Should Mother Earth Replace Santa Claus? The Gifts She'd Bring

Have you finished your Christmas shopping? Neither have I. Not to worry. "It's rude to be on-time," my mom would say. It was a simple coping mechanism for her inability to herd 7 kids out the door on time. Except when we took the train to New York to see the Christmas Show at Radio City, then it was, "The Spring Lake trains are always early." But along with her gift of procrastination, my mother gave this (P)rocrastinating (A)unt (N)o (K)ids the gift of a great experience that we all looked forward to. So while I loved my Skipper from Santa, it was the trips to the city, standing in the snow, waiting for the late train to Manhattan that I loved the most.

As you've probably read, social psychologists have now spent the last decade validating what our memories know for sure: we get more value from experiences like that than we do from material possessions. Not only do we treasure experiences more, we value the anticipation of them, too. So why are we still buying all these Christmas toys? We're awash in them. The average kid has 238 toys, but plays with only 12.

So as the holiday approaches, this P.A.N.K is panicked. What if we have gift giving all wrong? What if just like, "It's rude to be on-time," and "the Spring Lake trains are always early," the tradition of giving toys is wrong. What if Santa is wrong? Or maybe not wrong, but like smokestacks and coal, too 19th century.

Think about it. An obese white guy, wearing fur, drinking a Coke, eating cookies -- Hasn't he seen the movie, Fed Up? He probably has diabetes -- in a sleigh pulled by sweet little, inhumanely treated deer, working 24x7. And that bag of toys? Made from the hide of some cute little animal chased from his habitat by melting polar ice caps, I'm sure. Those plastic toys we don't need? Landfill. Don't even get me started on all those trees we cut down. We need a more modern, mythical figure beyond Santa that speaks to who we are as a species, living on this fragile planet today, a myth that speaks to the world our children's children will be waking up to on Christmas morning in their future. We need one that goes beyond just replacing material possessions with experiences, because if myths are like little lies your mother told you -- survival stories - we're screwed with Santa. But right now, the only alternative I'm seeing is that scary plastic Elf on the Shelf.

But then my Christmas compassion kicks in: maybe we should give Santa a second chance. The marketer in me thinks, maybe we should just reposition him. Where do we start -- an empathy map? Maybe the sleigh first, I think. I call Elon Musk: shouldn't Santa drive a hybrid: a car/rocket ship? I email Stella McCartney: can you believe Santa still wears fur? Shouldn't he wear green instead of red?

My compassion digression is just window dressing. We need someone new, someone with experience, someone who is already doing the job before they get the job -- that's right, a woman. We need a goddess, who can magically bless us with great gifts each year. Wait. That's Oprah. Nah. "Everyone gets a car! Everyone gets a car," would not make Mother Earth very happy, I think. And that's when it occurs to me: It's Mother Earth! That's who we need at Christmas. Sure she's a little crunchy, a little Portlandia, not to mention, pagan, but hey, so are Santa and Christmas trees. Since Moms have been doing the Santa shopping for over a century, certainly the world is ready for a mythical Mother Earth to be the heroine of our holiday.

What would Mother Earth bring as gifts: experiences. Unlike a plastic toy that will be broken by April, in landfills by May, an experience will be remembered and replayed again and again, a legacy to your children and our planet that just may outlast all of us.

In the meantime, P.A.N.K's (and P.U.N.K's): rejoice. It's also much easier to find last minute experiential gifts than it is to buy toys. So the very best gift of all may be the one that's bought late. My mother was right after all: it's rude to be on-time.

Last Minute Experiential Gifts Mother Earth Would Love

  1. A National Parks pass. With 408 destinations, they're more accessible than you think.

  • One on one outings -- a hike and a picnic, ice skating, or simply an ice cream cone anytime, anywhere
  • Museum memberships
  • Classes
  • Take a policeman to lunch
  • Visit a fire station, get your picture taken with a fireman, and ring the #1 engine
  • Physical fitness -- a bounce gym, a climbing wall, a nature hike
  • Toy donation -- Gather all those unused toys, donate them, and in return, get a Lego subscription from Pley.
  • Restore something -- teach the value of restoring what we already have
  • Paddle a kayak
  • Buy stock in a company and take your little guest to an annual meeting
  • Get tickets to a high school production of a Broadway musical
  • Once you've selected your experience, go to and use their free graphic design tools to create colorful coupons for your outing. I've made mine public so you can edit and use them, too.

    Should Mother Earth replace Santa Claus? What do you think?