A Merry Little Local Christmas

Did you notice that it is almost that time of year again? Christmas can be insane and draining, and if you are like me, the shopping might just send you into a decline. But there are ways to make it meaningful and pleasant.  Firstly, have a conversation with family about present giving. Let's face it, most of us don't need more stuff. Most of us who aren't children might enjoy a minimal present Christmas. I must admit I am peculiar in that presents aren't a big thing with me. If someone were to bring me a cup of tea in bed, a magazine and a chocolate-based comestible and say, "There's your Christmas," I would be well pleased. We need to talk about Christmas and stuff with each other and with our kids. Let's find out what is really special to them about Christmas. Maybe we just think it is presents. Maybe they would be happy with less, as long as there is still family and friends and food. Maybe they like our funny Christmas traditions best, or visiting the Christmas lights or Christmas stockings. Who knows until we ask?

One of the best ways to make Christmas meaningful is to think about how we can give to people who really don't have all the stuff they need. I feel like I need to make this more a priority in my own life this year, so I will be chatting to the girls about how we might include this as part of our Christmas preparations.

Still, presents are part of Christmas, so here are some of my favourite Christmas gifts and shops:

Second hand bookshop/op shop: Two categories - books that look new. An awful lot of people get rid of books they never even read. Can you imagine? And vintage books - my favourites are classics, and vintage non-fiction in an area of the giftee's interest. Vintage gardening, DIY and cooking books are wonderful.

Gifts of service: Last year the girls and I gave my mum (who is not an enthusiastic baker) the gift of a cake each month. To be honest, I think we have missed a couple of months, and owe her more cake. It's a reminder to know yourself when planning gifts.. One of my friends hired Rosy to dust the house each week for his wife's Christmas present (she hates dusting..). The gift that keeps on giving!

Oxfam: Shops that exist to bring beautiful craft from fair trade co-operatives all over the world. They also stock fair trade chocolate and spices. What's not to love? Oxfam Unwrapped and the TEAR catalogue of Really Useful Gifts also provide brilliant un-gifts - chickens, pigs, education, water, you name it, you can give it to someone who really needs it..

Practical gifts: Yes, the ones you would have bought them anyway. I love to have a non-consumer Christmas, but my children like to open lots of presents so I buy them underwear, pyjamas and clothes and wrap them all up separately:) Underwear can be local or fair trade. I have also bought some lovely scarves, clothes and jewellery from op shops.

Magazine subscriptions: Rosy has asked again for me to renew her favourite magazine subscription for Christmas. Oh yes, I can do that:) Here are some magazines that either I or my friends subscribe to and we all share:

Frankie (Rosy's fave)
Slow Living
Earth Garden
New Internationalist
The Monthly
The New Philosopher

Single issues are also brilliant in the Christmas stocking, along with fair trade chocolate. Because who doesn't want to spend Christmas morning reading and eating chocolate??

Tools: Actual old, vintage tools from second hand shops which are beautiful and will last forever, including kitchen tools like rotary egg beaters and those exciting mincing machines which clamp onto the table top (my granny used to mince up the Sunday roast leftovers to make into sausage rolls with one of these). Last year my gift to The Girl, who was leaving home, was a collection of wonderful vintage kitchen ware to take with her. I had collected it over the course of the year in second hand shops and had such fun..

Camping Shops and Cool Gadgets: Choose an independently owned shop and buy useful tools for camping and saving power at home - wind up or solar charged torches, head torches (nothing is more useful for collecting wood from the woodshed in the dead of winter - no hands!), pocket knives, stainless steel drink bottles, solar lanterns. I have my eye on one of these kettles for picnics, camping and outdoor cooking in the backyard. I have also just bought myself a thermal cooker which I am hoping will reduce our gas stove top usage over summer, keeping us cool and saving fuel.

Local Artists and Artisans: One of my favourite things about art by local artists is that they enable us to re-envision the place in which we live. I bought a painting from a friend many years ago which is an abstract of a local waterfall. It just evokes a Tasmanian forest for me and makes me happy every day. Local artisans are sometimes hard to find, but also sometimes make extraordinary useful and beautiful things. This year I have discovered the recycled metal knives of John Houndslow Robinson. One day, after much saving, I plan to own one of these knives. I am also coveting a copper saucepan and one of these leather handbags. None of them are cheap, but all of them will last a lifetime and beyond.

Craft Fairs: We have a Christmas market on in town next weekend - all local artists and crafters displaying their wares. Brilliant, and you can hardly get a more local present than that, except:

Home made: OK, I am not the best person to talk about this. Home made for me is very hard work. That is why I go to the craft fair. But I do make jam and home made cleaners in nice jars, especially the bathroom cleaner paste. I am considering knitting dishcloths as well, knitting squares being something I can do. Good old-fashioned baking gifts for neighbours are a great way to keep up the goodwill on your street as well (even better if you get the children to do the baking).

Gifts for Making Things: For her birthday I bought Posy a book on making lip balms, lotions and hand creams, plus the beeswax, shea butter, essential oils etc to make them. This has been a huge hit with her, and the bonus is enough lip balm and hand cream to last us for the next decade. I know what I will be getting from her for Christmas! One of Rosy's favourite gifts as a cheese-loving 12yo a few years ago, was a cheese making kit from a good friend. You can buy all sorts of kits from this home-based business in Melbourne (we have bought candle making equipment from them).

Food: This is generally the easiest local product to buy. Making up hampers of local plus home made food in baskets bought from the op-shop actually sounds like a fun thing to do..

Wrapping: Wrapping paper is terribly wasteful. Over the last few years I have been collecting gift bags from op-shops, and fabric drawstring bags as well. Our Christmas is heading towards waste-free, with the bonus of mess-free as well:)

Christmas is always about gifts for those we love, and let's take care of that in a way that works with our values of taking care of each other in our local communities, and taking care of the planet. And then, let's spend some time thinking about taking care of those who really don't have enough this Christmas, or at any other time, and put them on our Christmas list as well.

Tell me about your plans for a Christmas that makes you happy..


Treaders said…
I agree with you on so many levels. I would LOVE to give second-hand books to my sons' gfs (not sure the boys even know how to read). Hey maybe I will give it a try as we have a second-hand book shop at work started by my good self I hasten to add). Actually I have already bought most of their presents (and for the girls I am making something called a "pochon" here - a bit like a goody bag for putting baby care items in - with small Body Shop items). Yeah, I will get the second-hand books too and see how it goes. (My ex would be horrified as everything had to be bigger, better, glitzier - but hey, he doesn't live here any more). Thanks for the idea. Anna (in France)
Anonymous said…
Christmas is a bit of a funny old thing at ours. When I was a kid, it was an epic trip to my grandparents interstate in time to wake up to Santa in our room at her place. I suppose that's probably why the presents were small and portable and a much bigger deal was made of birthdays. When we moved over here, Christmas stayed much the same - ok there were more presents, but there was a tendency for the extras to be 'consumables' - a new outfit, underwear, books, new pencils, that sort of thing. Things we actually needed rather than stuff for the sake of it (plus a perpetual bottle of Oil of Ulan from my other grandmother. She would give my sister and I a book and a bottle of Oil of Ulan every year. Sometimes we would give it back to her.)

Food was always the big issue for me - more food than you could eat, groaning tables, fridge full of stuff that you're sick of but still have to eat... Toning down the excess of food that comes along with Christmas has been my biggest achievement - there's only SIX of us for lunch. Therefore we only need enough meat for the people that eat it, not a bazillion kilo ham leg. It took ten years, but now all the leftovers are finished by Boxing Day. (Except for fruit cake. I am the only one that likes it, and takes me a couple of weeks to get through it!)

This year, I think I am going to make a fruit cake. It always seems such a waste when I'm the only one that eats it. But bought ones aren't as nice. Mince pies and fruit cake for one.
Tanya Murray said…
I just love you to bits Miss Jo x. I love your ideals and you are so good at being our leader. Have a wonderful Christmas and I'll see you sooner than the new year I hope x
Anonymous said…
I'm wish Tanya - I love you to bits. What great ideas. Except you've made me want some of those magazines and I've effectively stopped new magazines coming into our home, only magazines handed down from friends.

Now put boys are older they get a big thing they need but can't yet afford - health insurance for one this year. The other may get his rego paid for. And then some chocolates and some beer as small gifts under the tree.

I have tried to tell Mr S we don't need gifts for each other. Just something small to unwrap - a book perhaps. But he wants to give me lots of things. I'd rather we say our travels are our gifts to each other. We are off to Canberra and Thredbo this January. That's our gift! And a new bathroom. I have made him a photo book of our trip to London last year. It's so cool. The first one I've made. Great way to have all those digital photos printed. Fun picking the best and choosing the layout.

Every year I ask my mother to bake me her bikkies. It is getting harder for her to do it so this will come to an end soon.

Pity postage is so expensive or we could swap - books for your magazines.
Unknown said…
Thanks for the ideas, Jo; as usual, you are inspiring! The fabric bags sounds like a really good idea - I get so sick of being buried in used wrapping paper on Christmas Day. I was reminded that, one year, a friend wrapped all her presents in tea towels and string. Well, you can never have too many tea towels, can you? (Maybe?)

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas in your lovely new home.

Lucinda, have fun in Canberra. I've lived here for nearly fifty years, and I love it. My favourite place is the Arboretum- the views are amazing, especially on Dairy Farmers Hill. And the food in the cafe isn't bad, either!
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Very thoughtful and I totally agree. There is a reason most zombie films include a shopping mall! Hehe! I was in Melbourne Central shopping mall a few weeks back for a mates birthday, and who would have thought that they'd also have kids parties there on a Sunday afternoon. The headache from the noise! At least baking cakes is a quiet activity. I'm not built for that level of activity and noise. :-)! That is all a bit silly isn't it? I tend to donate to charities. Chris
Anonymous said…
Any present suggestions for brother and sister in law gifts?
Jo said…
Hi Anna, 2nd hand books are the best. Especially Agatha Christie novels in old hardback bindings. My brother frequents second hand book shops, so whenever I think of another old novel I need, I send him the title. This is an excellent community service to provide.

Miss Maudy, I like your Christmas, but I also love mountains of leftovers, because not cooking for four days after Christmas is the best present of all..

Tanya, you are a sweetie, and it's a joy to be your friend:)

Lucinda, I hear you on the magazines. Luckily I have a large circle of likeminded friends and we all pass our magazines around like nobody's business. It's great, as they are only ever in my house for as long as I am reading them. We really wring our money's worth out of those subscriptions..Actually, sadly nobody subscribes to The New Philosophy but I buy an issue whenever I see one that looks intriguing.

I love your tradition with your mum's bikkies. Aw.

Hazel, thank you, I am sure we will have a fun and now the children are old enough to do all the tedious things like baking, which they actually enjoy..

Yes, I love the reusable bags, makes cleaning up on Christmas morning so much simpler..

Chris, shopping malls are a special circle of hell all on their own.. and yes, donating to charities seems like a very appropriate thing to do this time of year.

Anonymous, I would totally go for some wonderful local food specialties and a card from the Oxfam Unwrapped catalogue. They get something yummy, AND get to feel good about making the world a better place and don't have another 'thing' in their house that have to pretend they liked.. (although maybe you are excellent at choosing the right present for the right person. I don't really have that talent..).

Popular Posts