Holiday time! We love it, all the family and friends, food, gatherings, music, traditions–all the warm fuzzy stuff. And yes, we also love the gift giving. We love it so much that we’ve turned it into a juggernaut of excess and waste that affects us in so many ways–financially, environmentally, mentally and certainly spiritually. How much stuff is manufactured and purchased as an answer to an emptiness of heart that cannot be filled with material things?
It’s a shame that rampant commercialism has to be part of our winter celebrations that are supposed to be about love, light and our religious traditions–but that’s old news. It has to be that way because it’s what props up our economy for the entire year, so everybody please just keep your wallets open and your heads down and start buying. Right?
As always, there’s more to it than that. Our excuses for participating in this consumerist frenzy ignore the lasting damage that goes far deeper than statistics about the economy. For some perspective, here’s an excerpt from an article by political and environmental activist George Monbiot (The Guardian, Dec. 2012) regarding our current culture’s holiday shopping patterns.
“There’s nothing they need, nothing they don’t own already, nothing they even want. So you buy them a solar-powered waving queen; a belly button brush; a silver-plated ice cream tub holder;…a confection of plastic and electronics called Terry the Swearing Turtle…They seem amusing on the first day of Christmas, daft on the second, embarrassing on the third. By the twelfth they’re in landfill. For thirty seconds of dubious entertainment, or a hedonic stimulus that lasts no longer than a nicotine hit, we commission the use of materials whose impacts will ramify for generation…This is pathological consumption: a world-consuming epidemic of collective madness, rendered so normal by advertising and the media that we scarcely notice what has happened to us.”
Here’s the truth, pure and simple. It doesn’t have to be this way. Here we offer a few guidelines to help you honor our beloved gift giving traditions with all of the love and generosity of the season, without compromising our pocketbooks, the environment or our sanity. * You can embrace these wholeheartedly if you’re ready, or merely keep these things in mind as you navigate your way through this cultural mire with awareness, remembering that the system will change when YOU, the consumers, demand it.