Ways to cut consumerism this Christmas

Lifestyle Sports | Lifestyle

As the month of December starts to poke its toes quietly around the corner, the reality of Christmas is quickly closing in. With this comes the tantalizing tickle of childhood memories of eggnog, gingerbread cookies, and presents. Most of us remember vividly how hard it was to concentrate in school as Dec. 24 drew nearer. Christmas concerts, trips to visit Santa at the mall, and TV classics like Frosty the Snowman and How the Grinch Stole Christmas gave us an entire month to celebrate a one-day holiday. Christmas through “kid” eyes was a time of excitement and candy-cane wishes. But then we grew up.

Now that we’re adults, the idea of Christmas brings with it a certain amount of stress. Most of us who observe it still want to enjoy all the festivities and traditions that we grew up with, as well as creating new ones of our own. We delight in the feeling of giving gifts to family and friends, going to Butchart Gardens for the “Twelve days of Christmas” display, and even attending work parties. The only problem is that we’re funding it all on our own dime. January comes quickly, and the hype is gone as fast as it happened. Credit card statements clog up the mailbox and consumer regret makes its uncomfortable appearance, like last night’s decision to eat that second bowl of chili.

Can we still enjoy the Christmas season without getting ourselves stuck in that seemingly unavoidable pit of anxiety and remorse? Is it even possible to have a great holiday while staying within the bounds of the financial reality in which we live? The answer to both of those questions is a big, hell yeah!

Let’s tackle the idea of gift giving. Who told us that presents had to be the latest and greatest thing out there? The companies that want us to buy their products, that’s who. Seriously, why do we let them make us feel bad for not being able to buy our sibling the fifth generation iPad? How about bringing the concept of gift-giving back to “it’s the thought that counts.”

Try saving a bundle of dough by making your gifts this year. Handmade scarves and toques are always appreciated and can be easy to make. Looms are available at craft stores for under $20, and a ball of nice yarn is about $6. A beginner may make a full-sized scarf in about two hours while watching TV. Another great gift idea is a batch of cookies in a jar. Simply layer the dry ingredients of a cookie recipe in a mason jar, and attach the instructions with a ribbon. All the receiving person has to do is add the wet ingredients and bake. Pick a lesser-known recipe to make the gift more personal.

Now that we have our gifts figured out, we are ready to wrap. Rather than going out and spending $30 on expensive wrapping paper, whose destiny is only to be torn off and thrown into the recycling, just go to your own Blue Box and pull out yesterday’s newspaper. Wrapping your gifts in newspaper is not only free and environmentally sound, but also interesting to look at and sure to bring a smile your friends’ faces.

Partaking in the local Christmas festivities is the quickest way to feel a big drain in your wallet and leave you feeling bored and frustrated. It seems like everything in town costs a bundle, but you may view this as a fun challenge. How many things can you find to do that will feed your Christmas spirit for either cheap or free?

A good start is at the Empress Hotel’s “Festival of Trees.” Local businesses and organizations each put up uniquely decorated trees throughout the entire hotel, to be judged by the public. Apart from a small donation for casting your vote, this activity is free and can take as long as you’d like.

If you wander over to the Laurel Point Inn, you can catch the “National Gingerbread Showcase.” This amazing display of art and imagination runs through to Jan. 5, 2014, from 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Both amateur and professional cookie crafters make the gingerbread creations, and these displays will leave you amazed at the edible art.

Every mid-November until just after New Year’s, the Hotel Grand Pacific hosts the annual “Bear Wear” event in support of the Children’s Health Foundation. Beautiful displays of teddy bears adorned in interesting costumes line the hotel’s lobby for anyone to view. Donations are accepted and appreciated, but not required.

It’s true that Christmastime can bring stress, but it doesn’t have to. Focusing on the tradition of togetherness and simplicity can give you a fulfilling and amazing holiday without the lengthy hangover of overdone consumerism.