Let’s make it a happier, greener, more considerate Christmas.
You might have noticed that Christmas is on its way?! I guess we all have mixed feelings about the ‘jolly season’.
For Christians it is a day of real celebration.
For those with families there are memories to be treasured and fun to be had.
For those who have little money it can be a nightmare.
For those who have recently been bereaved the season can be clouded with sadness.
For those who are on their own there can be an extreme feeling of loneliness.
And, at the extreme there are those who are homeless who feel, quite literally, left out in the cold.
Mid-winter celebrations such as Yuletide and the Winter Solstice pre-date Christianity so perhaps Man has always felt the need to brighten the dark winter days by getting together, lighting fires and making merry.
It’s non-stop bombardment!
But, in modern times Christmas has, like so much else, been taken over by excessive material consumption. From Black Friday on we are bombarded with messages of what gifts we must buy and what we should be eating and drinking. Leaflets drop through our letter box, messages arrive in our in-box, magazines have glossy pages of enticing fashions and foods. It’s so easy for the loving relationships, the togetherness and the fun to be side-lined by all the stress.
60 million presents
It’s estimated that this Christmas alone the UK is set to receive almost 60 million presents, with bath products topping the list as the nation’s least-loved gift. These are closely followed by film/box sets, candles, chocolates and socks. ((My apologies if you’ve already bought someone one of these!)
And then there is the distress caused by having too much ‘stuff’. By giving an unwanted gift you might be adding to ‘stuffocation’ which has been identified as a condition causing distress to many better-off families.
Some better ideas…..
So, what to do to show someone you care? Many people have come up with ideas to take them away from the unwanted socks and bath products:
- There are lots of good gifts made and sold locally at Christmas Fairs. Many people believe that we can move to a better, more sustainable, future by developing local communities. Supporting local Christmas Fairs and markets is an excellent way of doing this. Local Futures is a really dynamic organisation which sees moving away from globalisation towards localisation as the way forward. They’re not suggesting we should give up on the rest of the world but that as far as possible we provide for what we need locally.
- The Buy Nothing Project, a US grassroots “gift economy” group that focuses on circulating goods through a community rather than buying new, had just one 400-member group 16 months ago. Today, the organisation boasts more than 350 groups in nine countries and more than 80,000 members. The project offers lots of ideas to replace a shop-bought gift: Tickets to a concert, the ballet or a football match. Or you could offer to babysit or cook a meal for your loved one. Any kind of service you can provide is not only a great present, it also allows you to spend more time with the recipient throughout the year.
- Charity shops are a great source of ‘pre-loved’ gift ideas which save you money and minimise stuff going into landfill.
- Last year I heard of a family who had agreed they would buy for the children but that the adults would receive just one gift each. The adults were ‘partnered’ up and asked to give their partner a list of possible gifts they would be happy to receive (more than one so there was some element of surprise!) Because they were only each buying one gift it could be a little more expensive with a top price of around £50.
- People who are feeling especially charitable choose to give to those who aren’t able to join in the Christmas jamboree – the homeless (crisis.org.uk) or refugees (www.refugee-action.org.uk) and those suffering in war zones (www.christianaid.org.uk/christmas-appeal)
- For a number of years giving an animal to a person living in a poor country was seen as an ethical way of giving, but this has come in for criticism both regarding animal welfare and questioning whether it is the best way to help families who might not have the resources to feed the animal
But, of course, we all like to open our presents on Christmas morning so many people are beginning to think about the ethics of what they are buying and giving. Has it been produced using exploited labour? What are the costs to the environment of it being transported across the globe? Has is involved cruelty to animals? Ethical Consumer Magazine (www.ethicalconsumer.org) gives ‘All the information and inspiration you need to revolutionise the way you spend, save and live.’
And for a list of smaller, ethically trading companies a good place to look is the The Responsible Business Directory
Then, when you’ve finally chosen your gift, why not think about making your own wrapping paper from newspaper, recycled brown paper and last year’s old Christmas cards? Painting and cutting and sticking can while away many a fun hour and the parcel you produce will be unique and, I’m sure, very much appreciated.
Finally, a word about Christmas cards. Aren’t many of them just so very beautiful? Each year I find it oh so difficult to throw them away, but I’m thankful that ideas are pouring forth about ways to reuse them the following year to make gift tags, tree decorations or Christmas bunting. There are some fantastic ideas on the Reduce Reuse Recycle website.