A Gluten-Free Vegan Mom Who Knows

A raw, grain-free, corn-free, soy-free, oil-free, celiac mama raising her two healthy celiac girls.

My Non-Stuff, Hundred Dollar Holiday Celebration


It is nearing that time of year again, and before we know it, the holiday season will be upon us. However, Christmas present will be a different from my Christmas past.  

Even though there is minimal wrapping taking place in our home during a normal holiday season, I am hoping to reduce that even further. 

Since our girls have been born, they each have received one gift from Santa (that’s all he can fit on his sled – one gift per child) as well as a several gifts from me and Greg, but as far as the rest of our family members are concerned, there is no wrapping at all – only envelopes stuffed with either cash or gift cards (a bit impersonal, I know, but very practical don’t you think?). 

I personally prefer to give cash useless I am able to give a gift card that I can print myself. I try to avoid plastic gift cards bought in stores because they are made from BPA plastic, and if that isn’t enough, when purchasing that BPA plastic gift card, I am handed my BPA laden receipt. 

This year, I am planning to implement two clever ideas into our family’s healthier, happier holiday season. 

The first idea that I discovered in mid-December last year was Bill McKibben’s “Hundred Dollar Holiday” article. A hundred dollar holiday sounds great! But one might ask, what does it entail? I’ll get to the details in a moment.

The second idea came from Sarah Finnie Robinson at Practically Green: “My Healthier, Happier Non-Stuff Holiday.” A non-stuff holiday?? That sounds even better because my favorite part of the holidays is spending time with my family and friends. I treasure the laughter and the memories during this favorite time of year. 

I read Sarah’s article soon after Healthy Child Healthy World posted it on 16 December 2010, but since it was already mid-December, I again had to save this tradition until next year. 

Well, it is now the 7th of October, and I am laying the foundation to begin changing our gift giving traditions. Okay, let’s get to the good stuff!

October 2009

In Sarah’s article,  “My Healthier, Happier Non-Stuff Holiday,” she shares her cousin Martha’s email:

WE WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU OUR GREEN PLANS FOR THE HOLIDAYS… Probably we all have many things at home that we are not using, that we think someone else might enjoy… If you would like to share gifts during this holiday season, please look around your house, your garage, or under your bed… Thank you for all the wonderful gifts you have given us over the years and for the gifts we receive every day by having you in our lives.

First of all, what a wonderful email, and what a great idea. However, this idea is not foreign to me as my parents have, for as long as I can remember, wrapped things up from around the house and placed them under the tree. When they could, my parents would buy us something new, but for the most part, they passed along things they already owned. 

My Mom and Sydney

I still to this day urge my mom to continue that tradition and to not buy anything for my girls. If she wants to give them something, it warms my heart to see her give them something that she owned during her life, a gift that comes with memories and stories to be shared. My mom does make this a common practice, and my girls are always thrilled beyond belief. 

Bill McKibben’s “Hundred Dollar Holiday“, McKibben discusses his connection to the Grinch and how being called a “grinch” stung. However, he continued on to create the Hundred Dollar Holiday with a few friends. During the Hundred Dollar Holiday, they were ” asking our families, our friends, and our church brethren to try and limit the amount of money they spend on the holiday to a hundred dollars—to celebrate the holiday with a seventh or an eighth of the normal American materialism. There’s no question that would mean fewer ‘Pop guns! And bicycles! Roller skates! Drums! Checkerboards! Tricycles! Popcorn! And plums!’ Not to mention Playstations, Camcorders, Five Irons, and various Obsessions. Perhaps my heart was two sizes too small.”

Was McKibben trying to destroy Christmas? Well, as he picked up his daughter’s “well-worn copy of the Seuss classic,” like the Grinch, he too realized that “Christmas had come. ‘It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!’ After puzzling three hours till his puzzler was sore, the Grinch was forced to conclude that Christmas came from no store.”

As Mckibben relaxed while realizing that he was not the grinch trying to wreck the meaning of Christmas, he also realized that “it was abundantly clear who the grinches of our culture really are: those relentless commercial forces who have spent more than a century trying to convince us that Christmas does come from a store, or a catalogue, or a virtual mall on the Internet.” 

McKibben started the Hundred Dollar Holiday out of concern for the environment and for the poor people: “Think of all those needy people who could be helped if we donated our money to them instead. Think of all those families who went deep into debt trying to have a ‘proper’ Christmas.” 

The Hundred Dollar Holiday was about obtaining a more joyous holiday season – a time full of love, of family, of traditions focused around faith. All the while, the Hundred Dollar Holiday prevents the time of family togetherness from being robbed by the pressures and tensions of gift-giving that are filled with wrapping paper, batteries, discarded plastic, and ballooning credit card bills.

My Sister Anna with Ainsley and Sydney

McKibben states, “The people we were talking to wanted so much more out of Christmas: more music, more companionship, more contemplation, more time outdoors, more love. And they realized that to get it, they needed less of some other things: not so many gifts, not so many obligatory parties, not so much hustle.” So how do we obtain that goal? By making changes. 

Our changes in gift giving don’t have to be huge, we can start off small and add more changes with each upcoming year. However, since I’m more than halfway there, I’m ready to take a large leap. Does this mean that I will stop giving gifts? Absolutely not! I’ve already picked up a number of gently used gifts at yard sales that I know certain family members and friends will love (thus far, I bought four gifts for three people for six dollars), and as I continue my yard sale, thrift store, and antique store shopping, I will continue to be mindful of the likes and passions of those that I love and hold dear to my heart. I will also continue to declutter my own home and gather any gently used, unused treasures to pass on to someone else. 

I’m also going to make gifts too. In August, I picked grapes from a local organic vineyard that is free to the community and will be making ten batches of organic concord grape jam to give away. I will also print and frame pictures that I have taken of family and friends. 

In the past, I have given many DVD slideshows to individual families (I got a hold of their family photos, scanned them, and got to work) – this is my favorite gift to give. 

Pop-Pop (Greg’s Dad) and Sydney

Please take note of the other gift giving ideas found in Sarah’s article,  “My Healthier, Happier Non-Stuff Holiday.” She proposes gift ideas “that are more than mere objects–and which probably won’t wind up under a bed.” Some of those gifts are plants, secondhand toys, homemade-ables like a CD (I like to give my homemade jam), books (I give gently used books to those whom will hopefully enjoy them as much as I had), and more. 

What eco-friendly, inexpensive gift-giving ideas do you have to share? 

I wish you all a relaxing, stress-free holiday season that is filled with an abundance of laughter and love.

Much Love!

UPDATE (22 November 2011):

November 25, 2011 is Buy Nothing Day. Will you be taking part in it this year?

“Buy Nothing Day”

If you are not familiar with The Story of Stuff Project, please check it out!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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  1. Such a tough one with kids!! We don’t have kids so it’s kind of easy to not get stuff for each other-of course I kind of get whatever I need/want whenever I want it (probably also part of not having kids) so it isn’t like we wait or have the stress at holidays. I love to buy stuff, and try to do eco, green, etc…but I HATE the feeling that I have to purchase something just to purchase something. It is a wonderful lesson for the kids also, that buying stuff doesn’t make you happy!! (It’s only a temporary Prosac!)

  2. What a wonderful post! Every year we try to cut back a bit but we are not where I would like to be. But something struck me today. My 12 year old said “Mom? Can we do the Advent calender again this year? Last year you were too busy to put it up.” Well, that stung. He didn’t remember the gifts I had bought him but he remembered that the Advent calender (which means a tiny piece of chocolate a day!) wasn’t up. What they want are the traditions and the fun. I, as the adult, need to remember that.

  3. Inspired again!! Thank you.
    On Nov 25th this year my daughter and I went to the dog shelter where I volunteer (taking pics and keeping their fb page). We spent the better part of the day being thankful that we were not in the madness of shopping but playing with the homeless dogs taking pics and vid! It was a wonderful day of quiet togetherness.

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