Holiday Gifts and Decorations a Different Way – Think Handmade, Local, and Experiential

Michele Guieu | November 21, 2022 | Leave a Comment

The holidays test our incompatible beliefs that we must curb our energy consumption while participating in an extractive and polluting economy. Marketing and advertising would have us believe that the holidays and holiday presents are about things and their quantity and monetary value.

In the not-so-distant future, we will have to do with much less available energy and materials and decide what we let go of and what we want to keep. Experiences with other beings, human and nonhumans, should be at the top of our list of what we value the most. The rest will undoubtedly matter much less. Like Nate Hagens says, once your basic needs are met, the best things in life are free –like hiking, enjoying friends’ company, cooking, playing games, and spending time in nature. 

Here are many ways to make a big impact on your friends and family while having a low impact on the planet during the holidays. Find joy in sharing the moments, enjoy looking for –or making– meaningful gifts, slow down, cook together and decorate your home with simple and beautiful items. 

(All photos M. Guieu, except Farm to Table Dinner)

Natural Materials

Making decorations for the holidays are great family activities. Wherever you live, you can gather natural elements in your backyard, your neighborhood. Pine cones, leaves, and small branches can be arranged nicely on a table and throughout the house. Take a bag with you and pick up what you find during a walk or a hike.

As an artist, it is natural for me to make gifts for my friends and family. But I believe anyone can make beautiful art without buying expensive art materials. Pinterest is a wonderful source of inspiration for creating your decorations.

If you need some thread or beads, go to your local store to see their selection. Also, signup for Freecycle. It is easy to use; you can post things you want to donate, look for items people donate, and post a request for something you are looking for.

Family Christmas tree: Olive tree branches and handmade decorations on white cardboard mixed with vintage wooden decorations.

Treasures from my neighborhood that I use in many art projects: seeds, seed pods, leaves, twigs, small branches, and small rocks. The tiny red peppers are from the garden!

Making a simple wrath with a circle made of cardboard, found natural elements and twine. The shells are from Michael’s.

Make mobiles made of natural elements, thread, and glass beads. 

Making together a Terrarium

There are many ways to create a cool terrarium that can be kept for a long time inside of your houses. You can find a glass jar at your local thrift store, collect dome small rocks, get some organic soil and buy a few small plants at a nursery nearby. Add a few figurines (one for each family member) and water a little now and then. 

Making together paper snowflakes

Make paper snowflakes, tape them lightly on your windows, and enjoy! They are gorgeous and will bring joy to your home. All you need is letter-size white paper, a pencil, and scissors. Follow these easy steps.

Buying unique things 

There are many Holiday markets where you find unique gifts made with love by local artisans and artists. Enjoy taking the time and looking for something meaningful for your loved ones. You can also find unique small treasures on Etsy, from holiday decorations and clothing.

Objects I make with discarded wood:
1. Flower mini-mobiles, driftwood, thread, and beads.
2. Candle holders 
3. Holiday decorations

Gifts as experiences

Some great gifts are experiences, not “things”: a farm-to-table dinner, small local tours like a treasure hunt, art lessons, permaculture and gardening lessons. Activities that people you love will enjoy and remember. Activities that help local talents to flourish and our communities thrive.

Photo: Edible Nashville – Farm to Table Dinner in Ashland City.

More links:
Backwoods Mama
12 Fascinating Earth-Friendly Ways To Celebrate Green Christmas This Year

Michele Guieu is an interdisciplinary ecoartist and teaching artist living in the Bay Area, California. She is the Art director at the MAHB, and the founder of What’s Next for Earth, an ongoing art project supported by the MAHB. Michele co-hosts with artist and author Christina Conklin the Artists and Creative group on the Deep Transformation Network. 
Michele’s website.

The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.