Wednesday, December 2, 2009

We wish you…

a green and happy Christmas for you and your little elves

The festive season is almost upon us. This is a time for sharing, for spending some family time together, for exchanging thoughtful gifts, for feasting and rejoicing. Christmas doesn’t have to be all about 10 foot inflatable snowmen and shopping til you drop. A simpler and greener family Christmas may just be what is needed to help everyone relax and enjoy their time together. Decorating and choosing gifts are activities that all the family, even the littlest ones, can participate in.

It’s easier than you think to make your own decorations and it can provide hours of fun and a great sense of achievement for your kids. Like the song goes, ‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly’. Use Christmas greens, holly, ivy, pine and spruce branches to create an earth friendly festive atmosphere, think wreaths and garlands. A bowl of dried orange slices, cloves and cinnamon sticks makes a naturally fragrant seasonal display. Collecting the leaves and drying the fruit is half the fun.

Making edible tree decorations can be a great activity for a wet and windy winter’s afternoon. Think gingerbread men and snowmen and star shaped biscuits, just remember to put a hole in them for the ribbon before baking. Try threading popcorn to make garlands or bunch it together for giant snowball decorations. You can paint popcorn with food colouring.

If you are purchasing a tree you can now get live trees in many garden centres, they come in a pot and after Christmas you can plant yours out in your garden.

But don’t forget about the stuff in your attic. Using the artificial tree and decorations stored since last year is much more environmentally friendly than buying new ones.
Last years cards can be recycled to make this year’s decorations, cut out the images, thread through ribbon and add what extra sparkly bits you like. Christmas tree lights aren’t very heavy on electricity but do think twice before lighting up the entire house (or street).

The packaging that goes with many gifts is pure rubbish, so it makes sense to choose gifts with minimal packaging or biodegradable packaging. Try using string instead of tape and pressing and reusing wrapping paper. For an interesting alternative to wrapping paper you could use some nice cloth like the Japanese furoshiki.

If you’d like to source some really special kid’s presents try some of these Irish online retailers who stock fair-trade and ethical toys. There are some nice gifts for kids and adults at the Birdwatch Ireland Shop, and some really great ideas for eco friendly gifts for Dads at the Ecoshop

Homemade gifts are not just for those of the crafty persuasion. Sweets are easy to make. Dip cherries, marzipan and dried fruit in chocolate. Present them in a hand decorated box or bag for a really unique gift – great for Grandparents and neighbours.
You could also put together hampers as gifts, just think of a theme or an activity and put a collection of relevant items together. A winter warmth hamper might include hot water bottle, mug, jar of hot chocolate and some nice biscuits. A teddy bears picnic hamper might include tea set, teddy bear, paper and crayons to make invites. You get the idea…. Put them in a box covered with old wrapping paper, add a bow and voila!

As a gift for the entire family, membership for Dublin Zoo and Fota Wildlife Park or a gift voucher for local activities could lead to loads of family days out. Or how about a tree? Or an allotment could be an unusual gift that will bring months of family fun and great home grown produce.

Whatever you decide, have fun and make time for each other. Your kids will have the memories a lot longer than the toys.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight……

This article by Jen Wallace is part of the Green Family series, a partnership project between, the natural and eco parenting website, and , online local listing for kids’ activities, classes, events and services.

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