Current Moon Phase

Waning Crescent
17% of full

Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Put the JOY back in Christmas

Put the JOY back in Christmas

Ahh the holidays!
Blood pressures rise and trash bins overflow with the 5 to 7 million tons of extra garbage produced in the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. All that trash is just one of the impacts our annual buying binge has on the environment. To put that into perspective, if everyone lived like the average American, we’d need another four planets to provide the raw resources and the space to dump the wastes.

There’s considerable evidence that our ever-growing pile of stuff–big-screen TVs, fancy electronic gadgets, etc.–aren’t making us any happier. Not surprisingly, nearly four out of five Americans surveyed want a simpler, less materialistic holiday with a greater emphasis on things that money can’t buy.

“People are looking for a better quality of life, not more stuff,” says Sean Sheehan, of the Center for a New American Dream, a nonprofit foundation devoted to sensible consumption and the protection of the environment. “What people really want during the holidays is less frantic running around and more time to relax and have fun with their families,” asserts Sheehan.

Despite a desire to “dematerialize,” the spending spree continues, with dire consequences. Consumer debt has doubled in the past ten years. A lot of that indebtedness is rung up during the holidays. “People feel an awful lot of pressure, especially from their kids, to buy stuff,” Sheehan says. Behind all that pressure are more than 230 billion advertising dollars, a significant portion of which is aimed right at kids.

Reclaiming Your Right to the Holidays
The trick to dealing with this powerful commercial juggernaut is to take time, in the relative calm of summer for instance, to talk about what your ideal holiday season would be. Don’t think of it as breaking the tradition, but as creating a better one. Patience and a little creativity can work wonders. For example, a few years back, my family decided that the adults would each draw one name for gift giving. The pile under the tree was considerably smaller, but the gifts were better. More importantly, we’re having more fun finding the right gift–often holding consultations with other family members–and feeling less rushed.

The Scrooge Factor
Another powerful force that keeps us buying more and more stuff during the holidays is the fear that someone will think we’re cheap-skates like Scrooge. This is especially true when it comes to gifts for children or grandchildren, and, as a result, hundred-dollar electronic toys or games are not uncommon these days. But what do kids really, really want? They want to have fun. A friend told me this story from his family’s most recent Christmas: The children, ages 6, 8, and 10, spent a delightful afternoon playing with a big cardboard box, while $1,000 in toys lay unopened under the tree.

We tend to underestimate the value of thoughtful homemade gifts (a photo album all about a child) or experiential gifts (taking a hike in the woods). And we forget that the holidays should also be about helping others. Many families donate a night to help out at a food bank or a shelter. Those shared experiences will be fondly recalled at family dinners years in the future. More fun, less stuff–isn’t that the kind of holiday you really want?

The Grinch had it right: Christmas doesn’t come from a box.

By Stephen Leahy, Farmers’ Almanac Freelancer

If you notice a hole in the upper left-hand corner of your Farmers' Almanac, don't return it to the store! That hole isn't a defect; it's a part of history. Starting with the first edition of the Farmers' Almanac in 1818, readers used to nail holes into the corners to hang it up in their homes, barns, and outhouses (to provide both reading material and toilet paper). In 1910, the Almanac's publishers began pre-drilling holes in the corners to make it even easier for readers to keep all of that invaluable information (and paper) handy.