An Electronics-Free Christmas? We Did (And We Survived)
Around here, we’re an organic, granola-crunchy, natural bedding-sleeping, plastic-free (okay, plastic-reduced…this keyboard I’m typing on has outed me there all by itself) family.
And honestly, I’m proud of us for this. It has taken a long time, a lot of research, and tons of substitutions (and trial and error) to get to the point where I can legitimately say my family lives as natural a lifestyle as possible, within the limits that the modern world imposes.
Through the years, when it comes to the natural life, Christmas has been our final frontier. What can be more glittery, more plastic-y, more brightly lit and more deliciously, deck-the-hallsy faux than Christmas? Not in spirit, of course. (That’s a personal matter, and can be a very meaningful and deep one.) Rather, I’m talking about its materialistic practicalities.
Because yes, “natural” or no, like so many other families, we absolutely love all the trimmings of the season, right down to tinsel (yikes!), non-LED lights (come on, we HAVE to buy new lights?), plastic-wrapped candy canes, DVDs (and “24 Hours of a Christmas Story, of course”), made in who-knows-where Elf on the Shelf…the list goes on.
You can see how such a schism was bound to make me, Granola Mommy, feel a bit, well, hypocritical. So last year, I decided we would have a true old-fashioned Christmas…with NO electronics.
(Pausing for a moment of silence here. I know, I know. Hang in there, it’s not all bad, I swear.)
Granted, depending upon just where you go with “old-fashioned,” one could be talking about lead tinsel, non-child-friendly paints and plastic everything…even when one goes quite some way back in time. So we went way-er back than that (is way-er a word?) and decided to shoot for a Victorian (or even pre-) holiday.
Want to know how we did it…and laughed about it (and in the end, decided to make it an annual tradition)? Curious about trying it yourself? Here’s how to have your very own old-fashioned, au naturel Yuletide. Hint: it’s not all twigs and berries (though they’re there too ) and it definitely won’t be perfect, but it WILL be fun. That much I promise you…and it’s my gift to you.
1. Douse the Lights
That’s right. All of them. Just for the day and night, mind you. Yes, you CAN live without electronics. We did it, and we only considered Xanax a few times. (Maybe a few dozen?) You can do it too!
Christmas is all about candlelight…especially a Victorian or heck, a Renaissance Christmas. Of course, if you’re concerned about fire, you can cheat and get battery-operated flameless candles. (I’ll give you a pass on that one.) We went halfsies: for candles closer to small(ish) hands (our littlest was five), we used the battery type, and for the rest, we used the real deal – beeswax, in fire-safe dishes and well away from décor.
I know, I know…it’s sad to see an unlit Christmas tree. One thing I will NOT recommend to you is a traditional Swedish tree decked with, literally, candles. This is intended to be an old-fashioned Christmas, not a fire department one. Emergency response personnel have families too…spare everyone and skip the (literally) lit tree, just for this one night.
2. Bake Up a Storm
I’m a scary baker. I’ll admit it. (Hey…weren’t we just talking about the fire department a minute ago? Hashtag coincidence.)
But because I have taken us back to basics, I’ve had to learn to cook. For our traditional, unplugged Christmas, I didn’t use any ingredients I couldn’t spell.
It’s easy to make anything delicious without adding anything weird to the mix. Trust me. A little organic cane sugar, something flour-ish (we used rice, tapioca and potato flours as we’re gluten-free) and you can make anything taste good…well, except the turkey.
I forced my kids to help, but despite themselves, they loved it. Pull your little ones in, and any friends you can gather. If you have an electronic stove, okay, that’s a cheat too…so do your “big baking” the day before, and be set with wonderful cookies, pies and other goodies on the Big Day.
3. Make Your Own Décor
You may not be the Pinterest queen (goodness knows I’m not), but you CAN make adorable Christmas décor.
Ever seen a movie or read a book that described the family making tree garland out of popcorn and cranberries? Yes, that can really be done. Take my advice, though, and use thimbles. Just…trust me on this one. Then sit everyone in a row with a heavy thread, needle and lots of popcorn…and start threadin’.
This takes forever. For. Ev. Er. But wow, is it fun to think of things to talk and laugh about…and get back to family basics with.
More do-it-yourself décor: pine cones and berries on the table; cardboard cutouts of reindeer, stars, trees, gifts and Santa; snowflakes cut out of organic coffee filters (fold the filter four times and cut small semi-circles and triangles, then open back up); and grapevine wreaths stuffed with bits of pine twigs, dried fruit, and dried flowers.
4. Learn to Sing
I love to sing, and I’m not terrible. But how many families sit around and sing for their entertainment nowadays? We did, and after a few uncomfortable glares at Mom’s tremolo (don’t judge), my children, wife, in-laws and I were trilling up a storm in no time.
What do you do without electronics? Well, what did people do BEFORE electronics? Putting aside more unsavory possibilities, like competitive rock-throwing or stall-mucking, I’m going with: they sang. Remember Pa from Little House on the Prairie, getting his family to sing and toe-tap to his fiddle playing? Yeah, it’s like that. And yes. It IS fun. Try it.
5. Play a Game
There are all sorts of non-electronic games you can play to make the evening fun (or, as my 13-year-old said, “Less skull-crushingly boring.” Isn’t he great? I just love that little dude…hyperbole for the win).
Remember charades? Jokes? Twenty Questions? Those and more are all games that would have been played in days of old. You don’t have to play a Victorian game…just play a game. One that doesn’t involve any buttons, except the ones of Dad’s you’ll push by making a bald joke or slipping a swear word into your turn at charades.
It’s amazing how close a family can get from playing a silly game and laughing about it…and being competitive about it…and losing but not caring because the win was just so darned clever. Depending on your age, you probably played games with your family. Remember the fun? It’s still there…bring it back. Don’t remember the fun? (Oh you Millennials…) Start fun of your own. Make up your own game and make it a tradition.
However you celebrate Christmas, enjoy…and have a happy (and natural!) New Year!
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