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Giving the Green Way: Establishing New Holiday Traditions

By Latham Thomas ecomii.com
December 23, 2008
File under: Family Time, holidays


The holiday season is a wonderful time to explore new traditions with your youngest family members. Instilling the principals of gracefully giving, receiving, and sharing with others is what the holidays are all about. Use green living principals to teach the value of the holidays and break in new traditions that will begin a lifetime appreciation and connection to the living, breathing environment. Use the following tips as general guidelines to give you ideas on how to green your holiday season, celebrate good tidings for all- including the planet.

Honor a Tree. In New York’s famed Rockefeller Center, stands an enormous Norway Spruce from Connecticut. The 75th Rockefeller Christmas Tree stands gloriously lit with 30,000 LED (Light Emitting Diodes) that draw a mere fraction of the energy normally necessary to light the tree. Once the holidays have come and gone the remains will be recycled and the wood will be used for projects within Habitat for Humanity. This is part of a plan for “celebrating sensibly.” I have been trying to understand how sensible it is to cut grandfather trees for the purpose of beautifying Rockefeller Center during the holiday season.

Trees give us so much: oxygen, firewood, building material, furnishings, paper, etc. All of which we take for granted. Just read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree with your little ones. You don’t have to purchase a Christmas tree to get into the holiday spirit.If you’re not keen on cut trees pack up some gifts Christmas morning and take a long walk in the fresh air and select a tree to honor. You can place a blanket on the ground and open gifts with family members. Don’t forget to bring something special to leave behind like scattered seeds.

My son and I started this tradition when he was just three years old and every year he looks forward to taking a hike along the Apalachian trail, or even someplace local like our lovely Van Cortland Park to explore the surroundings, feed chickadees and curious ducks, and frolick about in the leave litter. When we find that perfect tree we settle underneath the branches and relax. We munch on some of our homemade treats and talk about what we are grateful for- his list is so varied and usually quite long; including earthworms, transformers, mommy, daddy, snails, and the sun. I bring gifts according to his age that year, so if he’s 5 I tote 5 gifts along to celebrate the season of giving in our way. Its become our own special tradition and its helped me instill a sense of wonder and appreciation for our natural environment and ambient surroundings.

Spread the Joy. Often times we forget how fortunate we are and the holidays are an important time for us to remember those that are less fortunate. Before combing the stores for the latest in kid trends take a look at your child’s room and make a point of clearing out gently used toys and clothing and putting them aside to take to a charitable organization like Room to Grow. It can be a great lesson in “letting go” for youth, and can teach the value of giving and the meaning of sharing. You can also host gatherings during the holiday season where guests bring items to donate to a charity of choice or a family in need to help spread the holiday cheer. You can collect monetary donations, non perishable foods, clothing, toys, books, etc to give to others. These items can come from your personal collections. Things that you love but no longer need.  If you have a favorite environmental organization you can request that loved ones donate to the cause instead of purchasing gifts.

Another way to spread the love to others and involve the children can be making gifts for others. I have fond memories of spending the weekend before Christmas  at my aunt’s house baking and decorating gingerbread, shortbread, and snickerdoodle cookies in my pajamas with all of my cousins. We would wrap the cookies and place them in special baskets. My aunt would take us to various shelters and nursing homes to deliver the baskets of cookies which we were so very proud of. The smiles on the faces of all those we touched made us all feel so good. The tradition was a way for all of the kids to come together for the holidays, stay up late, play and build what would turn out to be lifetime memories. It also instilled in us a strong sense of giving, sharing and love.

Make gifts like holiday popcorn, cookies, granola, soap, candles, and wrap them individually and give to family members and friends alike. Save on wrapping, packaging, and save a little money in the process. Find what works for your family and make this seasons of giving special.

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