Considering everything that’s happened in 2020, I’ve had the urge to do Christmas in *a big way* to make up for everything that hasn’t happened. Lots of new lights and decorations, plenty of presents for my son, husband, roommate, and extended family, and anything else I can think of. Really, though, those things won’t make the holiday season better.
If I have any hope of having a really enjoyable Christmas and the holiday season around it, I need to focus back on the things that really make me happy. And those things tend to be both good for my wallet and good for the planet.
My husband put up our Christmas lights on November 18th this year, a full nine days before what I would normally consider to be the earliest reasonable day (the day after Thanksgiving). They are all LED lights though, and we only have a couple of strings, so the energy factor is not a big enough reason not to put them up. When the days darken soon after 5PM already, I’m not sure why we don’t normally put lights up this early. Icelanders seem to have this right – when we were there last January they all still had their lights up, and it really made a difference to cheer up the long nights. And really, when it comes to the holidays, a string of LED lights that you put up year after year is about as cheap as it gets.
Other than that, the only regular Christmas decorations we put up are a single light up picture and a Christmas tree with a new ornament each year. Last year, we had a living Christmas tree for the first time, and now it is growing in our backyard. It was much smaller than a normal tree, but considering it is still alive and pumping oxygen back out into the atmosphere, it was a pretty cheap cost after all. And since it lives in our backyard, we don’t even have to water it, so it is just about zero maintenance and cost from here on out.
Each year, I look at all the lovely decorations littering just about every single store I walk into. This year though, we’re not going to be in stores very often, so the temptation should be less. Our home is cluttered enough, and we’re constantly trying to own less, so decorations that come out just once a year really don’t make sense for our lives. Perhaps someday I’ll have a lovely curated box of holiday decorations, but for now, the cost, clutter, and environmental impact of those extra trinkets aren’t worth it. That said – I will absolutely enjoy photos of those who do decorate their homes to the nines, because I think they look lovely. Like with most things, it’s important to know what works best for your life, and just leave the rest for others.
In the last handful of years, we’ve toned down the gift giving quite a bit with our extended family, and I don’t miss it. As joyful as giving presents is for me – I do love giving gifts – keeping things simple brings me just as much joy as the stress of trying to find the perfect “big” gift for each person. Now, I create a photo calendar of our son for everyone who wants one and otherwise stick almost entirely to consumable gifts.
My favorites are taco seasoning, mixed nuts and chocolate (a better trail mix, in my opinion), and homegrown seed packets. Gifts are given in reusable cloth bags that my mother in law sewed years ago. These make “wrapping” presents take no time at all, and there is no waste when with exchange them; the bags and ribbon just go back home to the same people at the end of the night (the same is true for the mason jars the homemade food gifts come in as well).
Time with family and friends will be difficult this year, but we do plan for some masked up, distanced walks outdoors. Even in the Pacific Northwest where the weather is pretty soggy and gloomy this time of year, my soul is restored each time I spend time in the moss-covered emerald woods. Time with the people we love is the very best gift, and 2020 has made that abundantly clear. Really, all I want for Christmas this year is a COVID vaccine.
Thanks to the quieter summer spent closer to home along with my COVID and preparedness anxieties, I have a more robust fall and winter garden in the front yard this year. Not just holiday meals but all season we are eating more local food – both from what I grow myself and from local farm stores that stock in season and long storage foods. Holiday meals will look the same – with an eye toward what is local and sustainable, and plenty of home baked bread.
With limited trips to the grocery store, we’ll rely more on making the meals ourselves. Stale homemade bread becomes delicious breadcrumbs, and winter squash into hearty soups and stews. If nothing else, 2020 has given us a chance to slow down and look inward and closer to home. This season may not look the same, but perhaps there is a bit of hope and peace in all of this. We will spend the holidays separate this year, to do what we can to be sure that we will all be here to celebrate next year.
How are you preparing for a 2020 holiday season this year?
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