On the Seventh day of Christmas…

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) with nine cygnets, pic...

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My True Love gave me swans on the seventh day of Christmas

Religious interpretations of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” claim that the seven swans represent the seven sacraments of Catholicism, however this is likely to be a more recent use of the lyrics. In the 1700s, when the song was written down in English, the Mute Swan was a beautiful bird, a good omen, a domestic animal, a source of feathers for down and decoration, a possible choice for Christmas dinner, and a gift from the monarchy—reasons enough to consider seven of them a generous Christmas gift. Read more at Suite101

Gifts are what the season has become all about. I am sure that even my christian friends would agree that this religious holiday has become all about gift giving and getting things. As many of you have read, I am trying to eliminate a lot of things in my life so I am going to try to give a suggestion list of items that would make great gifts for others without making a huge impact on your carbon footprint.

Every few years, someone takes the 12 days of Christmas and uses it to figure the cost of inflation by figuring out the costs of the items in the song and then showing the differences in the previous year. I found this from a 2008 version of this exercise at Suite101:

The seven swans a-swimming are once again the largest force behind of this year’s index jump, with a whopping 33% increase due to their scarcity. The cost for swans this year is $5,600 compared with $4,200 in 2007. The swans typically have the largest swings in price in the PNC CPI.

While we aren’t expecting gifts from the monarchy, (that comes next year with the Royal wedding, I suppose) a generous gift in our house usually means one big item and some small items for the stocking. Some years are better than others and some years some one ends up with a special gift which would be a “swan” level of generous. But it would only be one swan and not seven.

So, anyway, here is a list of things that I might give someone that would be less packaging, less toxic, less damaging to the environment and better for the well being of us and our planet.

  1. tickets to an event, concert or play, perhaps a Netflix subscription
  2. a class for instruction of some kind, maybe an online class in a hobby
  3. a homemade item of food ( maybe you canned jellies or salsa) or a bottle of local wine. Put them in a nice reusable canvas tote or shopping bag or basket
  4. a homemade/handmade item of clothing or artwork
  5. a gift card for  music downloads
  6. a gift card for a book download if they have an eReader
  7. a kennel stay for their pet
  8. a service that you could provide to them, babysitting perhaps
  9. a coupon for a food item that might be your specialty. Herb has done this with his cheesecakes for teacher pals
  10. make a donation in their name to a worthy cause such as Heifer International, Planned Parenthood or a cause of their choosing, provided you also agree with the practices of that organization
  11. Sustainable water bottles and  reusable food containers for lunchables, or sandwich wrappers
  12. cloth napkins or some cloth dish towels so they can eliminate the paper kind

I know with children this is hard. So maybe you could give these items to a child that would make an impression on the them and also make them feel as if they received something fun

  1. Books are always perfect children gifts for any age. They always fit. This one is especially nice for this topic.
  2. a lunch kit with food storage items that aren’t throwaways, although this might be more of a mom gift
  3. something that is interactive that has no batteries, wooden items for small children, unpainted
  4. homemade play dough
  5. a dress up kit that you  make from items that you bought at Goodwill
  6. a dance or music or art class at the local Parks and Rec. This would work for an older child.
  7. a nature hike with you
  8. a movie of their choice that you take them to. Also a good item for an older child
  9. a tree to plant in their yard, providing they have a yard
  10. cardboard playhouse that you help decorate, maybe include some soy crayons
  11. homemade personalized cooking apron with a set of wooden spoons and a favorite cookie recipe
  12. if it is older kids, a whitewater rafting trip on a local river. Good learning experience about the watershed in your area.

Take a look around your house. I’m sure you even have items that you could give to someone that would be the perfect gift when paired up with one of the items above. Many times the presentation helps to make the gift more special. I have wrapping paper as one of my 12 items to write about so maybe these items will give us a starting point on how to present the gift. We always have fun with finding new ways to give the gift which makes the phrase “better to give than receive” part of  the fun.

Notice there isn’t a Red Rider BB gun on the list but, for that cat that keeps coming into the yard eating your birds, you might want to look into getting one of those.

This year’s tab for the 12 Days of Christmas is nearly $100,000 by the way. Here is another great article on not “buying” into consumerism for this holiday season from the Worldwatch Institute.

And for more Green Gift ideas go here.