Reclaim Your Holidays

Creating fun & meaningful celebrations


Stories & News

Skip straight to News/Media Coverage

Iowans' stories, innovative ideas

This is an abbreviated collection of Reclaim Your Holidays stories from Iowans who decided to make a change in their holidays. Click here to download a full list. To tell your own story, visit our Facebook page! Note: Submitting a story gives Reclaim Your Holidays permission to reprint and share your ideas. No names will be used. We may edit responses for clarity and brevity.

  What alternative gifts have you received that you loved?

Bale of straw?
Last year was my first winter holiday season with my fiancé's parents. I knew they were keen on giving lots of gifts, so I asked my fiancé to talk to the family about simple gifts that were useful and meaningful. Though there were still a lot of gifts given, they took my request to heart--instead of the angel figurines and numerous outfits I wouldn't wear anyway, I got a small radio for the kitchen and a few other useful items. My favorite gift, though, was from their farm: two bales of straw for mulching my garden. It got a good laugh from the rest of the family, but it will be one of my best-remembered and most appreciated gifts ever! - Iowa City woman


  What alternative gifts work for kids?

Wolves, orcas and polar bears (oh my!)
Since Christmas 2006, I began symbolically adopting an animal from the National Wildlife Federation, or a similar entity, for each of my three children. I always make sure to get the stuffed animal along with a certificate. Where I purchase depends on what animal I am looking for. The animals I choose are always a surprise and the children look forward to finding out what animal they got. We have had wolves, manatees, orca, peregrine, and polar bears, to name a few. My children are older now -- ages 16, 13 and 11 but I am very excited to pick out this year's gifts. - Mt. Pleasant mother of three


  What alternative gift ideas have worked for you?

Silent auctions
I attend several work related conferences each year in the fall. Every conference has a silent auction to raise funds. Many of the donated items are lovely and unique. I purchase my Christmas presents at these auctions, providing support for these organizations and interesting gifts for my family. Recently, someone called this "doubling down," receiving twice the benefit for my dollar spent. That's all good. However, my favorite benefit is no last-minute shopping without a clue of what to purchase. - Cedar Rapids woman who is tired of last-minute mall shopping


  What shopping or gifting ritual do you have?

Breathe the winter air when shopping
I've never really enjoyed shopping, especially during the holiday season when the mall is packed with frenzied shoppers, moving like a herd of cattle through the mall corridors, with a buying mission that many times seems to override the real reasons for gift giving. I have found that shopping from local, privately owned shops feels better (like I'm supporting my community), and I don't waste as much time driving around to find a parking spot. My purchases also tend to be more unique from these smaller shops, rather than from the big chain stores. The feeling I get from shopping downtown is much more calm and joyous... I love going outside into the winter air between stores, smelling the aromas from the coffee shops and restaurants, and hearing folk and holiday music from minstrels sharing their musical gifts with the holiday shoppers. - Iowa City mother of three


  What alternatives to wrapping paper work for you?

Cloth gift bags look beautiful under the tree
About eight years ago, when my children were all in elementary school, I started sewing gift bags that could be used every year instead of wrapping paper. I buy colorful fabric on sale at the end of the holiday season each year and then sew a few more bags for my collection of various sizes and shapes. I make them very simple with a drawstring at the top and a colorful ribbon or cord. Each year, they look beautiful under our tree and they also have wonderful memories every year from the various gifts of previous years. My youngest son did request that I wrap one gift for him each year in wrapping paper, because he loves the sound and feeling of ripping open the paper! - Iowa City mother


  What alternative celebrations have you tried?

Here's to neutral territory at the holidays
Our extended family has gone to Backbone State Park to celebrate winter holidays three times. The cabins are modern and comfortable. We've had bonfires, we've hiked, and we've seen eagles fly eight feet above our heads. There's no TV, so conversations, game playing and being outside are the focus. Plus, it's "neutral territory" for cooking, so no one gets stuck with all the cooking chores, and it's easy to justify having simple foods when at the cabin. - Iowa City woman celebrating with her mom, siblings, nieces and nephews


News/Media Coverage

“Reclaim your holidays to reduce stress, waste” (pdf)
by Des Moines Register

“Red and green: UNI initiative aims to reduce the carbon footprint of Christmas” (pdf)
by Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

“I’m Dreaming of a ‘Green’ Christmas” (pdf)
Johnson County Conservation Board newsletter

“Making an annual holiday office party green” (pdf)
by Des Moines Business Journal

“How to have happier and greener holidays” (pdf)
Cedar Rapids Gazette


Visit our Facebook page for more ideas... and contribute your own!