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Redefining and greening holiday traditions

Pinecones I've been reading Made in America by Bill Bryson over the past month, and what surprises me is that much of what is taught and commonly held as historical fact is widely exaggerated or distorted. Take Christmas for instance. According to Bryson:

  • Puritans of New England originally banned the celebration of Christmas and it remained that way until the 1800s.
  • Gift-giving has no real connection to Christmas, but was adopted from the Dutch custom of giving presents to children on St. Nicholas Day (December 6).
  • In the late 18th century, the St. Nicholas customs were transferred to the nearest Anglican holiday of December 25.
  • Christmas trees and sending greeting cards come from Germany and became American custom in the 19th century.

So there you have it. Americans have been picking and choosing traditions for centuries!! We don't need to feel tied to commercial holiday traditions that don't fit with our lifestyle. Yet, I confess. It's not so easy to just give it all up. I have fond memories of Christmases growing up. I want to give my kids what I had. The conundrum is to give and receive with grace, to celebrate and enjoy in moderation, without putting all of our environmental ideals on the back-burner for the month.

Heather's idea of a good deeds advent calendar is a perfect example of how to maintain a tradition but cut down on commercialism and waste.

Here's a little holiday decorating project my kids and I have been working on. We are adorning our stair railing with pine cones that we found in our neighborhood, painted with glitter-glue and hung with ribbon that we had on hand. It looks quite pretty, and I'm pleased that the original impulse to click over to Pottery Barn and buy ornaments was not indulged. You may have to trust me on how pretty it looks, since the picture doesn't do it justice!

Over the next couple of days, we'll be highlighting greener options for Christmas trees, greeting cards, gifting, wrapping, decorations and our families' efforts to celebrate the holidays with traditions we'll feel good about passing onto our children.

What ways does your family try to green up the holidays?


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