******mas

December 1, 2007 at 10:46 am 3 comments

I am not preparing for Christmas in the sense that I am rushing out to send myself (further) into debt by buying over-packaged gifts for everyone I know. Nor am I festooning my house with cheap tat made from oil and imported from the other side of the globe. I have a strict rule about not even beginning to think about Christmas before the 1st December. The only exceptions are that I have made my cakes, in order to get maximum brandy into them before I ice them, and bought some cards because I have a friend in China and need to post it early. But that’s it.

I am trying to be as green as possible this Christmas. I don’t buy into the massive festival of commercialism it has become. In fact, the ‘greener’ I get, the more I feel totally turned off by the decorations and naff gifts that are in the shops. I’m a bit of a foodie and love getting foodie things as presents (far better than having yet more stuff hanging around the house), but the weird gadgets that shops are trying to persuade people who don’t know about food to buy you???? Give me a good knife or a Le Creuset dish any day, but really, there is nothing else I need. Or I’d love some good quality ingredients I wouldn’t normally buy (my mum got me some fantastic things for my birthday) but don’t get me something just cos it’s in a pretty bottle!!

I hate how people are ‘boxed’ as well – shops will have a range of £5 gifts, £10 gifts, £20 gifts, so you can neatly slot your friends and family into little boxes for how much they mean to you and buy them presents accordingly.

No thank you! I have given up fighting my way through red, sparkly books of quotations to find things my brother might actually want to read, and now do most of my shopping online.

Now, really, the greenest thing to do would be to boycott Christmas altogether. It is, after all, a huge faff, and extremely expensive. The Victorians have a lot to answer for.

Yet, I can’t quite bring myself to do that. Firstly, I’m a weakling who can’t bear to be different from the rest of society. Okay, okay, that’s not quite true. But it’s important to me to take time out from my daily routine (wake up, drink tea, arrange words on a page, drink tea, faff on the internet, watch cookery programmes, drink wine, listen to Radio4, go to bed) and spend a few days lazing around with my nearest and dearest. I really enjoy cooking a meal alongside my mum and/or my granny, even down to everyone pitching in with the mammoth washing up effort. I love going for walks with the dog on Boxing Day when the ground is all crispy and frosty. I love singing, and carol services, and carols, and hate Slade with a fiery passion. I don’t like mince pies very much, but I’m very fond of mulled wine, stollen, Christmas cake and those little sausages wrapped up in bacon.

On a more spiritual level, I definitely wouldn’t call myself Christian, but as I’ve become more aware of the earth and the seasons, the connection* between the church’s year and the agricultural year has become more acute to me and has become something worth celebrating for its own sake, rather than just because this is the time of year someone decided to plonk Christmas.

I don’t think caring about the environment means we have to deny ourselves everything. For it to be a sustainable lifestyle choice, it has to be about restructuring how we live and how we consume, and coming together celebration is a part of that.

So, having decided to embrace Christmas, what can I do to celebrate it without giving in to mass consumerist hysteria?

Gifts

I am disorganised and untalented and I won’t actually get around to making many of my gifts. I’ll be lucky to finish the cross stitch for my parents’ wedding anniversary which was in September, let alone knit my brother a dalek. (My cross stitch scissors have gone missing.) I am going to cross stitch a bookmark for my bf but that’s it. However, I am going to buy small, thoughtful gifts for those closest to me and make sure that they are made of natural materials (as far as possible) and not going to get chucked out or left in a drawer come January. Next year I shall have done a sewing course, so will be in a better position to make things.

Gifts will be wrapped in recyclable (recycled, if I can get it) brown paper, stamped with potato-printed stars.

Cards

I’m sorry, I just like cards. I know they’re not green, but a card says, ‘hey, I like you enough to get off my arse, go to a shop, find out your address, dedicate an afternoon to writing individual messages to people, buy some stamps and get to the post-box before the last posting date’ so much better than a circular email. Also, my elderly relatives don’t do email. Also, I like getting cards, cos they make the house look festive, and they can be re-used as gift tags the following year. But, yes, I recognise that they are hugely destructive. Therefore, my cards are 50% recycled and all the profits go to Oxfam. M&S had some that were 75% recycled, the highest percentage I could find without getting the train into Reading, and gave a portion of the profits to charity, but all those ones were horrid and naff, and the nice ones weren’t so fluffy and friendly, and I resented the implicit assumption that you couldn’t care about the environment and have taste, so I refused to buy them.

Decorations

Oh, oh, the big tree debate. Do you buy a plastic tree that is made from nasty, unrecyclable materials and gives off nasty chemicals and is shipped over from China but which lasts for years and years? Or do you heartlessly rip a real tree out of the ground in order to cover it in baubles and then throw it away?

I’ve done a bit of reading online, and the main point is to consider what you’re going to do with your tree afterwards. Does your council collect them? Can you chop it up and use it for firewood? Have you got a big garden you can plant it in?

I suppose it depends on your personal priorities. And, personally, I’m all for natural materials, and the idea of a re-useable tree that is made of baaaad things and is imported and hence unsustainable in a post-oil world comes a definite second to a real tree that comes from close by and smells all piney. Mmmmmm. Well-managed woodland is sustainable. Plastic is not. Plants and foliage help celebrate the passing of the seasons. Plastic does not.

The bf doesn’t even want to get a tree at all, and I sort of see his point, as we are going to be away for most of the actual 12 days of Christmas, but I reckon I’ve found a solution, at least for next year. For £25 online (and that’s without looking very hard, I’m sure I could find one cheaper with a bit of effort, and from nearby) you can buy a 3-4 ft Christmas tree in a pot, which you can bring into the house for a couple of weeks and then put outside again, and you can re-use it for at least a couple of years. Someone mentioned a dwarf spruce that will live in a pot and grow to a maximum of 6ft, which sounds perfect. I can’t plant a tree out here, but from what I’ve read, it should survive in a pot for at least year or so, and hopefully by the time its life in a container is over, we will have bought somewhere with a garden that we can plant it out into.

For other decorations, I’m just going to get some good-quality, tasteful tree decorations and ribbons, and check out the legality of foraging for holly…..

Food

… is entirely the responsibility of my mum and my bf’s mum who are doing the actual cooking over Christmas. I have faith that they will buy what they can locally and seasonally, and anyway, it’s their choice, and I can’t nag them about it, because I’m a guest and that would be rude! I can just buy them Joanna Blythman books next Christmas if I have my doubts. Muahahaha. I may well end up catering at new year though.

My word, what an epic post! Well done if you got to the end!

* some might call it the shameless hijacking of pagan festivals by the Judeo-Christian tradition…. they would not be wrong… but I believe that essentially we’re celebrating the same thing – nature and community – and I’d rather just slot in with what the rest of the community does than split hairs about four days just to make a political point

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Entry filed under: Christmas, consumerism, food, peak oil, trees.

It’s Friday night and I’m alone at the computer… Ta-da!

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ali B  |  December 2, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    Great entry! Thanks for taking so much time over it.

    Ali

    http://craft-matters.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  • 2. Hamster  |  December 3, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Thanks for visiting and for your nice comment! I was worried no-one would be able to finish it, it was so long…

    I’ve visited your blogs and looked at your Christmas tree decorations on ebay and have been totally inspired by all your beautiful crafts! If I talk the bf into letting me get a tree I will definitely be buying some kits!

    Reply
  • 3. mrsnesbitt  |  December 17, 2007 at 9:38 am

    Hellooooooooooooo came here via julie, Fiddlesticks.

    Agree with what you say, I make my own cards but enjoy the giving in particular.
    I agree…it shows we care.
    Denise
    xxx

    Reply

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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."

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