this Christmas and New Year!

    Brigid, OP

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