Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Have a Calm, Green Christmas

Take one moment and imagine what it would be like to enjoy a totally stress-free Christmas. What if you could simply enjoy the holiday? 

Instead of rushing around to stores or spending hours bent over the computer ordering, or bent-over period wrapping, cooking and doing the million other tasks that seem to be required for the “perfect day,” you might imagine yourself snuggled comfortably on the sofa, maybe an eggnog (spiked or not) in hand, music playing, a fire crackling, surrounded by friends and loved ones, your face lit my a smile. (Not the pained smile of relief!)
While that vision might appear about as real as Cinderella, it doesn’t have to remain a fairy tale. 

With a little thought and release of habit and perfectionistic tendencies, it’s possible to live the dream.

Here are a few ways to make it come true.

Sit down with your family and talk about past Christmases. 
Was everyone satisfied with how things went? If not, what would you like to change? If mom has felt overwhelmed, how can the rest of the family pitch in to help? This may mean that mom gives up some control, but if she’s willing to do that, she may find some burdens lifted. If dad is tired of putting up the lights, maybe this year you forget his pinning them around the eves and decorate a tree he can reach without a ladder. The idea is to, as much as possible, relieve the pressure on everyone.

Make a sign (on recycled paper of course), that emphasizes meaning over things, whether those things are perfect décor, food or gifts. Place the sign where everyone in the family will see it. 

·        Take a realistic look at the number of gifts you plan to give and the amount you plan to spend. Will Christmas leave you with credit card debt you’ll be paying well into swim season? Is this necessary? Is it wise? How about making gifts from items you have on hand? Or making up songs or poems or choosing to give only gifts of time spent together?

·        As you’re thinking about Christmas, consider the environmental costs of things like wrapping paper. Forget buying it and you not only save money, but help the planet out too. Very little of the wrapping paper purchased is recycled and even doing that takes energy.

·     What kinds of family activities do you find relaxing and fun? Choose to do one or two of those as the holiday approaches. None of them need cost any money

·     Give yourself the gift of calm every day. Ask your mate or a friend for a massage, a cup of tea, time for a bath or a walk. Think about what would help, then request it.

·     Stay away from the frenzy. Avoid any activity you find stressful from malls to tree lighting ceremonies attended by thousands of people.  

·     Surround yourself in peace. Turn the lights down, burn beeswax candles, play soft music during stressful times. For instance, if preparing dinner for the kids is a nightmare, create a quiet atmosphere and ask them to whisper. Make it a game and they will likely play along.

·     Make eye contact. One reason children seem to act out more around the holidays is because they want attention. Simply sitting with them for a few minutes at a time, looking them in the eye (no distractions) and talking, is calming and may help calm you too.

·     Say “No.” Refuse to take on any more than you can comfortably handle. You do not have to bake cookies for your kids’ school just because you’re the only mom available. If they don’t have cookies for their party, it’s not your problem. Seriously, you can’t do everything and the more you say “yes,” the more you’ll be expected to take on. 

·     Approach your holiday meal with the thought that the most important thing is to have everyone gathered together for a fun and meaningful event, not to have so much food that no one can get up from the table without help! What this means is to shop carefully in terms of the amount of food you purchase so that little is wasted. If you find planning a huge meal stressful, how about simplifying it. Try a fondue, desserts only (and guests bring them), or a lunch, when people tend to be happier with less.

Remember that having a green Christmas isn’t about buying and neither is enjoying a calmer one. It’s about realizing the simple joys that come from being together and knowing how easy (and inexpensive), it is to achieve.

Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at 

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