As a child, Christmas at my house was something out of the movies. There were so many gifts billowing out from under the tree that my mom had to start stuffing the packages between the branches. And when the tree just couldn't hold any more (which happened every year), she would pile presents around the fireplace. And this mother lode of metallic ribbon and snowflake paper didn't even include gifts from Santa.
Our family of four children wasn't rich, and my mom grew up poor. When other children returned to school in new dresses and shoes after holiday break, my mom showed up wearing the same shabby threads from the year before. For my mom, Christmas is about redemption. What my mom was deprived of, she created for us ... and she's probably still paying off the credit card debt.
Ironically, looking back at the holidays, I don't recall any specific gift. But what I remember most are the things we did when weren't tearing open wrapping paper.
I remember baking at least 10 varieties of cookies and learning how to "chop" nuts using a Ziploc bag and a rolling pin. I remember sneaking sips of my grandma's whiskey sours. I remember Scrabble games and the crying that ensued when my cousins wouldn't let me cheat. I remember feeling so happy that the house was chaotic and full.
Now, according to a recent national survey, most of us feel the same way about holiday gifts: Three in four Americans wish the holidays were less materialistic. Nearly nine in 10 believe that holidays should be more about family and caring for others, not giving and receiving gifts. Regardless of our true feelings, it's hard to jump off the consumer holiday train.
Friday marks the official holiday shopping season, otherwise known as Black Friday. According to the National Retail Federation, last year 73.6 million Americans rushed to shopping malls, fought for parking spaces, in creased their stress levels and depleted their bank accounts to capitalize on retailers' hot Black Friday deals.
Gifts - whether we like it or not - are embedded in our holiday tradition. So this year, hold on to your roots but change your perspective. I challenge you to turn Black Friday into Green and/or Local Friday. Save yourself the big city hassle and some gas too. Give gifts with more meaning and less waste for a more sustainable holiday season. Help out your friends and neighbors who own businesses here in Grand Lake. All it takes is a little creativity and an open heart. Here are some of my favorite gift ideas:
• Give an experience. For a friend's wedding gift, I bypassed her registry and bought the coupe a kayaking tour during their honeymoon. It's probably something they never would have done themselves, but it created a memory that will last a lifetime. Gifts of experience are my favorite kind, and there are tons of local experience options.
• Massage: There are several therapists who would love to pamper and spoil anyone on your list.
• House cleaning: Who doesn't need some help before or after a busy holiday with some cleaning?
• Support a local artist: Why not a one-of-a-kind gift for the person who has everything?
Tickets to the Melodrama: Helping a local organization ... now that's killing two birds with one stone.
Feed a local family: The Rotary Club, the Food Pantry, and Mountain Family Center all have great "feel good" gift-giving ideas for the holidays.
I bet you could come up with a green and/or local gift for everyone on your "nice" list this Christmas while helping your community, friends and neighbors.
For a complete list of local gift-giving ideas, contact Lisa, executive director of the Grand Lake Chamber of Commerce, 970-627-3402, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.