Monday, October 15, 2007

Merry Christmas Blog Action Day

(Image courtesy of http://image.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Travel/Pix/pictures/2006/12/18/valdiserePR276.jpg)

As I write today on Blog Action Day, there are 70 days until Christmas 2007...oh yippety yah...70 nights of anticipation and 70 days of ball-busting preparation! Don't get me wrong, I actually love Christmas Day. I enjoy waking up before the children, creeping downstairs and making Christmas Morning Muffins. I also enjoy seeing them open some real surprise presents and watching the sheer delight on their faces as they play with some new toys. And yes, I enjoy receiving the odd present...who wouldn't?

However...it has to be acknowledged that for many, Christmas is no longer the season to be simply jolly, but has become the season of sheer madness which starts in September...and has turned into a madness of over-consumption in every way.

Before I go on, let me emphasise that I am not particularly religious so I have no bone to pick over how the meaning of Christmas has been lost from a spiritual perspective (although I do understand). Also, I am not a scrooge, far from it. I enjoy giving presents and seeing the enjoyment in people's faces over the effort I have made in presenting them with a good honest gift that they will love.

My beef is about the overwhelming efforts that are multiplied many times over in our western society to make sure that everyone has the perfect Christmas...which often consists of...

  • excessively over-packaged presents, many of which are unwanted and are a result of panic buying.
  • extreme quantities of over-packaged food, much of which goes to waste,
  • increasing extremes of excessive festive outdoor lighting,
and which is often accompanied by
  • individual disappointment, if expectations aren't met,
  • excessive waste needing to be managed by local councils,
  • individual regret following over-consumption of food or alcoholic beverages.
Before I get accused of being a grumpy old git, I am simply asking the question

"is it time to change our expectations of Christmas?"

We can all still have a great time, but does our society need to take things to such an extreme, for just one day. Some might say, "but it is only one day, surely if you can't enjoy yourself and have lots of presents on that one day, when can we?"

I say, "Yes, go ahead. It's only one day, once a year...so what's the problem...for now...but what about in 10, 20...or 30 years time...or when your grandchildren grow up, with grandchildren of their own... coping with higher temperatures, freak weather with floods and droughts, rationing of resources. What will they think about the excesses of consumption which led to their situation.

For every present, there is often protective packaging, plus a carrier bag, many of which have required energy resources to produce. It might have been shipped or flown in from the other side of the world, eating into more energy resources.

Once the present is opened, its packaging is discarded for waste disposal, impacting once more on the environment. The real shameful fact is that in many households the usefulness and relevance of the gift can be short-lived and once boredom sets in or new fashions take over that it too is discarded. You only have to visit a car-boot sale to witness the evidence, with the hundreds or thousand of DVDs, CDs, toys. A car-boot sale to me is like a graveyard to consumerism, with people picking over the bones. I know it has great recycling power, but without the heavy consumerism in the first place, we wouldn't need to worry about the recycling issue.

It may seem like I am standing on my soapbox preaching to the unconverted and yes, in a big way I am. However, I am really waving a white flag, calling to be rescued from my own part in this madness, where I can often be found racing around for a present for a member of the family who doesn't even know what they want for Christmas. I do it because they might think I don't love them if I don't and might get a mardy on....how mad is that.

Also, how mad is it to throw out kids' toys which are good enough so that you fit more in each Christmas. On this subject, I do not want to spent my precious little time, taking little used toys to a charity shop or selling on ebay just to make room for more each year. Already, I am getting myself in a tizz, just thinking about it.

For me, the Christmas preparations have already begun. Last week I bought several packs of cards so that I can at least have a chance at sending out my Christmas messages in time for the big day and I will be writing our my gift list soon, to work out all those who I will be buying presents for.

However, this year I intend to reduce my own contribution to over-consumption, with just a few hits...

  • I have made an agreement with my friends that we will not be swapping presents for our children this year. One friend is quite relieved as she already had over 30 children on her gift list ...two less won't make a big indent but it's a start! For me, it means 10 less presents, both incoming and outgoing. That makes 20 less presents for people to buy in total - just imagine the impact if every family did the same.
  • For my extended family, I will work hard and give the gift of time.
  • The Christmas cards that I have already bought are intended for all those people who don't have access to a computer or whose email address I don't have, but for those who have email, they can expect something different this year.

This year, my Christmas list is as follows.
  • If you see me regularly, don't worry about sending a Christmas Card. Show that you are thinking about me by not sending one. I'll still know you care, when you say hello in the street.
  • I don't expect any presents. Honestly I have enough, so don't feel the pressure to shop till you drop. However, if you've slaved over the oven in a Christmas baking project, I will be happy to share your delights instead, but no pressure.
  • For those in my family who really want to treat us, come up and visit . 21st C Dad and the kids would love your company. If you're feeling really brave, you could even baby-sit.
There are lots more ways in which we can make each other feel appreciated and loved at this special time of year. I am sure I will be indulging in other ideas, which can be found by clicking here.

However, if you really feel the urge to buy me something for Christmas, I wouldn't mind a couple of goats or condoms. Not for me, you'll be relieved, but for those in more need of such things. Get the full picture and visit www.oxfamunwrapped.com.


Oh yes, and one last thing....have a great Christmas won't you...and if I've been successful in passing on the guilt...it makes me glad that I am not on my own. Otherwise, I think I would be in need of therapy.

This post was written as a contribution to Blog Action Day, enabling bloggers to post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. It's aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future. It's not too late for you to join in, just visit http://blogactionday.org/.

For inspiration, see the latest posts from Ingenious Rose, Jo Beaufoix, Beansprouts DomestikGoddess, Musings from a Stonehead and Zen Habits, which are just some of the blogs participating in the Blog Action Day movement.


18 Comments:

a.n.other said...

There are only twelve months in every year, so why on earth do we have to spend four of them....a third of that year......preparing for just a few days?
I really do agree with what you have written.
I think we are all so busy trying
to create 'The Perfect Christmas',
the one that advertisers, retailers etc. portray to us, we end up being too exhausted to enjoy it.
The pressure is relentless,especially if you have children, who are themselves being brainwashed by clever advertising, into thinking lumps of inert plastic are exciting playthings.
Parents of course realise that these toys usually become boring and disappointing very quickly, but try telling a young child that!
I have realised, over the years, that you really don't need all that much to have a lovely Christmas, but it's sometimes hard not to give in, no one wants to appear to be Scrooge.
One of the best things about the festive season should be having extra time to spend with family and friends, but sadly, many of those people are working long, almost anti-social hours,so that people can go on shopping for things,that, as you so rightly point out, are probably niether needed or wanted!
Christmas does mean different things to different people,but surely we should be looking forward to it, not half dreading it.

Paul F said...

Setting aside the Christian context Christmas should be cancelled.

Erica Douglas said...

Excellent post. I'm trying to control the excessiveness by requesting just one special gift from each granny, aunty etc.. on behalf of Erin. I guess I'm trying to set a bit of a precedent this year.

IngeniousRose said...

An EXCELLENT post 21st Century Mummy, very '21st Century' in fact! And very topical. I would never have thought about blogging about Christmas for Blog Action Day but you link Christmas to the environment so well, and you have certainly made me think. Thanks for the link to my post by the way.

Jen / domestika said...

I just wanted to jump up and down and cheer when I read this -- not only wise, but entertaining. Thank you so much! I think I'll buy my grandmother a goat.

Ruby in Bury said...

Totally right 21stCM, a very good topic for blog action day, as blogs don't need to hype up Christmas for their advertisers, like the established media does - which worsens the problems you speak of.

Paul F said...

We have just beeen to Marlows - I wish I'd had my camera. The whole of the garden section has become a ghastly grotto of "seasonal" paraphernalia.

Nevertheless we bought a fibre optic tree, as Mrs F has wanted one ever since they began to appear, not least because it saves her the trouble of decorating the "real" (green plastic) one we've had for years. I hope the neighbours didn't seee its arrival.

My father always bought a real tree that went to ceiling height, and even made his first set of lights. For good or ill those days are gone, and I suppose much is better than it was - though off hand I can't...

Stonehead said...

I liked the way you made the connection between the excess of modern Christmas and the environmental impact we all make by accepting the crass commercialism and over-consumption.

We've already "acquired" the main Christmas presents for our boys - two beautiful wooden toys that another family's children had outgrown. I'll make a few things for them as well (last year it was bows and arrows) and we'll have a quiet Christmas together eating our chicken and vegetables with a little home-brewed wine.

The only problem is when the extended family insist on unloading tonnes of "cheap" plastic toys and tat made in Chinese and Indonesian sweatshops on us. They just don't understand what the problem is...

21st Century Mummy said...

Hi a.n.other - That's how I am beginning to feel, often overwhelmed by the pressure of Christmas in the modern world. The best parts of Christmas for me are decorating the tree with the baubles which we have collected over the years on special occasions and which are added to by hand-made decorations from school. I love it when 21st C Dad takes a few weeks off work and we can do silly things like eat festive sandwiches on Aldeburgh beach.

Hi Paul - I know what you mean, but we really do need an excuse for the children to make christmas card pomanders and paper chains....and don't forget the joy of the satsuma in the your Christmas stocking.

I can't believe that even Marlows has gone all grotto-like so soon. Boo Hiss...looks like the panto season is starting early. ROFL at you wanting to cancel Christmas and then going off with Mrs F to get an optic tree. You must now ensure that it lasts for your lifetime and that you unplug it at night. Please promise not to go and get the outdoor full-size snowman decoration as well :-D

Hi Erica - good luck. It always takes a precendent to make something commonplace, so fingers crossed. For my eldest's birthday party this year, I encouraged the parents from his class to buy one present between them rather than get lots. This worked brilliantly as about 11 parents clubbed together. otherwise that would have been 11 separate present...the thought of the alternative sends me into a panic already.

Hi Ingenious Rose - I think it's the link between Christmas and the effect on the environment that is the real thing that gets my goat (excuse the pun) ;-D

Hi Domestika - thanks for popping by. I am sure your grandmother will love the goat, if not try setting up a blog for her. I've got a post on that somewhere ;-) Love your green wedding tips by the way.

Hi Ruby - Oh the advertisers...I could just do a full post on that alone. Maybe I should do a Grumpy Old Woman series (and perhaps our own grumps could contribute)now that I am on a roll. It is advertisers that are responsible for raising people's expectiations. Marketing professionals can always create the perfect life and the perfect reason to buy stuff.

Hi Stonehead - thanks too for visiting. It's great that you've acquired your presents already - it's brilliant when you can get hold of useful quality items which can be passed on without guilt. We're doing the same for my sister, in passing on a range of unused toys and old children's clothes which are in good nick. This is specifically what she's asked for which is brilliant.

Your bows and arrows sound great...do let on how you make them. Your post is great by the way, requires much concentration but makes sense :-D

Nigella said...

21st CM, you are a joy! Another controversial and witty post. As for my feelings, I do love Christmas, but certainly not the over commercialised version which is already taking over the supermarkets. I love the Cathedrals crib service, the pride on childrens faces during their Christmas plays, choosing and decorating the tree armed with a glass of champagne and the man I love, the chance to spend time with friends and family, and the way that everyone seems to play games together on Xmas day without falling back on the TV for entertainment. And yes, you've guessed it, I love the endless cooking, baking and pickling (some of which I have started already) and the resulting smells - well, some of them ;). Most especially, I love the smiles of relief on my dearest friends faces when I turn up bearing a handmade edible gift. And before 21st C Dad has a chance to worry, the sausage rolls will be delivered to your door in advance of the big day ready for your trip to Aldburgh and in lieu of gifts for the children ;)

cerebralmum said...

What a great subject to choose for Blog Action Day. I never would have thought of it.

The stuff about the toys really hit home. It drives me crazy how little I have bought for my son and yet his toy box is overflowing with stuff he will never play with. He prefers a colander and wooden spoon to the drum and a plastic container full of pegs to all the rattling things.

His birthday party is this weekend and, not really knowing the etiquette, I've still stipulated no presents and am providing a homemade wish book for them to write in instead. With the exception of his grandparents (really - who could stop them?) and his aunt, I just can't imagine that he will ever need gifts from anyone else. I dread the time when he's at school and the numbers of people involved starts multiplying exponentially.

Oh well, if the "no presents" policy isn't in place amongst all the parents, I will just have to start the trend.

Fantastic post!

Stonehead said...

I had a good chuckle over the compliment 21st Century Mummy! When I think about it, a blog post that requires concentration is indeed somewhat unusual. But, I was gratified to read that it made sense to someone other than me. Thanks.

As for the bows and arrows, I took an ash stave and split it in two lengthwise with a froe. I then shaped each of the two resulting staves with draw knives and spokeshaves in the same way longbows were traditionally made.

I did thin the staves down a little more from the traditional D-shape as I didn't want the boys to have too much power in their bows.

The staves were finished with sandpaper, given grips made from salvaged leather, and strung with linen string (rubbed with beeswax from our bees). The bow staves are rubbed with a mix of linseed oil, beeswax and turpentine.

The arrows are dowels cut to length, with foam and wax heads, fletched with chicken feathers.

21st Century Mummy said...

Hi Nigella - isn't the Crib Service beautiful. I've always enjoyed since I've moved to Bury. I had my first experience of the Christmas play last year and it was stunning. Little reception class children, dancing around in white costumes with tinsel. It was amazing and I am looking forward to the new play this year and the Pantomime in the refurbished Theatre Royal...what a dream. Of course the highlight will be the sausage rolls. i think you should deliver them by foot with the Nigella clan and arrive to a toast of champagne to celebrate the occasion. ;-D

Hi Cerebralmum - thanks for stopping by and well done for the "no presents" rule. This is a really tough one when the kids get older, especially as they see the presents being taken to other parties. This year though, my 6 year old didn't blink an eye to the fact that he got one present from his classmates. It worked a treat. However, this was a great compromise but I wish I was as brave as you. You're right though. It needs all parents to engage in the idea...hopefully most will be relieved and thankful that you kicked it off. The wish book is a great idea and so is your blog post about the foodmiles. If any readers are interested in how to choose food with a good conscience, this is a fab post to read!

Hi Stonehead - thanks for coming back :-D. That sounds amazing...you should attend fairs and offer demonstrations if you don't already. I must ask though, what's a froe? That completely lost me. I know I could do a search on google, but I'm trying to avoid wilfing at the moment.

Anonymous said...

I work for Cox Enterprises and saw that you participated in Blog Action Day. I thought you might be interested in visiting www.CoxConserves.com. The site details Cox’s commitment to the environment and offers tips on how anyone can become eco-friendly.

Best,
Elizabeth

Hoffy said...

I'm surprised the Town Council hasn't put the Christmas lights on yet. Last year they were turned on on October 6th if you remember (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=409686&in_page_id=1770) !!!!!

Stephanie Derby said...

We’re currently working with Elizabeth Arden, who are giving away free samples of their latest mascara and would be interested in buying some advertising or advertorial space on your blog. Sorry- couldn’t see where to get in touch.

For more information, contact me at stephanie@unrulymedia.com

21st Century Mummy said...

Hi Elizabeth - thanks for the recommendation...I just LOVE your site and am looking forward to finding out more about Cox Enterprises. Thanks for coming and mentioning it.

Hoffy - you are just being naughty. ;-D

Stephanie - thank you for getting in touch. I'll get back to you directly, very soon. My email address is 21stcm@21stcenturymummy.co.uk

Anonymous said...

uh.. interesting thread :)