The ideas and photos I am sharing are not designed specifically for people with MCS/ES, but they can be easily adapted to meet our needs.
The majority of people who celebrate Christmas do it with decorations, parties, and gifts, perhaps with a visit to church, if possible. For people with MCS/ES, all of these traditions, as currently practiced, can be seriously problematic, if not downright impossible.
Most people use fragrance and other products which can completely disable some of us due to the toxic chemicals they contain. Fragrance-free social gatherings are still the rare exception, leading to social isolation for far too many of us.
There are toxic chemicals in so many everyday products and materials, that finding new things that are safe to bring into the home can often be an exercise in futility for people with MCS/ES (or anyone who wants or needs to avoid toxic exposures) and while things are slowly changing, truly non-toxic things are still hard to find, even basic necessities can require great effort and time to sufficiently remove any removable chemicals.
Fresh cut trees are often not tolerated due to pesticide residues, molds, or terpenes. Not to mention the issue of cutting down trees to throw out a few weeks later (oops, I mentioned it). Artificial trees are made from toxic petroleum based materials which, in addition to polluting the air and the environment during their life-cycle, also require added storage space for over 11 months of the year.
Heretic that I am (perhaps being forced into isolation for so long has contributed to this) I personally don’t believe we need a “Christmas” tree (real or artificial) to be able to celebrate Christmas, which was after all, originally about celebrating Christ…
Back to now, there are too many discouraging and exhausting challenges to list and link here, so many that one may wonder: why do we even bother? Well, traditions and habits run deep, and wanting to have a connection with others, a connection that holidays usually create, is a hard habit to break…
So, with all that out of the way, how to safely decorate?
The good news is, that often we can find things we already have to create a feel-good holiday environment that won’t leave us feeling left out. We may only be able to share it via skype, but that’s another story…
If you do tolerate trees and plants, and really want an evergreen, you can buy a potted tree that can be planted in the yard next year. If you already have potted plants, you can decorate them! I used to decorate the large indoor Hibiscus tree I had. At other times I found dead branches of varying sizes and stuck those in a pot to decorate.
In all likelihood, we have any number of older things lying around that are already safe for us, perhaps having off-gassed sufficiently if off-gassing was needed. With a bit of creative thinking, we can re-purpose everyday objects to delightfully re-create the function of trees
What follows are inspirational photos I found on the web in the last couple of years, mostly shared on fb without the original source credited, so my gratitude and my apologies go out to all the creative people out there who created these works of art and inspiration.
And here are some neat crafty ornament ideas you can make from things you might already have lying around (not all are no-impact or non-toxic, although several are)
10 Natural ornaments for kids and you to make
If you have any favorite links with non-toxic or less toxic holiday decorating ideas for Christmas and for other traditions, please share them in the comments.
We are all in this together.