The only thing better than Christmas is more Christmas. The only thing better than gifts is more gifts. The only thing better than money is more money. Here’s how to get all three.
Christmas might be the happiest day of the year but when the supermarket near my house started to put out their obnoxious Christmas signage and roll out the novelty nail clipper stocking stuffers, my heart sank. So begins the annual descent into fist fighting for Tickle-Me-Elmos. There must be a way to enjoy the friends, family, food, drink, merriment, and gifts, without having to set foot in the mall or Wal-Mart or any other place that resembles Dante’s fourth ring of hell from mid-October until the new year.
There is. It’s called Recycled Christmas.
For many years my extended family has tried various attempts to make Christmas gift giving manageable, affordable, and pleasant. We’ve set price limits, drawn names, and have tried many variations of the Gift Exchange (such as, everyone throws a couple pairs of novelty nail clippers, or their equivalent, into a pile and lots are drawn for who gets first pick from the pile, or amongst the things already opened.)
These were usually failures. There was always a waffle maker or a bucket of pucks that stood out amongst the jigsaw puzzle and wool sock junk and someone’s feelings would inevitably be hurt.
Last year, however, was different. Thanks to long voyages home that sucked our wallets dry, my family decided that Christmas 2009 would be a Recycled Christmas.
It turned out to be the best Christmas ever.
The rules were simple: all the gifts you give must be something you already own or something you made. You could buy materials. Money would be saved, and the world would be spared several more pairs of novelty nail clippers.
At first, this idea sounded terrible. Worse than the Christmas my parents told us Santa would be delivering our gifts to mudslide victims in South America. There is a stigma attached to recycled gifts—sometimes called “garbage”—and homemade gifts—sometimes called “garbage glued together” by my girlfriend. No one was really sure what this plan would amount to.
The result, however, was 20-odd people brought 20-odd gifts, which meant two hours of flat-out unwrapping Armageddon.
The highlights of the recycled gifts included gently used sports equipment and clothes; previously loved books, video games, movies, and board games; various electronics—like that free iPod they gave you for opening that new bank account; and craft supplies from the person whose best intentions got the better of them.
The real highlights though, were the made gifts. These included:
• A professionally printed book of funny things my sister’s kids say copied off of her Facebook profile (blurb.com, an on-demand book printer with their own free user-friendly layout software, prints books for as little as $5 each)
• Professionally bound photo books and calendars (can be made almost anywhere that prints photos, or many places online.)
• Children’s art in a nice frame or on canvas;
• Wood working projects (simple things like cutting boards, recipe boxes, etc.)
• Love Jugs (jars containing the dry ingredients from a recipe for cookies, brownies, soups, etc., arranged in layers to look all pretty.)
• Homemade pyjamas.
• Stuffed animals for children based on their own drawings (the oddest looking pig and cow you have ever seen.)
• Knitted mittens, scarves, toques, socks, etc.
• Original Christmas music recorded by the talented musicians in the family.
• Leather wallets and belts (my dad recently developed an addiction to leather craft.)
• Jams, pickles, relishes, and other preserves.
• Christmas candy and baked good stocking stuffers (cookies, peanut brittle, and chocolate bark, which is made by melting chocolate pellets (from Bulk Barn) into a bar and sprinkling smashed up candy canes on top.)
• A variety of frozen meals for the family member with special dietary needs.
Sure, there was the odd board game with pieces missing, but the gifts overall were more thoughtful and plentiful than they would have been otherwise. Not to mention all of the extra time over the holidays that we spent eating, drinking, making, playing, visiting, and having a belching contest—easily won by my charming sister (Sorry fellas, she’s taken.) And all of this rather than standing in a checkout line somewhere in the fourth ring of hell to buy yet another pair of novelty nail clippers with money we didn’t have for someone who didn’t need them.
It was so good we’re doing it again this year. You should try it too!
Feel free to post your recycled Christmas ideas as a comment below.