First of all, many thanks to everyone who suggested topics for this blog. I will get to every one of them eventually. And now, I have a huge list. This one is a highly charged topic that everybody has feelings about. I've been thinking about this one for a while now but it came to a head with a new St. Patrick's Day activity.
Apparently, this year some of the schools have been encouraging kids to build leprechaun traps telling them that, if they build one of these elaborate traps, the leprechaun will leave a treat. This is wrong on so many levels. First of all, leprechauns only give you their pot of gold if you actually catch them, and they are almost impossible to catch. They don't leave candy or toys, and they are so tricky, they almost never get caught. Secondly, why do we need another excuse to get our kids all hyped up about consumerism? Don't we have enough of that to battle already? There are so many other fun ways to celebrate St. Patrick's Day, which is supposed to be about Irish pride, not about getting trashed or pretending that you have that heritage. As someone of Irish heritage, I find it insulting that the holiday has become an excuse for wanton drunkenness.
Now, we have Easter coming up soon. Because I didn't want tons of candy around, I used to have a fruit basket with things we didn't always have around. There were always fresh berries, but we also had mangoes, papayas and other non-everyday fruits. There was also candy in my kids' baskets, and a few fun spring themed toys, but the baskets weren't overloaded and were reasonably sized. And each Easter, they each got a beautiful picture book. I had so much fun choosing the perfect book for each child. They had to have a great story and spectacular pictures. We also colored eggs and had an egg hunt. The eggs and the hunt afforded us a chance to have some quality family time, creating and enjoying each others company. After all, I didn't need hyperactive sugar crazed kids with more breakable plastic toys. What we all needed was togetherness. Even their dad, who loathed holidays, enjoyed this one, stepping up to the challenge of hiding the eggs in places not too hard but not too easy. As the kids got older, they would take turns hiding them for us to find.
A lot of families are now looking at downsizing and are helping their children choose a charity where donations can be made on their birthdays in lieu of presents. For the winter holidays, why not sift through toy boxes and donate old unused toys to children in need. Recycling old toys is a great way to make room for new things while helping others. It's refreshing to see that re-gifting is growing in popularity. One Christmas, my husband and I told our kids that we wanted them to give gifts that they either made or found. We all had so much fun figuring out what to give each other. Some of the best gifts I've received have been homemade gifts. And, I love thinking about someone I'm making a gift for as I'm making it. Coupon books are an easy thing even for the very young. I still have a coupon from my granddaughter for one homemade dessert and another for a shoulder rub. I may not even turn them in. That's not the point, though I'll probably get the shoulder rub. :-)
I've always admired the Jewish holiday's lack of commercialism. Not wanting to ignore Passover during this time of year, I looked for Passover crafts and found many things that reinforced the lessons of Passover and want to share a couple of those with you. Rather than turning this important holiday into an extravaganza of gift giving and money spending, everything I found was about teaching the story. It would be wonderful if we could return to this with the Christian holidays, too. Let's remember what it is we're celebrating.
Elijah's cup: https://toriavey.com/home-garden/family-fun-elijahs-cup-passover-craft/
The ten plagues: http://www.creativejewishmom.com/2011/04/ten-plagues-passover-craft-fun-placards-for-the-seder.html%20
I encourage everyone to get creative when thinking about gift giving and maybe give gifts less often. Most of us don't need to be bombarded with more stuff. Why not give a gift of time instead? In families with more than one child, alone time with one parent may be more valuable than a stuffed Easter Bunny. For a few years, we gathered natural plant materials and made our own dyes to color our eggs. It was a longer process but a wonderfully spent day. If it dyes your fingers, it probably will dye the eggs. Go ahead and experiment. Here are some sites with recipes for this. In addition to the ones listed, I've also used sumac berries. You can leave the eggs for a longer amount of time for richly colored eggs.