New Traditions

Christmas is a big business. Advertisers want to draw you in and promote it as a gift-giving bonanza. Let’s create new traditions instead based on reducing our waste and carbon footprint while spending quality time with family and friends.

Here are some ideas for having fun this holiday season without the gifts. Have an idea? Share it with us on social media with the hashtag #XmasClimateStrike

2022 Update: I wrote this list in 2019. COVID is still here, sadly. Get vaccinated, mask up, and stay safe!

White elephant gift giving 

This is a fun game that involves gift giving without any purchases. Everyone brings a wrapped, unmarked gift, but it has to be something from your home that you already own. It can be just about anything you can package  – old books, DVDs, clothes, cat toys, tools, pictures – anything! You take turns either picking a gift from the table, or stealing someone else’s opened gift, and then they pick again. My grandfather loved tricking us with big, fancy boxes, just to find an old spatula or galoshes inside. My mom got something I was trying to regift that she had given to me. My brother got someone’s old wig. I once re-gifted a watch I got from a bank promotion which was a big hit and stolen numerous times!

It’s not really about the gifts, it’s about the fun and memories made. For more information on how to set up the game see


Food waste is a big problem both at Christmas and year-round. Help lighten the load of responsibility for food and leftovers by turning your celebration into a potluck in which each person or family brings something homemade to share in reusable containers.

Make a donation to a non-profit organization fighting Climate Change

Billions of dollars are wasted during the holidays on gifts people don’t want. Imagine if that money was given to nonprofits working to save the planet instead? Make a donation on behalf of a loved one with organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, Project Drawdown,, Sunrise Movement – just to name a few. Do your own research and make a donation to an organization that is making a difference in the fight against climate change.

Write a group play, song or story 

Assign younger kids the task of performing a play, musical, or song! It’s fun and adorable. It’s not just for kids though. Have your musically-inclined family members bring instruments and song books for a sing-a-long.

In college my broke roommates and I wrote a holiday story. We each wrote 4 lines at a time, but passed along the sheet with only the last line showing. The next person picked up the story from there. I don’t remember the other gifts I got from them over the years, but I remember the hilarity and good times of writing that story.

Movie marathon 

Each year pick a different theme and each person contributes their choice for the movie playlist. Or it could be a TV show like The Simpsons, Friends, or 30 Rock. You can turn it into a game where you get points (or you have to drink, for the adults) when your favorite characters utter a certain word or phrase. D’oh!

Give your time as a gift 

Many exhausted parents would much rather get an offer for a free night of babysitting than just about anything you could buy them. Do your grandparents really need a new book or movie, or would help planting their spring garden be more appreciated? Offer to give your time and talent rather than giving them something they could easily buy for themselves.

Decorate a potted plant or ladder in lieu of a Christmas tree

While there are debates about the pros and cons of real vs fake trees, both have large carbon footprints. If you already have ornaments and lights, decorate something you already have, or buy a plant that will live on after the holidays. 

Create Something New

Be creative! Come up with your own ideas and traditions that work for you and your family, and tell us about them. Share on social media with the hashtag #XmasClimateStrike


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