On more than one occasion, by more than one person, I have been referred to as the modern-day Grinch. The original Grinch is the frightfully unhappy antagonist in Dr. Seuss’ 1957 classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He despises Christmas and ridicules all the residents of Whoville who celebrate it.

For years I resisted this title and attempted to explain – often ineffectively – that it is not Christmas I dislike but the consumerism associated with Christmas. To make matters worse, I am surrounded by people who embrace Christmas with Whoville enthusiasm.  Decorations go up on the first of December, presents are purchased and wrapped soon after, and holiday feasts occur in rapid succession.

I am sure many readers can relate to the internal conflict and uncomfortable feelings I experience at Christmas. We nature lovers tend to be down-to-earth and more attuned to the ecological impacts of mass consumerism than the average person. I like to think Kermit the Frog had us in mind when he uttered his prophetic words “it’s not easy being green.” This is never more true than at Christmas when shopping becomes a competitive sport, and we are the forever losers.

My husband has often remarked that the gifts I do buy tend to benefit me. I think he’s referring to the countless cookbooks and kitchen utensils I have given him over our 20 years together. While he calls this sneaky; I call it clever. So, in keeping with this clever tradition, I am purchasing nature excursions for friends and family this Christmas, and will kindly accompany them on their outings. “Purchasing” may not be the correct word as some outings will cost nothing but my time to organize.

There are no shortages of excursions to choose from, no matter where you live in Ontario. They range from organized owl prowls and dog sled races to impromptu local hikes and trips to the nearby tobogganing hill or skating pond. A trip to one of Ontario Nature’s reserves on a crisp winter’s day – hot chocolate and cookies in tow, makes an excellent gift.

So why not embrace your inner Grinch, stay true to your values and give nature excursion gifts to your loved ones. You will be giving them gifts that far surpasses anything for sale in a store – your time, nature and – if all goes well,  and maybe even more so if it does not – a memory to last a lifetime.  

By Colleen Cirillo, communications coordinator at Ontario Nature