The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

December 2, 2009

Holiday Buying: More Pressure Today Than 40 Years Ago?

Beth Christmas 1971Once upon a time, there was a little girl whose only wish was for a Barbie Country Camper.  This was 1971.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s call the little girl Beth.   Beth had seen the Barbie Country Camper in Saturday morning TV commercials, and she wanted her Barbies to have the fold-out picnic table, pop-out tent, sleeping bags, and camper kitchen.  The Barbie Country Camper was the first and most important item in her long list of wants that she secretly wrote and mailed to Santa Claus.  And for two weeks before Christmas, she dreamed about the Barbie Country Camper when she went to bed at night.

Christmas Eve, she didn’t even go to sleep at all.  Butterflies danced in her stomach and Country Camper thoughts raced through her head.  When Christmas morning finally arrived, she raced downstairs to find under the tree the Barbie Country Camper she’d been waiting for!  She raced over to the Barbie Country Camper, grabbed it to her chest, and hugged it.  And then she looked at the gift tag.

“To Fran, Love Santa”


Okay, she didn’t say WTF because there weren’t text messages in 1971 and she wouldn’t have known what F stood for anyway.  But still, WTF?

Turns out her sister Fran was the smart one.  While Beth had secretly written her letter to Santa and had faith that the old guy wouldn’t let her down, Fran had told Mom and Dad directly what she wanted.  Man, talk about your lesson in handling disappointment.  I mean, check it out.  I watch this commercial now, and I STILL want that plastic Barbie Country Camper with its toxic vinyl pull-out tent!

So obviously there were toy commercials back in the 70’s targeted at children and pressures on parents to provide their kids with what they saw on TV.  What I’m wondering is whether that pressure is even greater today than it was back then.   I don’t have children myself, but I’ve noticed among some of my child-rearing friends that while they try to live as simply and “greenly” as possible during the rest of the year, holiday time can turn into “The Story of Stuff.”  One of my relatives (who shall remain nameless) routinely puts himself into debt every year at Christmas and spends the rest of the year trying to pay it off.

In his article “Everything You Know About Going Green Is Wrong“, Dan Shapley reviews two articles whose main contention is that

the stuff we buy and the packaging that comes with the stuff we buy represent our biggest contribution to global warming — far more so than the amount of electricity our stuff uses, or the amount of fuel our stuff burns on the highway.

So if that’s the case, do our holiday purchases cancel out the green measures we take during the rest of the year?  And how can parents resist the onslaught of advertising that they and their children are subjected to every day?

According to the Media Awareness Network,

Industry spending on advertising to children has exploded in the past decade, increasing from a mere $100 million in 1990 to more than $2 billion in 2000.

Parents today are willing to buy more for their kids because trends such as smaller family size, dual incomes and postponing children until later in life mean that families have more disposable income. As well, guilt can play a role in spending decisions as time-stressed parents substitute material goods for time spent with their kids.

That was 10 years ago.   Child-targeted advertising can only have gotten stronger since then.  Not only are kids exposed to advertising on television, but advertisers reach them via the Internet as well as through access to advertising in schools in exchange for program funding, technology donations, and sponsorship of educational materials.

So I put the question to a range of other bloggers — those with kids as well as those without; those who write about green issues and those who focus on other topics.  The question generated a flurry of conversations on various listservs.  I wish I could post everything!  But since that would take many pages, I’ll just highlight here a few of the responses I received.

Liz Gumbinner, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief  of the consumer blog Cool Mom Picks wrote me:

At least with our readers, we’ve seen a strong move to more responsible consumerism – not buying cheaper items per se, but buying those that you can really feel good about. People would rather get one heirloom quality handmade doll for $90 than a whole bunch of plastic crap from Toys R Us.

I’m also seeing a bit of a guilt factor at play – even those who can still afford to buy a lot of items are cutting back because it just feels inappropriate and at odds with the current zeitgeist. They’re also introducing more charitable giving into their gifts, whether they’re buying fair trade or making donations to match the cost of what they’ve spent on toys.

In keeping with Liz’s assertion, Deb from Deb on the Rocks admits that in the past she was a big spender at Christmas time, while living very simply year-round. But she says that last year they cut back and this year…

we, kids included, feel drawn to cutting back this year more so because so many are suffering than for environmental reasons, but I will admit that since our bar was high, cutting back still means lots of gifts. We know we are forgoing a big trip this year already. We make some charitable gift giving decisions together each year at Thanksgiving time, and we’ll talk about upping the ratio or giving to those in need and giving each other less.

MC Milker from the Not Quite Crunchy Parent spends very little on Christmas and deals with advertising by restricting her child’s access to it.

…we don’t have TV – so he’s not exposed to commercials except when he sees them ( rarely) at other people’s houses- that helps! (In case you’re wondering, yes…my son does spend time glued to the screen- just videos instead of commercial TV – Hubs and I watch Youtube and HULU)

And in her post “Best Toys For The Holidays – Blocks and Building Toys,” MC recommends wooden blocks as a perfect gift for children:

Blocks are one toy recommended by most child development experts. They are open ended. They promote creative play. They aid in developing mathematical skill, spatial relations and physics. They demonstrate the effects of gravity; promote social interaction and improve hand-eye coordination. What more could you want in a toy?

But Lisa from Condo Blues feel that not all wooden toys are a great idea. In her hilarious post “10 Green Gifts That Suck” (which I just read and is causing my kitties to worry about me as I gasp for breath at my desk) Lisa rags on a particular wooden toy:

3. Some wooden toys. I get that last year’s plastic toy recalls freaked out a lot of parents (me too.) However, I think that some wooden toys can be just as dangerous — look at this handmade wooden baby rattle.

Imagine the concussion baby could give you when they throw this warhammer at your head when they play endless rounds baby’s favorite high chair game of I Throw the Toy and Make Mommy Pick It Up.

Lisa’s other nine green gifts that suck, including sock monkeys (one of which I actually received from a relative when I was TEN and caused me to cry secretly into the box from disappointment) and CFL lightbulbs, are just as funny and absolutely true.

Still, whether gifts or green or not, Karen from Best of Mother Earth bemoans families in which the kids tear open their gifts in ten minutes flat and then complain about what they didn’t get. To her, the holidays are about love, “each gift opening was savored. One gift and one sentiment at a time.” And about technology gifts, she writes:

I have sometimes been the recipient of electronic gifts for the holiday. I parallel that to getting a new vacuum for one’s wedding anniversary. I’d personally prefer 1000 kisses than a gift of electronics!!

Karen’s post is full of simple and creative ideas for giving her kids gifts they will treasure for a lifetime rather than a few minutes. She has never succumbed to to the advertising messages pushing her to buy, buy, buy.

And Erin from The Green Phone Booth writes that what kids really want doesn’t come from a store. In her post “What A Kid Wants,” she writes:

Who needs toys when there’s the great outdoors?
Who needs toys when there are playgrounds?
Who needs toys when there are museums?
Who needs toys when there are festivals?
Who needs toys when there are boxes?
Who needs toys when Mom needs help?
[…] Going to museums, playgrounds, and festivals require your time. But in six years of being a parent, I’ve learned that your time is what a kid wants the most.

Similarly, Diane from Big Green Purse recommends experiences over things. In an email, she told me that she will give

tickets to the theater, concert and sporting events, lecture series, etc.; a day at the local rock climbing place or at the auto show – activities they love and would find hard to organize themselves. We all like to give “gifts” – just not a lot of stuff.

But not all “green parents” have such an easy time resisting the bombardment of advertising.

Amber from writes in  “Battling the Toy Catalogues,

My 4-year-old, Hannah, loves the toy catalogues. Sometimes I try to recycle them before she can see them, but she has this sixth sense that foils my efforts every time. If a major toy company or toy store has distributed promotional materials to our area, she can sniff them out. And as soon as she does, the asking starts. “Mama! Mama! Mama! I want this one, and this one! And, of course, this one! Mama! Did you hear me? I have to tell you something! I want this one!”

Amber then goes on to list the reasons she dislikes the catalogs and what she does to try to foil their efforts to convince her to buy “just one doll.”

Because one doll might not be all that bad, but millions of dolls purchased by millions of people because ‘just one can’t hurt’ add up really fast.

And apparently, buying “green toys” gets harder as children get older.

In her post “Christmas Confessions“, Micaela from Mindful Momma says that last year she ended up at Toys R Us and Target despite her best intentions because she simply ran out of time to find greener age-appropriate toys.

I’ve got two boys and they are growing up fast. They want electric cars and video gear, not cute homemade stuffed animals or FSC-certified wooden trucks. They used to like that stuff but they’re moving on.

And Deanna from Crunchy Chicken has given up green gifts altogether during the holidays. In her post writes “Skipping Green Gifts for the Kids”, she explains:

Even when the kids were very young, they always preferred the bright shiny plastic toys over the carefully selected, non-toxic toys made of natural materials that I bought for them. I sure liked them, but since I was the only one playing with them, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to continue buying them.


[As kids] get older and exposed to other kids, media and advertising, they start exerting their own preferences and it can become a huge battle. One that I’m not willing to take on.

Instead of looking for eco-friendly gifts, Deanna limits the number of gifts they get in the first place.

Linda from Citizen Green also believes in limiting the number of gifts and is not so forgiving of parents who buy their children boat loads of stuff. In an email, she wrote me:

Beth, I raised 3 kids and played Santa for years. I don’t think it is today’s kids as much as it is today’s parents. The parents set the rules for gift getting. If parents are concerned about keeping up with the Joneses then the kids will be expecting lots and lots of presents. In my opinion, parents can tell kids what is out of bounds money-wise and quantity-wise.

If that’s true, why is it true? Is it because advertising is so much more intense these days? Is it because parents are working longer hours and want to make up for time they can’t spend with their kids? Or is it because of the simple delight they experience watching the excitement of their kids. I know that was the reason our living room was always loaded with presents when we were little. That, and the fact that we had two sets of grandparents who doted on us, as my parents were both only children and my siblings and I were the only set of grandchildren. Still, no Country Camper.

Some parents have no problem limiting the gifts they themselves buy because their children have other relatives and friends who will fill in. A few of these filler-inners who don’t have children themselves weighed in on the discussion as well, sharing how their own families celebrated the holidays and what they now give to the children of friends and relatives.

Karen, from Chookooloonks said that since her kids get a lot of presents from relatives, she sticks to the guideline, “something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.”

That said, I sort of love the idea of making one of those gifts eco-friendly or good for the environment — maybe something she can plant and make grow, or something like that? She’s very into saving the environment right now, and I think that’s an outlook that needs to be encouraged. So perhaps one of those 3 or 4 gifts will be green-related, now that I think of it …

And BlogHer’s Karen Ballum told us about the original way her mother made Christmas special.

When I was growing up we got one “biggish” gift each. Usually. Sometimes it was a few smaller items. And then we got smaller more “useful” items. Often things we needed.

My mother tended to save the excess for Christmas dinner. Everyone had their “own” dessert. I have six siblings. That’s a lot of desserts.

But what about the guilt some parents feel for setting limits on the amount of gifts they give?

Devra’s post on the Parentopia blog,  “Guilt: What’s a holiday without this special gift?” helps alleviate some of that. She asserts that

Any gift is a good gift. Remember the old adage “You’ll get nothing and like it?” Well, if someone is getting a gift from you, then you’ve already gone above and beyond according to that adage.

Still, for those who really want to make the holidays special, either by finding ways to give without buying a lot of new stuff or by buying the greenest gifts possible, there are a couple of Guides that can help.

Jennae from Green Your Decor has created a beautiful Green Gift Guide for everyone on your list, including separate guides for children and teens, with nary a sock monkey to be found.

And to help parents cope with holiday commercialism, Alline from Eco Village Musings highly recommends the free 2009 Simplify the Holidays Guide from New American Dream for finding ways to create a memorable holiday season with less stuff.

So, let’s continue the conversation. How do you celebrate the holidays? And do you feel more pressure to buy a lot of stuff than you did in the past? Or is the economy helping you to resist the insistence of marketing messages?

This post also appears at and is my contribution to this month’s Green Moms Carnival which will be hosted at The Green Phone Booth on December 10.

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Jen M
5 years ago

I feel NO pressure whatsoever. My partner and I give each other lists, and we usually each get either one big, costly gift (that means a lot to us) and one smaller, “fun” gift, or we get each other some meaningful small gifts.

I only really gift one or two kids in my social circles (he and I don’t have any,) and I keep that simple and as green as possible by asking the parents what the child NEEDS or really likes and buying that child one gift.

10 years ago

As a child I got Baby Alive AND The Sunshine Family VW Camper.

This year my sister sewed us towels and aprons.

Saint Nicholas brought metal scooters, a bicycle and renewable energy toy kits. Not plastic-free but close. Stockings were filled with coop special foods (smoked gouda in wax) and handmade goodies. We gave each other experiences. A family trip to the zoo. A coupon for a party with 5 friends. A coupon for a sleepover party. Soap and candle making workshops. We got two “This is the best day of my life, ever!”s.

* And the kids happily tossed in the giveaway bag the plastic stuff my aunt maliciously bought us at the dollar store and wrapped. This is for me a triumph of parenting!

Buy and Sell
13 years ago

I don’t think it’s these days really except that stuff is so much cheaper these days, the same kind of dollar spending gets a bigger pile of plastic crap I think it’s just a family culture thing. In my family, adults don’t really get gifts, and kids get a small gift & a savings bond. Some families are all about quantity. Some do the charitable donation thing.Buy and Sell

Diane MacEachern
13 years ago

I always say, “Repetition is the key to understanding.” For years when my kids’ asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I’d say “a peaceful world” or “just one day when there’s no fighting.” They found that much more complicated than a pair of earrings or a new sweater! But they got the message. This year, my daughter looked at me and said, “I know what you want for Christmas this year.” “What?” I replied. “World peace,” she said. Then she added, “I’m not sure I can deliver…”!

Beth Terry
14 years ago

As I recall, my sister did not share the Country Camper with me, although my parents encouraged her to. See, she had scored a major coup against her older sister whom she perceived (probably rightly) to get all the good stuff first. Certainly, I got all the new clothes, while she wore my hand-me-downs. I, on the other hand, saw no benefit to this, since mom bought them 2 sizes too big and waited until they were 2 sizes to small for me to pass them down.

As an adult, I’m glad for my parents’ frugality. Then, I didn’t understand at all.

14 years ago

Our issue was that I asked for years for teh Barbie townhouse – which my sister got years later! :-)

Yes, I think my friends feel pressured to spend the exact same dollar amount and gift number for each child. And they wonder why they feel cluttered and are broke for months on end!

14 years ago

Didn’t your sister Fran share the Country Camper with you? I mean, would your parents have really gotten two if you both asked? In my family, a gift that big would be one that was addressed to both little girls and that we’d be expected to share.

14 years ago

My son is 4. This is the first year I’m getting him any gifts at all. His grandparents go so overboard, I never felt like I could give him anything…but they give him all sorts of crap we just have to donate or regift, so this year we’re getting him some things we want him to have.

We’ve tried a variety of tactics and I think the answer is, no matter what they say, they buy things because they like to buy things and Christmas is just an excuse. For the people who aren’t huge shopping fans, we’ve negotiated expectations down (he’s getting hand-me-downs from his same-age cousins, both toys & clothes). The grandparents are just not able to be negotiated with, on a number of issues. Fine. If he wants to bug us about something (he really wants a Transformer toy) we tell him “talk to Grandma.”

I don’t think it’s “these days” really – except that stuff is so much cheaper these days, the same kind of dollar spending gets a bigger pile of plastic crap – I think it’s just a family culture thing. In my family, adults don’t really get gifts, and kids get a small gift & a savings bond. Some families are all about quantity. Some do the charitable donation thing.

Those traditions are a lot of work to change, because they involve a lot of different people at once. Maybe this year the recession will have an effect.

14 years ago

Right after college (12 days after my last final) I was on a plane to Mali, West Africa, for a stint in the Peace Corps. I spent the year acclimating to the tropics (hot!), desert (dry!), learning the language, and making friends in my village… oh, and attempting to “help” (mostly I entertained the natives and learned about real life). I learned that children are virtually universal – they all hate baths with soap (but love to play in water puddles with mud) and love playing with little boxes and tins in every culture.

The christmas in the middle of my service, just shy of a year after I left, my mom flew me home for the holidays. On the way home from the airport, I was informed that we had to make a quick stop at Toys R Us to pick up gifts, since it was on the way. I thought it would be fun to see an American store, with electricity and concrete floors and people who spoke English. I wasn’t ready. I walked through the doors and had a panic attack, the first and last in my life. I couldn’t breathe. I saw absolutely nothing that any child I’d spent the past year with would ever 1) imagine on their own, 2) play with for more than 5 minutes or 3) afford, ever. I very quickly identified the entire contents of the store as “Bandaids for Adults to Feel Better” and had to leave to cry in the parking lot. All that money, spent on plastic hug substitutes.

I cried for the children I knew in Mali who could eat for a lifetime off a fraction of the money spent at one Toys R Us in one christmas season. I cried for the children in the US who were being raised by plastic distractions. I’ve spent the years since wondering when we’re going to wake up. I reject the idea that we either have to choose to have less food than children or not enough time to spend with our children. It’s comforting to know others have too.

14 years ago

Wow–I love the range of ideas presented here. I wish I had thought of limiting gifts when my first son was born, but to be honest, I think I (and a lot of other people too I imagine) transfer buying stuff for themselves to buying stuff for their kids–you still get that shopping buzz, minus the guilt. In any case, I have been cutting back, and last year did a “buy almost nothing” Christmas (though my husband did his best to make up the difference). This year I hope to buy/make/give even less to my kids–they don’t NEED anything. I’ve bought them books, a cooperative board game each (we have sharing issues), some art supplies and small (wooden, eco-friendly, expensive) toys for the stocking. I’m also knitting hats and hopefully sewing some clothes. I also use birthdays/Christmas to get them things they need like underwear and socks, and when relatives ask what to get, I try to steer them toward new coats/gloves/jeans–whatever the kids need that I’m too cheap to buy. That said, they still end up with a lot of cheap plastic crap (CPC) that comes in from relatives and friends and which most of the time ends up broken within a few days. I also am going to have them make gifts for relatives so they can get into the habit young (I’m running out of time on this, aren’t I?)

14 years ago

Usually, Christmas and Birthdays are a time to get developmental specific toys for my older daughter – kids seems to outgrow their toys and need new challenges. This year, I tried to make the most responsible choices and avoid as much plastic as I could. She really doesn’t care if something is new or used – packaging for kids is an annoyance when they can’t wait to play with something. So, I definitely pull from yard sales and Ebay.

It is tougher to pick gifts for my younger child because we generally have things from the first one. My youngest has slightly different interests though – so I resolved to buy one or two quality items from a responsible company instead of a bounty of cheap crap.

Aside from that – the kids pretty much just watch PBS cartoons and videos so that helps with the direct marketing of toys and crummy food too.

I would actually welcome used gift giving too – like a used Dooney and Bourke purse or a used in good condition sweater. My mom bought people antique jewlery – I thought that was a fun idea.

14 years ago

I did get that Country Camper! I loved it!!!!

Due to finances, our kids really haven’t gotten a whole bunch for Christmas. One year it was clothes and some books. The next year was mostly toys and so was the year after. What we discovered after the second year was that the kids really didn’t play with many of their toys. In fact, Piero hardly plays with any of his toys except his stuffed animals.

This year…. we are going to put away all their toys we are certain they don’t play with. If they ask for them, we will return them otherwise they will head to the thrift store after Christmas. If they haven’t missed them for 3 weeks, they aren’t playing with them.

This year we are going with a slightly higher budget but we are buying far fewer items with a higher ticket price. Most of the budget is being blown on a Wii with 2 games and the complete series of Fraggle Rock DVDs. They aren’t getting much outside of these two gifts which are being gifted to the kids together. The Wii is the only gift that Piero has asked for and we figure that it will likely be the only thing he would play with.

Wouldn’t it be nice if they played with items that were green? But that doesn’t seem to be what kids are attracted to these days. And it seems like a complete waste of money to buy things that they don’t play with.

The Raven
14 years ago

What wonderful comments! I love the kid who asked for rice! My brother asked Santa for blue cheese once, and I asked for a pitch pipe. Little ones come up with such funny ideas. When he got a little older, my brother wanted a space ship that really worked but had pictures for controls since he could not yet read.

My son wants a solar battery recharger–for batteries for his beloved 1980s walkman tape player, so he can listen to books on tape from the library when he goes to work with Papa. If we can find this and it is in our price range, I guess it will mean we’ll be giving one of those dreaded ecogifts. Anybody have any leads?

And I, who have never had any kind of cell phone (due to a hearing issue–not to any greenness) even want an iSomething! Trying to restrain myself. I can’t imagine carrying it around all the time.


Beth Terry
14 years ago

OMG Lara. Speaking of making clothes for Barbies, I have another couple of old photos I have to scan and show you.

And yes, that is me in the red dress up above. I loved that dress. It was hand sewn by a friend of my grandmother’s who also created a similarly ruffly dress for a doll of mine.

Okay, hold on and I’ll scan those pictures (because I am procrastinating from writing tomorrow’s post and going to bed like I should since I have to get up early tomorrow.)

Okay, here they are:

The pictures are old and faded and were probably taken with a crappy 110 camera to begin with. But I made the outfits from paper towels back in 1975 while spending the summer at my grandparent’s house in North Carolina. I also decorated them with colorful pins, which don’t really show in the pictures.

Back then, I didn’t need much more than my imagination.

Condo Blues
14 years ago

I’m kinda freaking because my sister had the Country Camper but we shared toys so I got to play with it. BTW my Malibu Barbie always had clothes on. It was too hard to take her swimsuit on and off. I put her other clothes on her over the swimsuit.

I have to confess. I did give one of the sucky things on my Green Gifts that Suck List last year – Rechargable batteries. It was gifted with an electronic thing that needed batteries. Yes, I gave a recharger too.

Lara S.
14 years ago

I have a 7 year old sister, and she doesn’t watch a lot of TV. She doesn’t have cable at her house, and instead owns tons of DVDs, which are thankfully publicity-free. That fact makes her a lot less desperate for new stuff that most the kids her age. A few times she actually said she wanted Santa Claus to surprise her, to give her whatever he wanted.

If you’re at loss at what to give to a girl of 6-10 years old, I’ll give you one suggestion which can be pretty green if you want: knit, sew or crochet clothes or accessories for her Barbies or dolls. She can even tell you how she wants them to be and spend time together during the creation. You don’t need to be an expert or have a sewing machine! Strapless dresses are simple and you can make it special with ribbons or whatever you want.

Mindful Momma
14 years ago

OMG Beth – my sister got a Barbie Country Camper too!!! And you could stick my head on top of that picture of you – the dress, the TV – pretty much the same as my 1970’s life!! Too funny!
Excellent post by the way – such an important and relevant topic.

14 years ago

When I was a kid my Dad (an accountant) would always give my cousins (his nieces and nephews) a savings bond for Christmas. Bleh! As a kid who wants a savings bond!?! But as college students they sure loved those presents! :)

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Tracey, about your kid wanting an iPod — Hey, even I covet the iPhone. It’s all I can do to keep from buying one. (I won’t! My refurbished phone works just fine.) If it’s hard for me to resist, I can only imagine how much harder it would be for kids to resist. So many enticing things in this world. Just so many…

Rob — That commercial IS a fantasy because our Barbies never had that much clothing on. Mostly, they were naked and all tangled up in a pile on the floor.

14 years ago

Mattell is sexist! Look at that commercial- Ken never has his damn shirt on. The real ken would look mor like Homer simpson at his age- beer belly 2 day growth of beard. Or look like me. You should have told your parents that Santa was a dumb old bastard! LOL. Anyway I hope you get a Barbie Dream Camper for christmas

14 years ago

I’ll come back later to keep reading comments, but one thing that I do is to limit the Christmas season itself. DO NOT start Christmas before Thanksgiving. This year, I won’t start Christmas until next weekend. If I have less time to think about my to do and my to-buy list, then there will be less items on the list.

mother earth aka karen hanrahan
14 years ago

LOVE this post Beth – it’s a carnival within a carnival and more!! Cool to be part of the message too – thank you

14 years ago

This post is really the gift that keeps on giving with so many links to more great writing on the topic. Thanks!

Our daughter is a toddler so we have it easy. Except for one thing: I’m afraid my in-laws will look down on us if Christmas morning comes and all we give her is a set of home made gnomes. I once made an earnest comment about how “sticks and stones” are the best toys, and nobody will let me live it down. :) So I also bought C a beautiful, handmade wooden toy from friends who make very affordable, uber green toys right down the road.

As far as gifts for the rest of the family go, I’m trying to keep ALL of it under $100 (google Bill McKibben’s hundred dollar holiday…) That seems like a lot, at first, but is almost nothing when divided between 15 close family members. I do love to give gifts, though, when they come from the heart. So what am I getting them? Almost everyone is getting a carefully chosen book from the Goodwill ($1-3), I’m making lotions for all the gals, a few scarves, a few tins of cookies, some beeswax ornaments, and stationary with flowers we pressed this summer and fall and recycled paper. Other gift ideas are homemade house cleaners and tea blends (or is that just what I’d like to receive?), and cool t-shirts and housewares I’ve picked up at thrift stores and yard sales over the year.

14 years ago

My younger cousins get way more gifts than we did back when we were younger. I think it’s not just parents … it’s that where grandparents used to have 8 grandchildren and you used to have 10 nieces and nephews, now you have like 3 grandchildren and 4 nieces/nephews. So now gifts come from everyone!

Plus, I get presents for some of my friends kids mostly because most of my friends don’t have children. So the ones that do get spoiled because look at the little stuffed puppy so cuuuuuuuuuute!!!

Pure Mothers
14 years ago

Great post, Beth! My son is only 2 1/2 and he is asking Santa for 2 books for Christmas. He loves books! I can’t say no to that. I don’t feel pressure (yet). We don’t have a tv and we don’t shop at Toys R Us. Since we’re in London, I don’t even know where to go for stuff. Thankfully, because I’ve seen a lot of licensed character paraphernalia. I’ve ordered a wood barn with some wooden animals and some art supplies for watercoloring. I feel good about his Christmas gifts. We’re explaining to him what Christmas means also. We want it to be about love and family and giving – not just material gifts – but time to spend together and helping others. I’m sure there will be pressure as he gets older and is more exposed to the world around him. I am just grateful for right now!

14 years ago

Magic wanT hahaha how right.

14 years ago

So right.

My 15 year old wants and iPod and I can’t do it. It’s so wrong. But she’ll buy one the day she leartns to save money.

My 3 year old wants rice again for Christmas. Last year, St Nicolas got her a giant sack of every kind of rice at our Coop. She has also asked for a magic want and a tiara and ballet slippers. She’s not too far gone yet.

I adore sock monkeys.

Send me yours if you get one.

Love & RRRevolution, Tracey

14 years ago

This is a fabulous post….I felt your pain as I, too coveted Barbie paraphernilia back in the 70’s….I wanted the townhouse and my sister got it. We did end up playing together, so I supposed it was sort of a gift for me too!

Now that I have two girls, 6 and 10, the wholsome natural wooden toys are no longer an option. Games that we can all play together (banangrams, Apples to Apples) will be on the list for this year!

14 years ago

I just had to stop by and say that dress ‘Beth’ is wearing is totally AWESOME. Seriously, seriously ’70s fabulous, I’m impressed. :)

The Raven
14 years ago

Excellent post. Thank you for pulling this all together. I guess I feel lucky that we have one child, have no tv, stay out of stores, and homeschool in a nerdy hippie community (sometimes called the Berkeley of the East). My 10yo son doesn’t have a big clue what he is “supposed” to want. On top of that, we celebrate Hanukkah which traditionally has not been a big present-giving holiday. It is more about ritual, instead of stuff. The big things are candles, and food, and family. The stuff we give are classic books we want to own, cool stuff we’ve acquired for homeschooling like dissecting tools, clothing like a fleece pullover he’s been wanting, and handmade stuff. I grew up this way so it seems totally natural to me–but for my husband it was a big change originally. My complete lack of knowledge about pop culture–and my child’s similar lack–can sometimes be a bit embarrassing–but it also makes things a lot easier.