Christmas doesn’t need to cost the earth


MADE WITH LOVE Homemade Christmas decorations and ornaments are often way more precious than the bought kind.

McKinley and her young family are making Christmas extra special this year

Green Living
McKinley Neal

The anticipation for Christmas seems a bit higher this year, especially given the recent relaxing of restrictions. But, it’s been a challenging year for many people who have lost work or been ill, and so it might not be as easy to spend on gifts as in past.
We’re trying to prioritise what we want for Christmas this year, so we’ve had a family discussion to let everyone express what’s important to them so we can focus our energy and funds. The kids are small and really want it to look like Christmas, while we want to make an extra effort with the food. The adults won’t be exchanging gifts, and we’re well on the hunt for mostly secondhand or handcrafted items for the girls.
We are planning to have the main Christmas festivities in our own house by ourselves, so we’re coming up with some ways to plan what we want and how to include others from afar.
For the decorations, we have a stash from prior years, and these were mostly gifted from others; my mother saved all the decorations I received throughout my childhood for me, and my father-in-law passed along extra baubles.
The girls are making more homemade ornaments this year from cardboard and toilet paper tubes (cereal boxes also work well) that they are painting—we’re giving them full creative license to enjoy themselves and be creative, whatever the outcome. We have purchased reusable Christmas crackers (available at PAX) that they will fill for us with whatever treasures they can find.
We’ll set the table formally, using a willow wreath decorated with holly leaves and berries from the garden, ‘nude’ tea lights (just the candle, no aluminium base) on small dishes, beeswax candles in holders and linen napkins made by Jenny of Scenes & Stories in Newport (she has an online shop).
We will likely be taking a bit more creative licence with the dinner and snacks this year, as we don’t have to buy or prepare certain items (ahem, mince pies) that are not our favourites. We’ll be narrowing the selection down soon, though, to make sure we get an order in with the local farmers and food producers well in advance to secure the goods, and making sure we have all the ingredients for any new recipes we’re trying (chocolate cake with Christmas spices).
To spread the cheer, we started extra early with the Christmas cards, taking more time than usual to write heartfelt words to and draw lovely pictures for the people we have not seen all year. We are also tucking in ‘vouchers’ for activities together once we can spend time together again, which will give us all something to look forward to after the holidays.
And, we’re scheduling in video calls across time zones to share the Christmas spirit with friends and family in other parts, by reading stories or recounting memories together, which is what we need the most.
McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.