The holidays are a special time for families. Special in that people who don't see each other that much are thrown together, often within a single house for days at a time, and expected to get along - even though their overall worldviews may be different.

With more and more people leaning green this year, one of the points of friction is the difference in family members' commitment to sustainability, and gift-giving only exacerbates that. Even if you personally believe that Crappy Christmas Presents Are Literally Ruining the World and have Made Green Christmas Gifts Yourself at the Last Minute, or if you fervently believe in Giving an Experience Instead of a Gift This Year, your own parents or in-laws may not feel the same way.

And when kids are added in, with the grandparents' proclivity for willfully disregarding parents' wishes in order to score pint-sized points, the conflict can go exponential. (Ironically, many of us learned as children to be frugal and earth-loving from these same, newly-materialistic gift-givers.) One blogger on Eco Child's Play laments that "it seems as though no matter how green we try to go over the holiday season, my in-laws have the amazing ability to completely undo it with their 10 tons of wrapping paper, battery operated and electronic toys, not to be topped by the tiny little plastic gifts and bags of candy. Basically, it's like they buy out the entire Dollar Store and stuff it in my kids' stockings."

Now, this is not exactly a new phenomenon - I remember my own parents rolling their eyes and sighing audibly when my grandparents would show up at our house around noon with several shopping bags' worth of presents for me and my brother, mostly - but the moral imperative of Saving the Planet adds a certain urgency to what might otherwise be garden-variety disagreements.

This is familiar territory for vegetarians and vegans - and not just because changing your eating patterns is the biggest, most universal way to have an effect on global warming. Holiday time has always meant potential friction for those of us who eat differently (read: no longer eat whatever animal-based dish is your mother's or grandmother's specialty) and we've had to learn to balance our wish for family harmony with our principles and the desire to educate.

One rule of thumb a lot of us have adopted, thanks to prodding from Carol Adams, is not to get into pro-con arguments about food while we're eating - even though this is when others always seem to want to bring it up! Rather, we can enjoy what we eat and provide it to others for them to enjoy first-hand, and take other opportunities to get into heavy socio-political or ethical discussions.

Analogously, that may mean smiling and nodding (with gritted teeth?) while kids unwrap a quasi-toxic treat, and dealing with the incongruity later. If you put in the effort, there's always time to re-mold those young minds, while those older ones are probably not going to respond to much information or chastisement delivered tree-side (if at all) and remember that they won't be around forever. So spend your time grabbing and holding tight for now, and watch for better chances to educate when things aren't at a holiday pitch.