Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Recycled Family Christmas: A Fun and More Interesting Alternative to Black Friday

Since when did Thanksgiving turn out to be all about the shopping? Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday because it has all the good food of Christmas with none of the stress of gift-giving. Yesterday one of Mr. Chanclas' coworkers asked him if he would be doing any shopping on Black Friday. He told her that he would rather be shot in both kneecaps. Tell us how you really feel, Chanclas. 

We do not have to participate in the feeding frenzy that is American Christmas shopping. We can just opt out. Really! It is more fun to opt out and we won't be contributing to the production of more crap or maxing out our credit cards. 

Lindsey over at Northwest Backyard Veggies has a great post today about deliberate gift giving. Reading it inspired me to write about a tradition we have on my side of the family: Recycled Family Christmas. Every year in mid-December we get together with my side of the family to exchange gifts. This includes the five of us and my parents, grandfather, sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew. There are twelve of us in all and sometimes we draw names so that each person is only responsible for one other gift. The catch is that all gifts must be recycled, reused, homemade, thrifted, or otherwise invented. (We are pretty loose with our definition of "recycled".) We freely regift items, pull books from our own collections, give food, or buy gifts at thrift stores.

Brother snuggled up with his great-grandpa at Christmas
Last year my parents gave me a bag of pinwheel steaks from the local butcher which I savored all through the month of January. I gave my grandfather a giant container of chocolate chip cookies which he rationed out (two per day) for an insanely long time.

One year my folks gave me a dead oak tree from the city park. Really. They knew I always needed firewood so when my mom saw it in the park she decided to grab it for me. My dad, being the law-abiding citizen that he is, was hesitant about the legality of stealing downed trees from city property,  but my mom just said, "Hush and help me get this in the back of the truck!" My mom even wrapped up a couple of logs so I'd have something to open. (The rest were outside in the yard.) That was an awesome gift and one I will never forget.

My parents once gave my sister a dishwasher rack full of other gifts. It was hilarious and she was thrilled because the rack in her dishwasher had rusted and she needed a new one. My mom had found a replacement at the thrift store. While dishwasher racks are not especially sexy, it was a timely and funny gift.

In past years I have sewn tote bags or stenciled T-shirts and totes. Mr. Chanclas stenciled a tote bag for my dad that had an image of an ionospheric scintillation device on it. I don't make this stuff up. My dad had built an ionospheric scintillation device in his backyard that year and Mr. Chanclas memorialized it for him on a canvas tote bag. (Gosh. And you thought I was weird.)

Baby pants I stenciled for Christmas gifts

My grandfather, who is 95 years old and pretty much housebound, always has interesting gifts for us from his own life collection. One year he gave me a beautiful pewter salt and pepper set that I treasure to this day. He also gave me some black and white 8x10" prints of my dad and myself as babies. Nobody else could have given me photos of my dad as a baby so it was a unique and special gift.

We have also gifted books off of our own bookshelves that we thought family members would enjoy. When I started sewing five years ago my mom gave me a huge basket of fabric and notions from her own extensive stash, which was amazing for a beginner like me. (I will be using that stuff for the rest of my life.) Mr. Chanclas sometimes knits scarves and hats as gifts, too. (Knitting is so time-consuming that he can never knit for everyone, though.)

You don't have to be a baker, knitter, or a sewer to give a good homemade gift. I often make photo calendars for my parents, my grandfather, and my in-laws. Then they get to look at cute photos of their grandkids (or great-grandkids) for the rest of the year. I order them from Shutterfly and there are usually coupon codes out there at this time of year. Last year I forgot to make them and was reprimanded for it through February!

If you aren't sure how your family members would respond if you suddenly started giving recycled/upcycled gifts, then you might play up the idea of a recycled "theme" Christmas. Then everybody is giving recycled gifts so nobody feels weird about it. Also, you don't have to be giving the gift of dead trees from your local park the first year. You can ease folks into it with some more traditional handmade/homemade stuff.

Lindsey has some other great suggestions for deliberate gift giving such as Etsy, the farmer's market, etc. Check out her post when you feel Black Friday begin to creep up on you.


  1. Okay, we need a picture of your father's ionospheric scintillation device - I cannot imagine that!! I love this idea.


I love to read comments so please leave me one!