It's no surprise that I love the Christmas holiday season. I think it's a really positive time of year when many people want to spread joy. Here are some of my favorite ways to make merry from November to January each year.
1. Shop Small & Local
This one is a given for me. Of course we have to do some online shopping from big companies, it's unavoidable. But if we can try to shop small and local when possible the benefits are amazing. First of all, you are putting money into your own community. You are making a single person or small group of people very happy when you purchase from a small business. They put their heart into their business and their products and you can connect a real person to your purchase.
One thing I plan to do this year is buy a gift cards to local coffee shops for the teachers and bus drivers in our lives. We will pair it with a gift card to big business and probably something homemade as well. I can't avoid the big businesses that make life so easy, BUT I can do my best to support the local businesses in my community at the same time. Here are some tips for searching for small businesses as well as some cool small businesses to support.
2. Shop Handmade
People have so much modern technological items these days, sometimes it's nice to return to the handmade days of old. Shop for a homemade scarf, quilt, headband, slippers, earrings, toys, and so, so much more. One place we like for shopping handmade and shopping small is Etsy.
Another option is to search for hashtags on your favorite social media platform. For example, visit Instagram and search for #handmade. You can also handmade + a word of something more specific you are looking for like #handmadeearrings or #handmadeornament.
You'll find lots of unique gift items this way, you'll support a small business or artisan, and you'll find something that your recipient is not likely to receive elsewhere. One tip - shop early to avoid any potential shipping delays.
3. Make it Yourself
Okay, I know this is easy for me to say because I like making things, but I want to let you know that it's not too late or too difficult to find a craft that you can make yourself. For example, I am re-learning to crochet, so that I can make some handmade scarves as gifts this year.
Go to your local craft shop and wander around to see what interests you. If you're just starting out, I recommend going with a fibre art like knitting or crochet. There are a lot of great resources on the internet for beginning those crafts. The other good beginner craft I recommend is painting on a wooden box or ornament with acrylic paint. You don't have to do anything fancy. You can paint it a fun color and then add a name or date to the front. Simple and personal - your family and friends will love it.
My last thought on this, if you have little kids with teachers or other people to give gifts to this holiday season, make those kids make something. It doesn't have to be complicated, it can be a small drawing or painting. I like to buy wooden picture frames from the craft store and have the kids decorate them. It's personal and something the teachers can keep in their classroom. You can pair that with a gift card (see above) and it will make that gift that much more special for the teacher or caregiver.
4. Recycle, Upcycle, Re-use
I think regifting has gotten a bad reputation and I think we should change that. If you have something that you no longer use and you know someone would put it to better use, give it to them. It's simple, it's inexpensive, and everyone will feel good about it.
Another recycle-related idea is to make your own wrapping paper using your kids art (check out Episode 4 of my 5-Minute Art classes for wrapping paper ideas). My kids make tons of art (read about it here) and sometimes I don't know what to do with it. Well, wrapping presents with homemade artwork sounds perfect to me. Wrapping paper gets thrown away (hello environmental problem) and kids artwork often doesn't. Maybe we can repurpose kid's art as wrapping paper, do a little good for the environment, and give the artwork a new home. Sounds good to me.
And let's talk about upcycling. Upcycling means remaking something old into something new. You can do this with an old t-shirt for example. You can cut it up into a child's garment, a headband, or a scarf. If you're not into upcycling something yourself, search upcycle on Etsy and see what you find. The best part is, it's homemade and it's doing something good for the world - two of the things that bring me joy for the holidays.
5. Does it Bring You Joy?
I think sometimes people put pressure on themselves during the holidays. My thought is, if a holiday activity does not bring you joy then don't do it! It's a little bit of Marie Kondo for the holidays. If you really hate doing holiday cards, I don't think you should do them. Put your time and energy into something that makes you happy.
One thing I do love to do is give back to the community. This can be as easy as donating a toy to a charity or something that involves more time like volunteering at a local service organization. If possible, I like to do a little of both. If you're able to bring your kids and family members in on the fun that's even better! Check out more on this on the Giving Tuesday website.
The last thing that brings me joy for the holidays is baking cookies for neighbors and friends. But here is a not-so-secret secret. I hate baking. The baking part does not bring me joy, but the visiting friends and neighbors with cookies does. SO, I outsource the baking. I do a lot of pre-made doughs or store bought cookies. I don't feel badly about it for a minute and neither should you. Do the things that bring you joy and outsource or cancel the things that don't. It's a simple way to make the holidays more joyful for you and your loved ones.
In the end, I love Christmas movies and music, slice and bake cookies, visiting with family, homemade gifts, toy donations to kids in need, finding the perfect gift, and the smell of fireplaces from the cold outdoors. These things bring me joy for the holidays. What are your 5 joyful things around this time of year?