A recycled Christmas

My parents came of age during the great depression, and personified the expression “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”  With a large family, Christmas was no certainly no exception to this lifestyle.  We all received wonderful gifts — favorites were sleds, homemade long-cuffed wool mittens from my Aunt Anne (no freezing cold wrists sticking out of your coatsleeves!), toys, books, and games — usually games the whole family would enjoy together.  And in true frugal style, we all received needed basics such as socks, underwear, new coats, etc.

All our presents, were beautifully wrapped and adorned with bows.  Often my gifts were be-ribboned with plaid hair ribbons which I would then wear on my ponytail when I had long hair.  But rather than tear into our packages on Christmas morning, we were taught from an early age to carefully unwrap our larger-sized gifts and to carefully set the paper aside for re-use.  Ditto the bows.  I can clearly remember my favorite Christmas wrapping paper — it featured a happy Rudolph smiling at me, nose beaming, with holly entwined in his antlers.  I saw that paper many times, and was genuinely sad when it wore out.

Fast forward 30-ish years (cough) and you’ll find me doing the same thing now.  As I have said before, I love the holidays, with family, friends and good food abounding.  I can shamelessly channel my inner magpie, indulging in my love of all things sparkly/shiny/glittery.  Beautifully wrapped gifts are one of the ways my magpie manifests, and with the proliferation of fabric and wired-edge ribbon, I can indulge my magpie AND my thrifty heritage.

I carefully wrap the gifts and dress them up in my sparkly ribbons, and place them carefully under the tree.  On Christmas day, we open our gifts, un-tying the bows and carefully unwrapping the paper.  Then, we carefully fold and smooth the ribbons and paper for storage and re-use next year, or for the next birthday gift.  Over the years we have saved several plastic zippered bags used to package flannel sheet sets or blankets to store the ribbons.  It keeps them contained, accessible for birthdays and other gifting occasions, and out of reach of the evil kitties.

It might sound like a lot of work, but really, it is no more difficult than plastic ribbon, and doesn’t get used once then chucked into the local landfill or incinerator.  Some of the ribbons I am using are on year 4 or 5, I think, and have already been packed away awaiting another year of use.  Its a great way to go green and still indulge your inner magpie.


10 Responses to “A recycled Christmas”

  1. Robin Says:

    Inner magpie – I love it! We use a lot of gift bags so that we can fold them up and reuse year after year after year….after year. My dad-in-law wrote our names on our gift bags in permanent marker. I don’t know if it’s coincidence or planning but our gift is never too large for our bad.

    • Ali Says:

      It must be magic, like the wardrobe — the bag is bigger on the inside, or at least as big as it needs to be :-)

  2. Kim Says:

    Lovely post. I just re-used on of those plastic zipper bags yesterday, they are the best for storage!

  3. jeannie Says:

    I can’t saw I have been faithful to saving wrapping paper, abut the gift bags I love to reuse. I’ve even made some nice journal covers with them. Along with severl other uses. and for the zippie bag? I love them. They do last for years, especially the good freezer bag ones!

    • Ali Says:

      Hi Jeannie, Yes, the gift bags are great for re-using, we have lots of those we’ve received and re-used over the years. Hope your Florida Christmas was lovely!

  4. Daphne Says:

    Our family is a bunch of bow savers. When we used to echange gifts (now that the kids are older we don’t), I would see bows I sent out come back.

    • Ali Says:

      Isn’t that fun, Daphne, to see the ones you used before? Especially when on some nice garden tool ;-)

  5. mangochild Says:

    One of the best things about the practices you describe is that feeling of continuity and tradition, even in something so small as seeing the same ribbon over and over – and being reminded of the holidays. Kind of like having something that comes out only once a year, marking the special day.

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