December is here and the excited march to the Winter Solstice begins! I’ve been a busy gal sewing, crocheting, knitting, and wrapping. I still have so much to do! It’s very easy to get overwhelmed and overlook the real essence of this time of year (regardless of your holiday): light, love, family, coming together, generosity, and hope. Giving gifts that are mostly homemade or purchased from local artisans or farmers helps our budget and makes our giving very personal and regional. Not to mention, committing myself to that “philosophy” (if I may use that word), frees me from the societal pressure to shop in big, stressful stores that shall remain nameless here. They are breeding grounds of stress! Boo hiss!
But what about the other seasonal touches? And how can one celebrate with the whimsy we were used to in childhood while attempting to live a greener lifestyle as Earth-centric Druids? It’s quite easy really – keep it simple with homegrown, recycled, and found touches of Yuletide spirit. Let’s start with the tree.
|Our beloved dwarf spruce once more acting as our Yule tree!|
The holiday tree you choose seems almost as intimate as one’s diet. Do you prefer real trees or fake? Do you cut one from your own land, buy from a local farmer, or from a “big box” store? What do you do with the tree at the end of the year?
A few years ago, Weretoad and I decided to take another route – bringing in a live, potted tree from a local greenhouse. The little guy has been with us for a few years and continues to make me happy. Sure, our Yule tree is not the massive specimen dripping with lights and perfectly sized ornaments… In fact, it has a bit of a Charlie-Brownish quality to it! But it really makes us smile. It’s also the perfect size for our apartment. The size means we’ve had to be very picky about our ornaments. Decorating has become a ritual in and of itself. We open our box of memories and select which ones are most meaningful to us each year. We end with a silver star made by a local tinsmith. No lights. When we had a fake tree, we hardly ever plugged it in.
|Recycled tags and gift wrapping.|
Wrapping paper seems like one of the worst purchases ever. It is meant to be ripped and thrown away. Yet people keep buying it… Which means I always have a pile of old tissue, paper, and bags from previous years. I can’t remember the last time I purchased wrapping paper. I never need to! Slowly but surely, I’ve started to sew some gift bags and collect reusable boxes, but until I have several more, I’ll continue to reuse old paper from family and friends. I’ve also started to use old holiday cards as tags. Using decorative scissors with scalloped edges, I cut the cards into squares and rectangles, then punch a hole in a corner. Tie on with some twine, and voila! Spread around our little Yule tree, the gifts add to the festive atmosphere. Do you have a box of old gift wrapping material? Make it a goal to start one this year! Your family and friends may laugh at you a little when you neatly fold your gift paper after unwrapping, but you’ll have the last laugh when you save an extra bit of cash next year! Don’t have any paper for this year? Try newspaper. Economical and greener!
|Evergreens from our 2011 Winter Solstice.|
My favorite decoration, related to the Yule tree, is all the evergreens we bring in. Whether they are the baby trees in pots from the patio that become table centerpieces, or the felled branches collected in the forest, they all add to my home’s joy. They are old symbols of renewed life, a huge part of what the Winter Solstice is all about. Tie them in bunches to set atop curtains or hang from doors. Gather them into wreathes or just lay them across bookshelves and altars. Make offerings to the local spirits to thank them for these gifts, and make sure you return them to the land when you’re done. Many traditions say that the greens should be taken out of the house – either on the festival of 12th Night or by Imbolc. Failure to do so may bring bad luck or mischievous spirits into the house! On a very practical level, they can be turned into mulch for your garden or go back to the forest to rot and add nutrients to the ecosystem.
Other fun touches can include hanging your holiday cards over doorways, using old fabric remnants to make a scrap wreathe for the door, or putting out a simple platter of cookies for a Solstice party. One needn’t go broke or stress over adding some festive touches to the home – Mother Nature provides. The rest is up to your own creativity!