Enviro Girl’s kids are counting the days until Christmas and she’s spending December keeping them entertained on the cheap in an eco-friendly way. By having a LOT of fun all month, they’re able to ignore the annual onslaught of commercialism. Enviro Girl argues that Christmas shouldn’t be about consumption, materialism, shopping and stress. There’s nothing jolly about huge credit card bills in January and there’s nothing merry about a pile of packaging waste on the curb next to a dead tree glittering with the remnants of tinsel. No matter how you calculate the emissions or the waste, a commercial Christmas isn’t environmentally friendly. Instead of presents, Enviro Girl suggests making your winter holiday season about presence. Instead of getting and giving (which involves shopping and spending), try more doing. Here are several low and no impact ways to enjoy the holidays without busting your budget OR leaving a huge carbon footprint. Enviro Girl’s family enjoys several of these activities every year–activities that highlight the joy of the season and create lasting memories. l1. Attend a holiday concert. Choral, band, dance or drama, most communities have a menu of holiday performances to choose from. Many high schools, colleges and churches put on breathtaking performances–often at no cost to the public. The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life are often performed by local theater groups this time of year, too. Theater is magic, Christmas is magic, combined, they become magic squared.
2. Head to a church and participate in the spiritual side of the season–inspiration is free! Many churches offer nativity reenactments and special music services during Christmastime. Enviro Girl and her Christian brethren argue that “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Attending a Christmas Eve service provides a great meditation on what Christmas means, and few moments are more peaceful than hearing the sweet strains of “Silent Night” during a candlelight service.
3. Bake. Two weeks before Christmas on a Saturday afternoon, Enviro Girl makes a double batch of sugar cookie dough and her sons enjoy a few hours decorating cut outs. The house smells great, the children are merry and artistic expression reigns! Building a gingerbread house could become part of your holiday tradition if you have the skills and patience (Enviro Girl does not). You might make fudge, caramel corn or bread. Any type of communal baking experience bonds families and friends more than a gift exchange ever does. And if you go overboard in your treat production, you can always bring a plate to your neighbor and spread a little more Christmas cheer.
4. The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. Go caroling. Enviro Girl only does this activity with a large group of people, preferably after she’s had a cocktail or two, because her voice is NOT melodic. But caroling is free and fun and makes the neighbors laugh. You can sing your way through a nursing home, a hospital, or even sing while you ring a bell at a Salvation Army kettle (as Enviro Girl’s sons are prone to doing). Heck, you can even head to a local establishment for some low-cost karaoke fun!
5. Look at the lights. Many cities have light displays, Enviro Girl’s family enjoys one at the Botanical Gardens nearby. Local high schools donate choirs during the event and for a few dollars more her family enjoys a horse-drawn hay ride through the displays. In almost every town there are people taking huge pride in their outdoor light displays. Head out at night and appreciate the artistry.
6. Visit a historical home or museum–usually the exhibitions have a holiday theme during December. This experience can be both educational and entertaining while supporting the local arts scene.
7. Take a hike. Bundle up and take a look at what winter reveals in your area. If you’re lucky enough to get snow, you can cross-country ski or snow shoe. Spot the tracks in the snow, revel in the fresh air, discover the beauty of a winter wonderland. Whether you live in a desert, near the woods or on the ocean, winter changes the landscape in beautiful ways–go out and enjoy it!
8. Have a holiday movie night– rent Elf or throw in your beloved copy of It’s a Wonderful Life, pop some popcorn and heat up some cider. Every single person has at least one favorite holiday movie, and it’s a great time to teach kids classic lines like “The Grinch’s heart grew three times larger that day” or “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”
9. Skate. The scrape of the blades against the ice, Christmas music flowing through the cheap stereo speakers, families laughing and gliding past at varying speeds–ice skating is great exercise and skate rental is cheap.
10. Decorate a tree outside. You’ll make the birds happy by stringing popcorn and slathering pinecones with peanut butter and birdseed. Not only will you give a gift to your feathered friends, you’ll be entertained by the colorful guests visiting your yard.
11. Enjoy a holiday-themed game night. Charades, Pictionary, Bingo, Scrabble–set up an evening using only holiday words as the prompt. Have snacks for supper and spend a few hours unplugged together.
12. Swap stories by the fire. Enviro Girl’s family has begun a new tradition of a Christmas Eve bonfire outside, but you could even turn on a video of a Yule Log burning if you haven’t got a fireplace or backyard. Pull out the old photo albums and introduce the ghosts of Christmas past to future generations. Share memories of your favorite Christmases–the time you found reindeer tracks in the snow outside your house, the year you sat stranded in an airport and celebrated with vending machine food. There’s a primitive appeal to bonding over firelight and storytelling.
The most wonderful time of year doesn’t have to be about spending, buying, wrapping and fighting crowds. Slow down and enjoy the holidays in a low impact way to maximize your pleasure! Reader, what low/no impact fun do you plan for the holidays? Do you enjoy any of the activities listed above? Anything not included that you’d like to tell us about?