As we head into Christmas and a frenzy of gifts and gluttony, try to take a moment to step back and remember what the holidays are really about. We found Brian Smith’s story about Recycled Christmas a while back and thought it an inspiring example of what the holidays could and should really represent: celebration, thoughtfulness, and giving part of yourself.

+ Recycled Christmas

Recycled Christmas: One Family’s Revolution Against the Shopping Mall
By Brian Smith

Sitting around the dinner table out at the farm last Thanksgiving, the subject of what to do about Christmas came up. How would we organize a family gathering now that we kids are grown and scattered across the state? Whose house would we use? How would we deal with the whole gift-giving thing?

Everyone seemed completely unenthusiastic about engaging in another orgy of shopping and crowds and waste. There was the sense of duty: to tradition, to the nation. TV newscasters claimed that the very health of the US economy depended upon our generous holiday spending. Christmas consumerism is patriotic. Don’t think about it too much, just shut up and shop.

After confessing distaste for the entire affair, one rebel relative proposed we just bag the whole holiday. The lobbying for this option was fierce and convincing. And for an agnostic family, ignoring Christmas altogether seemed like a perfectly viable option. Though we really enjoyed coming together for a mid-winter celebration, the very thought of shopping ruined Christmas. Wasn’t there another option? Didn’t we have the right to reclaim the holiday and create our own family tradition? After an hour of discussion, and a few more glasses of wine, we arrived at a solution: Recycled Christmas. And it turned out to be the best Christmas since I was a child.

Here is how it works…

Everyone is invited to give presents to anyone else, but these rules must be followed: you can only give a gift that has been previously owned, nothing new; you can make a present, a painting, a song, a poem, or whatever; you can give away something you already own; you can purchase your gift at a second-hand store or garage sale; and all gifts should be wrapped in newspaper. (Sunday comics if you want to get fancy.)

That’s it. Simple.

Well, not exactly.

As it turns out, giving the perfect Recycled Christmas present is a much more personal experience than just going to the mall with a credit card. When you give a present from a garage sale, or from your attic, you must understand and care about the person on the receiving end. Another tie for dad or bath soap set for auntie just won’t do. You really have to think about your loved ones and who they are as people…

Read more at Alternet >