Red Apron – Tips for a Green Christmas

I have to be honest and say that Black Friday has never sat well with me. The Holiday season, and all the spending that surrounds it, causes me to become a touch anxious. During my childhood, we saw our Christmas tree reflect how our our society was changing. Each year the gifts became more plentiful, and the frenzy of shopping, spending, wrapping and giving became more extreme. Now I have young adult children who are trying to live their lives in ways which reflect their values and priorities, which I must admit, are also a reflection of mine. This image, which came across our Instagram feed, says it all.

A few years ago I sat down with my two adult (or almost adult) sons and we discussed how we wanted to celebrate the holiday season. We saved the traditions that had importance to us. They offered help during the holidays with cooking and planning, in order to ease the burden on me, and we all agreed that presents were not the priority, but time together would be the focus. My extended family has been more of a challenge to convince.

Along the them of more time, less money, I have compiled a few ideas make your Holiday Season less costly, allowing you more time with the people you love.

Replace rampant gift giving with a single gift exchange, secret Santa or Yankee Swap. At our holiday party this past weekend we did a Yankee Swap. Everyone buys one gift, picks one gift, and has a chance to trade (or steal) the gift after they are all unwrapped.

Bake together. My Mother hosts a cookie baking party with her grandchildren each year. She looks forward to this day and it gives the kids, ranging in age from 7 to 30, a chance to interact with each other over a shared project.

Red Apron Decorated Cookies

Re-gift. We all have something beautiful at home that we once cherished, but no longer need or have a place for. Letting go of the stigma of giving away something you own is difficult, however this might end up being a win-win situation for everyone.

Re-purpose: If you have a creative streak, it might be possible to come up with some wonderful gift ideas. One year I planted succulents in tarnished silver tea service vessels (cream & sugar) and gave them as a funky retro gift. They looked so pretty I wanted to keep them myself.

Opt out. It’s been difficult, but I have informed my family that I want to opt out of the gift giving and participate only in the ‘eat, drink and be merry’ part of the festivities. This was met with initial resistance, and although I have asked not to receive gifts, some members of my family still insist on buying for me. It’s a personal struggle that continues because I find it difficult to show up empty-handed, knowing that others have spent money on me. We are still working it through.

In the spirit of simplifying things, here are a few ideas for gifts you can easily make in large batches, package in decorative containers, and give to almost anyone.

Vanilla Extract

You will need one tall, slim, 8 to 10 oz glass bottle or jar (repurposed is best) and 4 vanilla bean pods. Slice open the beans and put them in the jar. Pour over at least 1 cup of vodka, bourbon, rum or brandy. Close the jar and shake. You can give this gift immediately, add a fancy label, and get creative when selecting the country of origin of the vanilla beans. What’s important is that the recipient not use it for 4-6 months, but shakes it occasionally. Aside from cooking with it, you can add a few drops to a smoothie, yogurt, coffee, and creative cocktails.

Christmas Morning Muesli

Mix 5 cups of rolled grains (could be oats, flax, spelt, barley, whatever you like or a combination of them all) with the zest of 2 oranges or clementines, 1 cup of chopped nuts (pecans, pistachios, almonds, any nut will do), 1 cup of dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, cherries), 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla powder. Mix well and package in repurposed mason jars.

Rosemary Lemon Finishing Salt

To make a large batch, take 2 cups of sea salt, 3/4 cup of dried lemon zest, and 3/4 cup of dried rosemary. Combine all the ingredients and divide into small decorative jars (a small amount of salt goes a long way).