>> Saturday, November 29, 2008
Last year, the New York Times had an article around this time of year called "Jolly and Green, with an Agenda" about environmentalists who were using Christmas as a platform for selling their anti-consuming message but were just ending up driving their families crazy. One example they relate is of a woman who gave everyone in her family a compact fluorescent bulb for Christmas. She thought it would convey her "deeply-felt environmental conviction;" her family "thought she was nuts.”
I read that story and thought, "Ugh." Compact fluorescent light bulbs are a lousy gift. And some people might be able to eschew all gift-giving at Christmas, but my family (including me) would find that pretty disappointing.
As a religious person, I think it's important to preserve the spiritual side of Christmas. As an environmentalist, I hope people will avoid consumerism during the holidays. But as a normal person who loves to give and receive, I say, "Why kill Christmas?"
The problem I see is not that Christmas is a consumer holiday, but that we Americans consume and consume and consume all year long. We buy ourselves the newest and latest whenever we want it. We spoil our children, giving them whatever they want because we want to see them happy but also because it is easier than dealing with a temper tantrum, and we Americans have also become lazy. So then when Christmas rolls around, we have to go over the top, buy huge extravagant gifts, and spend hundreds of dollars to make it seem more special than any other day of the year.
There's a scene from an old book I read as a child - I think it was Little Women but it might have been Little House on the Prairie - where all of the kids got oranges in their stockings at Christmas, and they were ecstatic over the oranges. Christmas was the only time of year they ever got to taste that delectable fruit that we now can have anytime we want.
I'm certainly not nostalgic for the days when oranges were a special treat, nor am I saying that you should only give your children oranges at Christmas. But maybe Christmas would be a little more special if we didn't consume so much the rest of the year. Maybe we wouldn't have to blow Christmas so out of proportion if we practiced some restraint January through November.
As a Conscious Shopper, I think the solution is not a no-present Christmas or a green-message Christmas, but just a downsized Christmas, a responsible Christmas, and an in-the-budget Christmas.
Message to all of my friends and family: please don't get me lightbulbs for Christmas.
Photo by tsuacctnt