How beloved is the beautiful tradition of decorating a tree, lighting the lights on it and waiting for the magical winter-y man to bring us some sweet gifts under the tree! This tradition has survived the rises and demises of kingdoms, cultures and religions. It has changed the name from Yuletide to Christmas and even became a New Year tradition in some countries. Yet, the tradition itself has barely changed in centuries and all of us big and small are excited every year to light up the tree and unwrap our gifts when the time comes. 🙂
Did you know that the lighting of the tree was done as a way to send more strength to the sun during its weakest time (the shortest of days)? And that in Russian culture, for example, the gifts are brought by Grandpa Frost — a magnificent winter spirit who walks around and sets beautiful frost on the woods and rivers of the forests. I believe it was similar in the European tradition as well.
The magic of this time of year is rekindled for me now that our home is a home to two little boys. And while Eleon is still very young to care for such things, Ale has firmly grasped the idea of gifts by now and has quite a lengthy list of various tracks he wished so much to have! Yet, we are trying to keep our gifting modest so that he appreciates the few things that he gets, and of course sustainable. So my checklist for gifting is:
1. Sustainable and non-toxic
Plastic-free and thus biodegradable. No trash left behind!
By now we own a small number of plastic tracks. Sadly, these toys don’t last that long, especially in the hands of small adventurous and not always patient child. Even our most treasured garbage track has a number of plastic parts already broken. And once they reach certain point of missing and broken parts there is not much one can do with them except trashing them. The wooden toys on contrary have no such footprint on our planet and oceans. And so are a much better choice for that reason alone!
Non-toxic, natural and organic materials
Made out of raw wood with non-toxic paints and finishes or organic cloth or wool these toys reduce the exposure to any unsavory chemicals that might be present in the plastic toys. I’m not saying that plastic toys are necessarily toxic, but knowing that some plastics do contain some harmful chemicals I feel better about surrounding my children with toys which are safer for them, even if only potentially.
2. Supporting craftsmen and small businesses when possible
A good way to support those who still create quality toys that are good for our babies and our planet. Here is a list of great online stores that offer a wonderful assortment of children toys from wooden tracks to stuffed animals made of wool and organic cotton. Beautiful puzzles, non-toxic craft materials, beautiful books and so much more!
- Mama Owl ▸ (ships free internationally)
- Wooden Wagon ▸
- Bella Luna Toys ▸
- Nova Natural Toys & Crafts ▸
- Toy Garden ▸
- Little Spruce Organics ▸
- Nina Stainer shop on Etsy ▸
3. Gifting used books
Few months ago a friend recommended an online used bookstore — Thrift Books. Since then I’ve purchased many beautiful books in great condition from them. And so one of the gifts I’m getting for my boys is a new series of books for bedtime stories. The used books not only save the trees, but also cost only a fraction of the new ones – $3-$7 per book! And look at just how lovely they are!
4. Organic fruits as a gift
I think organic fruit makes a wonderful gift any time. It is healthy, delicious and supports sustainable business. We are gifting Ale a whole little box of organic Clementine Mandarins from Frog Hollow Farms. Normally I would buy them at a local produce store, but sadly they haven’t been available at all. So we are doing a mail order. I’m also getting a box of Warren pears for my husband from Frog Hollow Farms as well and a bag of my mom’s favorite organic fruit such as mango, persimmons and apples. Fortunately they are available at a local produce store.
So here we are. Hope this guide proves itself helpful of you to shop sustainable for your loved ones for Christmas and beyond! Happy Holidays!