Feasting together and giving gifts has been an important way of cementing bonds since Paleolithic times. This season, I'd like to focus on environmentally and socially responsible gift-giving. How can we give without cluttering our Earth with stuff, using unnecessary resources, creating financial stress and supporting multinational corporations?
- Make it yourself. As a child I enjoyed long winter evenings cutting up glossy magazines and advertising material to make calendars for family and friends. Today Sadananda and I still make calendars, using some of our top photographs from the year and getting them printed at a locally-owned business. We also make jars of chutney for family, friends and neighbours. You could also make jams, cordials or elixirs.
- Create a gift basket. We source pretty baskets at a neighbourhood thrift store and fill them with home made or local cheese, home made chutney, artisan bread and other local and regional goodies. I haven't ventured into soap-making yet (it's on my wish list of hobbies!), but home made soap, salve, potpourri etc. would make a lovely herbal gift basket. Some of our Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula students and graduates enjoy showcasing their new-found medicine-making skills by creating Ayurvedic herbal gift baskets.
- Give services instead of goods. A pretty card offering a service you will render can be a heart-warming gift that saves money, doesn't generate more stuff and increases interpersonal connection. Alternatively, offer a gift certificate for a massage, shirodhara, Ayurvedic Consultation, house cleaning or other service that would nurture the recipient.
- Support your local bookstore. My adopted grandson always receives a book from Boulder Bookstore for his birthday and for the holiday season. And he enjoys the books immensely. If you are fortunate enough to have a locally owned non-chain bookstore still, please support them with your gift dollars or pounds!
- Support local craftspeople. The years I go to Wales for Christmas, one of my treats is going to the craft fair at Aberystwyth Arts Centre to get unique gifts for family in the US. I also own quite a few treasured craft fair gifts myself! Visiting a craft fair is a way to support local potters, silversmiths, artists and artisans as well as purchasing a one-of-a kind gift.
- Visit your fair trade shop. See my previous blog, Slavery and your holiday shopping for an extensive discussion of this topic.