Eco Friendly Christmas Gifts

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The world is going green.  That’s not a bad thing.  When we respect the environment it respects us.  Besides, the fewer chemicals floating around in the air, the better our bodies feel as well.  For Christmas this year, consider giving some of the folks on your list a less tangible but more sentimental gift.

You know the people in your circle better than anyone. For those who would appreciate an environmentally correct gift there are a few ideas to choose from.  The first is making charitable donations in their names.

Everyone is not as appreciative of donation gift giving so be sure that the recipients are the sentimental type.  People, who like to donate to charities and campaign for causes, are more likely to find this a worthy type of Christmas gift.  If you know their favorite charity, contribute in their name.  Adopt a whale, adopt a dog or cat, or donate money in their name to the local homeless shelter.  These organizations can send you a confirmation that can be placed in a Christmas envelope and presented to the people on your list.

Beat the Holiday Stress

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While many people love the holidays, that joy and cheer can quickly turn into stress and dread from all the holiday shopping, traffic jams, tree cutting, and the million other things you have to do this time of year.  If you don’t beat the stress, you’ll get worn down, and it can increase your chances of holiday depression and weight gain.

You can reduce your stress before the holidays even start by making a to-do list.  Write down everything you need to get done and when.  Then – and here’s the hard part – start cutting.

Many of those family traditions started with family members who didn’t have to worry about today’s hectic schedules.  If you want to keep up with the modern world, you may have to give up some of your rituals.  Figure out what you want to keep and what you can live without.

If there are certain things you want to keep, but don’t have the time to do, don’t be afraid to ask others to chip in.  Ask your friends and family to bring a dish to a meal to cut down on your cooking, or get your partner to help with the shopping.  You can also start a new tradition with your kids by adding them to the list of helpers.

5 Christmas Crafts for Kids

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The kids are home for Christmas break and are bored already.  The weather is cold, wet and nasty.  What do you do?  Keep them busy making something with their hands, instead of you tearing your hair out.  Here are some fun ideas that kids will love.

1. Christmas cards are always a great craft.  Provide the kids supplies like construction paper, card stock, scissors, glue, glitter (the bottles of glitter/glue in one package are a very nice low-mess way to dress up a project), pencils, crayons or markers and old Christmas cards.  Let the kids use their creative energy to make wonderful handmade cards that can be shared with family and friends.  By cutting pictures out of old cards, even the younger children can make something really nice (and recycle at the same time).

2. Snow globes are a favorite.  If you want to make your own, gather glass or clear plastic containers, like baby food jars or mustard or mayonnaise jars.  Wash and dry them completely.  Gather small plastic Christmas or winter decorations. Try to find some that float. Winter themed stickers or small foam cutouts are also nice. Decorate the outside of the jar with stickers or glue a few of the foam pieces on it.

The History of Christmas

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Christmas is a wonderful time of year for family, fun and faith.  Modern Christmas is a blending of many traditions and customs from all over the world.  No two families celebrate Christmas the same, as each family also has its own traditions passed down to each generation.  The sacred and secular come together at this time of year to make a holiday season that has something for everyone.

Ancient cultures had mid-winter celebrations that tied in with the solstice and with fertility rites.  These usually included a feast because they would slaughter some of their cattle.

By doing this they would reduce the amount of feed that their cattle needed over the winter and the beef would last longer over the cold months.  The Yule Log comes from one light festivals held by the Scandinavian people to keep watch for and welcome the sun back.

Various cultures, including the Egyptians, Romans and early Europeans believed that plants held special powers, including protection from evil and healing. They would use evergreens and palms to decorate their homes.

Martin Luther is credited with the first Christian Christmas tree in the 16th century.  He wanted to recreate the beauty of the snow and starlight on the trees he saw as he was on a walk.

Surviving the Holiday Season without the Packed-On Pounds

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Are you one of many who dread the holiday season and the wonderful selections of food that seem to come with it? Even the most diet conscious people have trouble staying away from the many buffet tables during the holiday parties and family get-togethers. While it is ok to splurge every now and then, it is not impossible however to be true to yourself and stick with a diet.

If you plan for your holiday party attendances in advance, you can keep from over-indulging on some of the more fattening choices. You can have fun at the party without having to graze at all the buffet tables. All it takes is a plan of action. Here are some pointers when face with a smorgasbord of food opportunities:

1. Don’t go to a holiday party hungry. This will cause you to actually overeat! Instead, eat a healthy snack before you leave for the party. A bowl of filling soup, a small salad, cheese and crackers or a handful of nuts can fill the tummy just enough so you cannot overindulge at the party.

Greener Cleaning for Holidays

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As the holidays approach, we want to make sure that our homes are prepared for visitors and family.  It brings to mind the spring cleaning frenzy we participate in once winter is over.  Now, we are cleaning out the house to make way for holiday decorations, smells, and warm feelings.  Here are a few ideas to use when deciding how you will clean your home this year.

Chemicals used to clean our homes are harming our health and many don’t even know it.  The cleaning agents rub out soap scum and degrease grime on the stove but they also give off fumes that hamper our breathing and fill our home with unhealthy things.  This year, get back to basics with some natural cleaning alternatives that still do the job.

We underestimate the power of the simple things.  If it doesn’t have ten different unpronounceable chemicals on the label, we think it may not be effective.  Natural chemicals and stain fighters take a bit more elbow grease but they do work.

Try baking soda for instance.  Baking soda can be used as an abrasive to clean the tub and shower.  When combined with water, it begins to eat away at the dirt.  Use a scrub brush to remove the softened dirt and wash it away.

Natural Decorations for the Holidays

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We all like to decorate for Christmas.  It puts the entire family in the festive mood of the season.  Each year, many families purchase new decorations to change the look of our Christmas tree.  This year, why not choose to use some natural decorations for your home?

Natural doesn’t mean decorations that look like nuts and berries.  It refers to using actual nuts and berries as decorations.  Using nature to spruce up the place is safe for the environment.  After the holiday is over, it is easy to dispose of these decorations.  There is no need to pack up anything except for the tree, if it is artificial.

Start with the garland.  We like to decorate banisters, mantles, and archways.  Nurseries have natural garlands for sale and so do farmer’s markets.  Do you have holly bushes or evergreen bushes in the yard?  Use the remnants to create strings of garland to lay about the house.  The little pieces can decorate candle displays and be used to create wreaths.

Berries from the yard add color to the Christmas tree.  Using a needle and thread, string a few berries intermittently with some popcorn kernels.  The kids can help you do this.  To make the decorations last longer and keep the bugs away, add a little shellac to the string with a small brush to seal in the smells.

Should I Get a Real or Fake Christmas Tree This Year?

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The centerpiece of the living room during the Christmas holiday is the Christmas tree.  The tree is where we place our presents for others.  The twinkling lights reflect the light in our heart for others during the season.  Some people choose to decorate a real tree and others opt for fake trees.  Which is best?

Opinions differ on the subject.  But, real trees are environmentally sound.  They are grown on tree farms and harvested around the holidays in time for Christmas.  People keep the tree watered throughout the Christmas holiday so the tree stays green and lush. 

Artificial trees are made of metal and plastic.  Plastic as we know does not break down in the landfill.  Little pieces may flake off and contaminate the water table. 

Artificial trees have one thing going for them.  They can be reused each Christmas.  As long as they are in use, they are out of the landfill.  It saves money in the long run.  Many artificial trees come pre-lit so there is no need to buy strings of lights.

One mistake that real tree buyers make is forgetting to water their tree once they get home.  The tree needs water even after it is cut down.  The warm air in the house can dry it out. 

Gift Wrapping Alternatives

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Who doesn’t want to have a few presents to open on Christmas morning?  Once the gift is open we are left sitting in a pile of paper and plastic tidbits.  These items litter the landfills for hundreds of years because they are not biodegradable.  Here are some ideas for alternative gift wrapping this year.

There are men and women sitting eagerly at the counter waiting to get a hold of our gifts.  They are the department store gift wrappers.  They swaddle our purchases in brightly colored paper, metallic ribbon, and handsome bows.  Obviously they have some artistic talent because our home wrapped gifts never look that good.

The problem with all of this is that the person opening the gift is going to trash their careful handiwork into a million tiny paper pieces.  There are a few exceptions.  Some people carefully unwrap their gifts, folding the paper as they go.  These are the ones who reuse the paper each year for other presents.  We applaud you.

For the rest of us, the garbage can gets full rather quickly with discarded wrapping paper.  Much of this doesn’t get recycled or isn’t recycled.  Decide to end the senseless landfill waste by using other materials for gift wrapping this year.

Shop Responsibly this Holiday

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For many, Christmas has become a commercial holiday.  Instead of being a season of giving, we have bought into the media circus and it has become a season of greed and excess.  This year tailor your shopping to be a bit more responsible in the items that you purchase.

Shopping responsibly doesn’t stop at spending frugally for what we need or want.  It is also a matter of global implication.  By that, we mean that we look at the people behind the products that we invest our monies into.

For example, let’s say that you wanted to buy a diamond ring for the wife this year.  There are several jewelry stores in your area but which is the best one to use?  One jewelry store may get their diamonds from a mine in South Africa that employs unsafe practices for workers or pays less than fair wages.  By patronizing that store, you are condoning the practices by which they received their merchandise.

Who would have ever thought that buying and selling would come to such a level, but it has.  People who do not value human rights are counting on us to let our wants overshadow any responsibility we have to our enslaved brothers or the environment.  Eco friendly groups work to inform us about what is going on in the world and how we can make a positive difference.