Green Christmas + gift guide

After spending last year’s Christmas in Jeddah, Ahmed and I decided to travel back to the Netherlands this year. We arrived a bit earlier than usual, on December 20. This way, we could celebrate my parents’ 40-year wedding anniversary on December 21 as well. Coincidentally, a good friend of mine also got married that same day, so we had a wonderful day full of love and seeing old friends and family.


This Christmas is a very green and sunny one for us. No snow or ice whatsoever. To be honest, I don’t deplore it, except perhaps that it doesn’t feel very Christmassy. On the other hand, it gives me the chance to do some nice runs outside without a significant risk to break a leg four weeks before the big marathon day. After a two-week break from running I started again last Sunday, and it’s going OK.


Of course in the end it’s all about spending these days with our loved ones and reflecting on our lives and how we would like to and can improve ourselves and the world around us. I will write more about resolutions in my next post.
But for most of us, Christmas wouldn’t be complete without gifts. While every year we try to keep it small, the Christmas tree is surrounded with presents. The beautiful ones wrapped by my sister, who throughout the years has become a professional ‘gift wrapper’, and the ones wrapped with second-hand gift wrapping by me.
I should have posted this a couple of weeks ago, but if you need some inspiration for gifts that will make the lives of your loved ones more wholesome here is a guide to give you ideas (originally published in the Saudi Gazette on December 21).


Wholesome living gift guide

The time of the year during which we overload each other with gifts has arrived again. It is great to show our families and friends how much we love and care about them but sometimes we get stuck in the commercial treadmill we need to be part of – or so we tell ourselves – at parties, birthdays, baby showers and holidays. While, in fact, it should all be about the gesture and not the price tag. By the time the New Year arrives, we realize that we need to unwind our minds, detox our bodies, and cut back our expenses to survive the next month and get back on track.

We could do it different this year. We could show our appreciation and love by making the lives of our loved ones better with our gifts. How? By buying affordable presents that will make your family and friends healthier, happier, and perhaps the world even a little bit better. Read on for some great ideas.

Self-development books: This is one of the best things you can give someone who wants to improve his/her life. Think about titles like “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferris, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” by Stephen R. Covey, or Dale Carnegie’s classical “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. For people who want to live a happier, more fulfilling life, “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler is a very good start, while Colin Beavan’s “No Impact Man” will open your eyes about sustainable living.

Plants and seeds

We need nature around us. Numerous studies suggest that even looking at a picture of a tree or plant makes us happier and more relaxed, let alone having some greenery at home and in the office. To name just a few benefits: Plants improve air quality, reduce stress and blood pressure, while increasing productivity, calmness, memory retention, attention span, and tolerance to pain. Or give someone seeds: gardening is a relaxing activity, and seeing seeds grow into plants is a very rewarding experience.

Homemade confections

Most foods we get at parties are not the healthiest ones but if you make your own cookies, cupcakes, or anything you fancy, at least you control how much sugar and butter goes into the batter. Plus, the one who receives the homemade treat will highly appreciate the time and effort you put in making them, knowing you did not just send your driver to the nearest chocolatier.

Spa or beauty voucher

A gift voucher for a spa or treatment at a beauty salon – think of a massage, pedicure, manicure, facial, or Moroccan hammam – is a great gift for someone who could use some me-time. By giving a voucher, it is up to him/her to decide what treatment to go for and when. You can even offer to accompany your loved one and get some time off to unwind yourself as well while having a fun evening out.

Gym membership

Maybe you know someone who has been thinking about joining a gym and getting in shape, but hasn’t taken any action yet. Why not give him/her one? It may just be the push your family member or friend needs! If you’d like, you could even go together and keep each other motivated. Most gyms offer great discounts at the end of the year, so check out a few and start moving!

Workout wear

If going to the gym is nothing for your friend or family member, you could give him/her some workout wear to help him/her begin exercising. The weather is great nowadays, and all you really need are some sneakers and comfortable clothes to get you going. Agree on a couple of evenings a week and work out together for better results.

Donation to a charity

Some people seem to have everything already. They buy stuff as soon as they realize they need something. Instead of spending money acquiring material objects, you can donate the money you’d spend on a gift for them to a charity of their (or your) choice. Print a certificate of the donation and give that to them instead. If you insist on giving a present, find a charity that sells products, such as jewelry, books, clothes, toys, or even cosmetics.

Kitchen equipment

From blenders to mixers and from pressure cookers to non-stick pans: The options to help us prepare a quick healthful meal at the end of the day – or kick-start the day with a nutritious breakfast – are bountiful. Sometimes you just need the right equipment. Have a look at the hypermarkets in town and you will surely find something that suits the lifestyle of your friend or family member.

Your time and attention

In this time of rush, stress, and hectic agendas we are living in, perhaps the greatest gifts you can offer someone is your time and attention. FULL attention, that is, without calls, messages, and status updates that make your mind wander. Give your loved ones a morning, afternoon or evening to spend together without any distractions. How you will spend this time is up to you, as long as you switch off your phone and other devices and give the other person 100 percent of your attention. This will make both your life as well as your friend’s or family’s much more wholesome.

Wishing you and everyone around you a merry Christmas!


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