Monday, December 10, 2012

A Contemplative Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa)

With just a couple weeks left of holiday shopping, I know I’m a bit late to the game to be talking about gifts. But as I’ve been wrapping up the last of my shopping, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to live out the contemplative carnivore lifestyle even in seasons like this where the emphasis is entirely on excess.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all about gift giving and celebration. As someone who does not naturally have a love language of gift giving, I look forward to this time of year when I really focus on loving my family and friends with gifts that I’ve spent time, energy and money getting for them. And I love to receive the wonderful things that my family and friends have invested resources in to lavish on me.

But one thing I have tried to focus on in recent years is exactly what kind of “stuff” I’m spending my money on. For me, this generally means my Black Friday list is minimal and my online shopping list is lengthy, which suits me just fine. But it also means being creative. So here’s a few ideas I’ve used over the years to keep Christmas contemplative while still finding fabulous gifts for loved ones.

1.  Experiential gifts: Tickets to a concert, a play, a museum or sporting event. Movie tickets. A gift certificate to a nice place to eat (preferably not a chain). A massage gift certificate. Giving experiences as gifts is incredibly personal, good for the environment, and creates a wonderful memory instead of gathering dust.

2. Food gifts: Stick to local or specialty items that someone will use, but wouldn’t typically buy for themselves. Things like olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, jam, pasta, chocolate, wine or spirits are great choices.

3. Soaps and bath products: Try local, handmade items or items from chains like The Body Shop or Bath and Body Works that avoid animal testing, animal products and environmental destruction. Stick with universally pleasing scents like citrus. Also, check out makeup tools, sponges and other bath items that are eco-friendly like Eco Tools – a favorite of Alicia Silverstone – at places like Walgreens:

4. Antiques and second-hand items: Check out local antique shops or consignment stores for one-of-a-kind finds like dishes, vases, jewelry or even concert tees. Unique, vintage items are very on-trend right now, so the older and funkier, the better.

5. Handmade items: If you’re a DIY whiz, then you’re way ahead of me on this one and have probably whipped up amazing creations for everyone on your list. If you’re like me and can barely use a glue gun, visit for things like hats, handbags, picture frames and more that are handmade using recycled materials.

More than anything, being contemplative means thinking twice about not only what we buy, but what this season is really about. I pray that much as you eat, buy and live your life a bit differently the rest of the year, you’ll choose to live a bit differently this season as well. Happy holidays!

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