I was walking in the mall with my son who noticed all the Christmas trees when I realized that I do not know why we have Christmas trees. Which made me wonder about the Christmas tradition and what it has become; surely it was not meant to be this mad rush we experience every year. Therefore I decided to explore Christmas knowing that as a parent I help build my son’s memories and if these memories are good he might carry them forth.
This round the bend Christmas rush is definitely not a tradition I wish to carry into the world for generations to come. A wise woman said that there is no better way to celebrate our Creator than through creativity and I have to agree. Come to think of it, it will be quicker and definitely more relaxing to create things at home than to drive to the mall, find parking, go from shop to shop and stand in endless queues with other frustrating shoppers.
So, instead of dragging the kids along on a Christmas shopping spree have them take part in creating a lasting Christmas tradition. Interesting enough, in the beginning, if we can call it that, Christmas traditions were actually very meaningful, eco-friendly and inexpensive. Christmas really isn’t about us; it is about honouring all the important people in our lives and we can do that by putting some love, time and effort into what we offer them for Christmas.
Christmas tree treats
I’d like to start with the Christmas tree as this is one part of the Christmas tradition that could increase your carbon footprint considerably. Please do not cut down trees for Christmas rather dust of that old artificial tree that’s been in the family for generations, there is no need to buy a new one. If you don’t have one of those make use of the wonderful summer weather and decorate a tree in your garden or buy an indigenous tree and plant it when the season is right; if you do not have space to plant it give it away as a Christmas present.
The Christmas tree dates back to the 1500’s in Northern Europe; but the ancient origins of decorating trees came from the Egyptians and Romans who celebrated the winter solstice with a fest, decorating their homes with evergreens, lights and exchanging gifts. Originally Christmas trees were decorated with flowers and what a great way to celebrate Christmas in summer than with a tree filled with bright flowers. Another Christmas tree tradition that’s been lost is decorating with edibles and what a superb idea this is. No more dusty old Christmas tree decorations to store till next year, rather let you guests eat all the decorations and let there be nothing to pack away. If you really fancy these ideas and you are not sure what to do with your old tree decorations; recycle them, reuse them by adorning Christmas gifts with them or reduce by donating them to a worthy cause. Here are ideas for decorating your tree:
Find paper around the house that you wish to recycle, magazines, old gift wrapping paper, or any paper that will suit your colour theme. Help your child to trace his or her hand on the paper and cut out the handprint. Roll the wrist area around a pipe cleaner to form a funnel shape and secure with sticky tape. Curl the fingers outwards with scissors or just roll them outwards. Curl the pipe cleaner around a branch of the tree. Let the children help you make lots of these flowers and decorate the tree all over. Be sure to make some extra flowers to stick on the presents that go underneath the tree. Tip: Recycle the paper flowers after Christmas and keep the pipe cleaners for a different project.
You can find full instructions on how to make these flowers at Artists Helping Children.
Roses are called the true Christmas flower; if you wish to make some beautiful sophisticated paper roses.
Tip: If you have some scrap paper left over cut it in strips and make paper chains to go around the tree. This is also a pleasant activity to involve your children in.
Traditionally Christmas trees were only decorated on the 23 or 24th of December therefore they were able to add all kinds of delicatessens without it spoiling before Christmas day. In the 16th century trees were decorated with apples, roses, candy and coloured paper. Here are a few ideas for edible decorations:
Fruit is a great idea since it is summertime. You can also use dried fruit and nuts. If you have more of a sweet tooth use sugar candies and candy canes. Gingerbread cookies are also a favourite. Or bake your own cookies and let the kids decorate them in bright colours. Remember to make a hole in the cookie with a kebab stick before you bake them, that way you can add thread to hang it on your tree.
Pope John Paul II said that Christmas gifts should not be purely material and commercial, but an exchange of spiritual goods of brotherhood and love. Why not offer someone your time and skills as a gift; I still appreciate the time my partner took to fix things around the house for my birthday six months ago. If you don’t like showing up empty handed make a card with a promise of donated time inside. Christmas gifts used to be very humble consisting of fruit, nuts, cakes, chocolate, dolls and clothing. It was only in the 1800s that gifts became more elaborate, when what was supposed to be an exchange of spiritual goods was blown up into the consumer driven holiday we now know. I have to agree that food or handmade gifts are excellent, especially if you make it yourself.
That way you can personalize each gift. If you love arts and crafts buy a few hardcover manuscript books and personalize it for each person by decorating the cover. Or; how about gifts that would remind us of Jesus and why we have Christmas in the first place; gold, frankincense or myrrh, translated in today’s terms will probably be some organic honey to symbolize gold, essential oils or incense, which are all thoughtful gifts too. I don’t know a lot of people who print photos these days, and think that a few special photos in a handmade frame are a great gift. Old photos also make great gift tags. Another unique gift is a handwritten recipe book filled with traditional family recipes.
Wrapping the presents
Wrapping paper can be a huge waste therefore I don’t mind wrapping presents in newspaper or any other paper lying around the house. It is easy enough to decorate these to look attractive. If you are not one for newspaper buy reusable shopping bags and wrap presents in them, these days they are easy accessible, inexpensive and come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colours. You can also let your children decorate some newsprint paper with stamps or paint and use as wrapping paper. If wrapping paper is a must have use ones that is biodegradable, recycled or sustainable and printed with sustainable ink.
Local is ‘Lekker’
Local is not only ‘lekker’, but also good for the environment. Challenge yourself this holiday by buying only local produce. Since this is the season for giving, support local markets, concerts and environmental institutions. That way you are giving back to and uplifting your own community. Buy your children swimming, music, art or horse riding lessons or even memberships to local institutions instead of imported plastic toys. If you are in Cape Town a one year membership to the Two Oceans Aquarium is a great gift as members enjoy limitless access to enchanted learning, arts and crafts and loads of fun.
Have a Merry Green Christmas everyone!