I Want the World For Christmas

When I was a kid, I would lie awake of a summer dawn, and listen to the birds sing. They made one heck of a racket, and it was a beautiful sound. Day was breaking, and for a child who was terrified of the dark, there was no greater joy.

I don’t hear the songbirds much any more, despite living in a more rural environment now than I did growing up (which was, admittedly, pretty rural). My herd of cats has something to do with that, but it’s also true that the birds are dying off. In my lifetime, we’ve lost a quarter of our birds in the United States.

Maryland is also losing its bat population, thanks to something called White Nose Syndrome (and wind turbines aren’t helping either). This problem has arisen in the past decade or so. A fungus that likes caves has attacked hibernating bats, and disturbs their rest. Long story short, the bat die-off is costing US agriculture billions.

Bee Colony Collapse Disorder is another problem that is costing us billions. Monarch butterflies, one of our busiest pollinators, are also imperiled, and I am frankly terrified that my government, which commands enormous resources, no longer seems to be focusing on these looming tragedies.

So I’m focusing on them. For Christmas this year, nobody is getting fuzzy socks from me, nobody will receive any chocolate. No delicious collections of designer teas, no cashmere scarves from Scotland.

It’s a green Christmas in the Burrowes household. I will send out milkweed seeds for the monarchs, tailored to fit the recipient’s ecosystem. You can browse here for the best variety to plant where you are here, (and fall is the best time to plant most species). For the bats, I’ll send bat boxes. They discourage the troublesome fungus, and on Amazon, they retail for as little as $30.

For the bees, I’ll give pollinator perennial seed packets, using the website here to make sure the flowers I’m sending will work where they’re planted. For those with the room, I might send a bee house, because pollinators need places to raise their young. My Christmas present to myself will be to plant more flowering trees and fruit trees on my property.

If all else fails, the hard to buy for on my list will get some danged birdseed and a bird feeder to help the non-migatory species get through the winter. I still want everybody to have good books for Christmas, (see the November Deals here), and I want peace on earth and wellbeing for my human family too. I also want to have a world like the one I grew up in, where the birds and bees were abundant and happy, and a summer dawn was a noisy, joyous time.

How is your holiday shopping going? Do you stick with some old reliable gifts year in and year out, or will this year take a little different direction? To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 Amazon gift card.

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21 comments on “I Want the World For Christmas

  1. I love your ideas because we’ve implemented many here in suburban Chicago. I planted milkweed several years ago and this year saw a marked INCREASE in Monarchs and other butterflies in our yard. Hubby loves *His Birds* and has a multitude of feeders, including for Hummingbirds, his favorites and the most interesting.

    I’ve been giving people plants for years–I have given my MIL amaryllis bulbs ever since she moved into a senior living hotel a few years ago. She loves to watch them bloom because she misses her yard. It’s win-win–I give her something I know she enjoys and she doesn’t get yet another thing she doesn’t have room for.

    The real gift shopping will begin in a few weeks for me and thanks for the ideas!

    • I live in the country, where all those bad-bad pesticides have been used en masse for years. Maryland has banned the worst of them, but I think it’s going to be a long, long time before I see any rebound here. Oddly enough, it’s probably ecosystems like yours–urban and suburban–that can undo a lot of the damage most quickly. Good on ya!

  2. I have four grandchildren,two boys,two girls,the youngest is now a teenager and I am reminded that she no longer wants to be called the baby of the family.So they are all grown.I miss the Christmas times when they were little.Toys sweets treats books games the laughter and the excitement on their faces when Santa made a special visit Family all together and having fun and merriment.They seem long ago now My family give me comfortable chair and sit me in the corner to take it easy.I’m not ready for that yet!!.I still want to be in the middle of the fun and action.I know things change and time presses on but don’t leave me out yet.My grandchildren may have become adults and have different expectations of Christmas but this old granny still likes to celebrate a good family get together.I know it will change but not yet.Time races on but tis the season to be merry.Give thanks for what we have and stay grounded..

    • As a kid, one of the things I loved best about the holidays was seeing my grown siblings again, and even the occasional stray cousin. Americans are so peripatetic and spread out, that family gatherings can become a rarity. And there are waves…. for many years, my family didn’t get together as a tribe AT ALL, then one brother decided we were due for some reunions. For the past thirty years or, so, there’s been a reunion every ten years. Not everybody can come every year, but it’s a gathering away from holiday stresses, and we treasure it.

  3. I am in the thinking stage in my Christmas gift shopping. Have a couple of ideas but that’s about it.
    I usually give books to a few friends and I have the book selections written down. My daughter is hard to buy for…so no ideas yet. My husband and I are planning to spend a few days in New Hampshire next year. I am thinking about giving him a gift related to the trip.

    I like your green ideas. I am going to plant milkweed and some wildflowers. I had looked into getting bee hives. My neighbors use pesticides so we did not qualify. the bat boxes, that’s a fabulous idea!

    I think a mix of tried and true gifts with a few surprises will work this year. I would like to rework my gardens and will consider planting to encourage an environment for butterflies and bees and birds. Great ideas!

    • Susan, for one of my hard-to-buy-fors I’m getting an annual pass to MasterClass. They have courses on leadership, innovation, cooking, composing, writing–something for everybody–and they’re taught in 7-15 minute bytes. It’s time flexible, content flexible, and food for the mind. I’m hoping my friend uses it, or maybe shares it with somebody who will. https://www.masterclass.com/

  4. We just received a small packet of milkweed seeds for halloween and you are inspiring me to find a spot for planting.

    For Hanukah we do themes, last year one of my kids got art supplies and one baseball card packs. It worked so well I think we are sticking with them again this year.

  5. Grace, the lightbulb above my head just went on! You have brilliant ideas for Christmas presents and they are unique and special. Normally I’m shopping for the standard stuff but this year I really will amaze my family with wonderful gifts. Thanks.

  6. Our ‘grass’ is actually a mix of mostly weeds, which is like what I grew up with. So you would have small flowering plants growing in your yard, and always bees and bumble bees flying around. The hum was lovely. I don’t see that much anymore and it is sad. Nor all that many birds. I grew up in the country and minored in biology so maybe I notice it more than most people who have always been urban. My son planted a butterfly garden once, I think I’ll encourage him to replant his unused garden space.

    My son’s garden has been allowed to go wild, and has flowering plants in it. I notice more bees and even hummingbirds around it. Single species lawns are not good for bees and beneficial insects. And Roundup and other herbicides are a killer to them.

    I hate to sound fatalistic, but climate change has been upon us for decades and it has now speeded up. We notice the extreme weather, and bird and insect migratory patterns are changing. There will be more flooding, more drought, etc. It’s not the first time this has happened and it won’t be the last. Yes, humans contributed a lot to this one. This is not meant to be a challenge to anyone’s beliefs.

    Your Christmas gifts seem lovely. We will stick with the old tried and true this year for our Christmas. My son mostly wants money, my husband wants music. My big gift is a kindle unlimited subscription which I order myself. The dogs and cats also get gifts. My mother-in-law is big on shopping, so I will give her a gift certificate and some small gifts and ask my husband to take her shopping out of town, her choice. I will try to catch a Christmas program this year, haven’t been to one in a while.

    No gift card required, I’ve already gotten one this year, and enjoyed the book shopping spree.

  7. Original ideas! I shop all year, especially for the silly and the free stuff. As both my husband and I come from large families, we tend not to give gifts, unless we will be together and even then it’s mostly free or “re-gifted.” It can be hilarious.

    My kids give me very precise lists… premium peppercorns and vanilla extract often figure.

    Milkweed isn’t welcome just everywhere. Check. And people around here were fined this year if their fruit trees weren’t completely harvested, the fruit off the ground and not added to compost.

    World peace would be lovely but I’d settle for a little more common sense in the coming year.

  8. I come from a very large family (4 siblings with 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren for my parents). Many years ago, when I lived in California and had never met a bunch of the grandchildren, I told my sibs that I would stop buying for everybody because I couldn’t afford it. While I live close to and/or see them several times a year now, we don’t do gift exchanges outside of sibling-level families, except my Mom always gives everybody a cash gift, depending on age. I was never a very good gift-giver anyway and don’t really need anything I don’t already have, so it’s a lot less stressful for me not to have to think up gifts for anybody, including myself. I’m not a Scrooge and I enjoy our holiday meals together and the holiday cards that some of us (me and my Mom and sisters mostly) send to everybody. If I gave gifts, though, your ideas are wonderful!

  9. I have yet to start actual shopping but this year my kids have both requested money and practical items – so they will be easy. I had been debating for my father and stepmother, but today’s blog reminded me that they and my in-laws both mentioned having room for another bird house and feeder respectively. Thanks so much for that, Grace!

    I do have a friend who is a beekeeper. She has hives in 2 locations and faces constant battles from mites and other problems that I never would have considered – including internal hive mutinies and battles. Listening to her talk about her hives is always educational and makes me more fully appreciate the problems our bees face.

  10. I love your holiday gift idea list! I worry about bees and birds as well. My cat seems to be a rodent remover not interested the birds (thankfully). In the past, i have given mosquito nets from nothing but nets and micro loans so women in Africa can purchase a chicken or goat to start their own business from global giving. Always give books to the younger set. I too wish for peace.

  11. I love your ideas for gifts. I hope your message reaches a very wide audience and more and more people pick up these ideas, if not now then for future gift giving ideas. I know a handful of people that any of these ideas would really appeal to. So, thank you and more power to ya!

  12. Hi there. We gave up on Christmas a long time ago. My kid is almost 30 and has gone from home for almost 10 years. My husband is not a believer and even worse, a chef….. and my other family does not celebrate Christmas. At all. So it is the dogs and me. I buy them gifts, put it under a tiny tree, and we have a hot Summer night (more possible than not), reading in front of the TV. That is my Christmas

  13. I live so very far away from the kids and grandkids that I just send money. And for my 100 year old mother, a card is all she asks for because if there’s anything she wants, she gets it immediately. But for my boyfriend, I look all year long for gifts for him and just accumulate them. He has a wonderful butterfly garden WITH milkweed.

  14. what fantastic ideas for gifts. My SIL is very ecologically woke, but my mother- not at all. Sigh.
    We’re still waiting to completely replant our yard after Hurricane Michael wiped everything out more than a year ago. I have chosen some plants to help the bees and butterflies, and things that are local and won’t require much water. Fingers crossed! With virtually no trees around us, most of our birds have moved on.

  15. nobody in the family seems to want ‘stuff’ anymore (me included) so I’ve started giving consumables – honey, wine, snacks, hand creams, etc plus some cash that can be used for ‘adventures’ like trips, concerts, museums. I do get the kiddies one toy – legos are popular. I love your suggestions – I may get some seeds for the gardeners – they all have birdfeeders, but maybe some birdseed.

  16. The budget is straining this year and by shear accident 2 friends stepped up this summer not knowing my circumstances. With one I canned vanilla peaches and spiced peaches and with the other a whole bunch of applesauce. I also found (thru the Great British Bake Off) something called Mixed Spice which has completely replaced cinnamon in my life. It’s a combination of a whole bunch of spices and a 2oz bottle of that is going in with the peaches, applesauce and a box of home made goodies. The funny thing is that both my granddaughters are DIY’ing it this year. One granddaughter is going to paint my fireplace. Yeah. I found shoe boxes for under $3.00 those will be used as ‘baskets’.

    I will be looking into planting milkweed for sure.