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When our family wanted to find ways to reduce materialism during the holidays, lighten our impact on the Earth and enjoy a more meaningful time with our families while saving money, the whole family agreed to an ingenious Christmas tradition: “Nothing New Under the Tree.” For the past 25 years, our family gives each other plenty of holiday presents -- framed artwork, handmade crafts, gifts of time, gag items from the thrift store -- without waiting in line at the big box retailers for the “must have” gadgets of the season.

It makes Christmas a challenging, interesting, thoughtful event instead of a rush to purchase items that are costly and sometimes not needed or useful. This tradition is almost like a treasure hunt because creativity is an important part of the gift buying.

The tradition has become so popular that friends and grandparents give us used gifts too. When the children were young they occasionally asked for name-brand toys and other gifts. I just told them, "Santa knows, and if he has a used one at the North Pole, you’ll get one.” Once I spent several days trying to find a used battery operated car my son wanted and found a great deal though Craigslist to put under the tree.

As we look back on this tradition, our family can remember many fine “not-new” gifts: the fishing trip I gave my son in Minnesota, the used scooter that he outgrew and that his younger sister really enjoyed, a beautiful antique neckless from my daughter. As the kids got older, they appreciate being able to come up with thrifty gifts on a budget as well. Consider adopting this tradition for your family, it will bring the joy of giving and receiving without pains to your pocketbook and to the environment.

Marie Bourgeois

Helena

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