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Have Yourself a Handmade Holiday

Consider making it yourself or buying local for the holidays.

Once again, the holiday shopping frenzy approaches. This year, consider avoiding the crowded parking lots, crack-of-dawn queues, and big box retailers hawking cheap goods made in China!

Rev. Billy of the Church of Life After Shopping preaches avoidance of overconsumption and consumer debt. But if you don’t feel like giving up giving tokens of affection during the holidays, there are some environmentally lower impact and spiritually more satisfying ways to do so:

Make it yourself: While veteran crafters probably have been working steadily since Labor Day, there’s still time to make a few special gifts. Websites and blogs such as CraftzineWhipup, and the Purl Bee offer tutorials and ideas. The Greenbelt Library has excellent crafting books, such as One Skein: 30 Quick Projects to Knit and Crochet and Last-Minute Patchwork + Quilted Gifts.

Have some festive fun and invite family and friends over for hot cider, cookies and a crafting afternoon. But you don’t have to make an object. A hand-lettered gift certificate offering a home-cooked meal for a busy friend or an afternoon of yard work for an elderly neighbor will be much appreciated.

Buy local: For those who don’t have the time or inclination to craft, there are plenty of holiday craft fairs, featuring local and regional artists. Two of my favorites are Bazaart at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore and Greenbelt’s two-day Festival of Lights. In keeping with AVAM’s collection, Bazaart features outsider and folk art, with gifts for all pocketbooks—from bottle-cap magnets to intricate moveable wood carvings.

Enjoy musical performances and workshops for wreath making and paper tiles at the Festival of Lights, while supporting local artists and organizations. The Greenbelt Potters — students and teachers — have a corner with beautiful mugs, bowls, and tiles. Returning favorites such as Everyday Quilts, Celestine Ranney-Howe, and Mystic Water Soap will be on hand, as well as several new artists. In the Humanities Room, organizations such as alight dance theater, the Greenbelt Writers Group, and the Greenbelt Museum offer gifts for sale and information about upcoming events.

Lest anyone think that a handmade gift is somehow second-best, remember this: “The person who creates handmade puts their heart and soul into everything they make,” said Brooke Behnken — who screen prints animal images on cards, bags, and tea towels under the label FuzzyMug — in her recent blog post on the Internet crafting marketplace Etsy. This year, take the handmade pledge.

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