In my last post I talked about buying handmade Christmas gifts for people. Today I wanted to talk a bit more about my family's Christmas traditions here in Colombia. Normally in the US my family always would cut down a tree from a special Christmas tree farm in Wild Rose, Wisconsin, then took it back to Chicago to put up. Some people have concerns about cultivating Christmas trees during seven years or so, only to have them cut down and used for a month before getting rid of them. I don't have too much of a problem with the practice--farm-grown Christmas trees are like food or cotton in that they take nutrients from the rural soil and concentrate them in cities. Obviously it would be good if Christmas trees were recycled back to the countryside to close the nutrient cycle a bit, but this is not a problem only with Christmas trees. Sewage sludge is often flushed into our oceans instead of serving as fertilizer for farms. Furthermore, many US cities now have a mulching service to turn Christmas trees into park ground cover.
In Spain, where the soil doesn't freeze hard in winter, many families buy a live Christmas tree sapling. They decorate it for the holiday, then in January they plant it in a park or a forest preserve. I'd like to do something like this here in Colombia next year, when we've got our new house rehabbed and settled. For now we're still organizing our Christmas customs, so we have no tree this year. But since my cousin sent me an ornament, we figured we'd hang it in a pot I have of mustard greens, basil, rosemary, lulo fruit, passionfruit, and squash.
For this year, we'll just have this Christmas pot instead of a tree. We even put our presents under it!
You'll notice the presents are wrapped with bought wrapping paper. This is admittedly silly and wasteful, but my mom wanted to wrap things nice for our friends' kids. In my family in Chicago we used to "wrap" things for each other in plastic bags or newspaper. We only used fancy paper for people outside the immediate family. For those who insist on the elegance of wrapping paper, but don't want to waste, I think the nice gift bags seen above are a good option. The recipient of a gift in a bag can use the bag again to give gifts to others, or the giver can even just keep the bag when it's been opened and the gift taken out.