Reclaim the Holidays with Zero-Waste Living
Updated: Dec 5, 2019
'Tis the week before Christmas, and all through the house, every creature was stirring - including the mouse! All were frantic and running around - shopping til feeling run down to the ground! The gifts piled higher, still needing elaborate wrapping, the bank accounts dwindled, to show love, they were draining. The market was packed, tensions running high, the baking and cooking - she lets out a sigh...
Okay, so poetry isn't my strong suit. But doesn't it feel like the holidays are just one big ball of stress? Why is it that once we grow up, the holidays aren't as fun anymore? Somehow I don't think it has to do with not receiving as many gifts. As I celebrate Christmas, I find myself increasingly thinking about what it means and what it has meant to me in the past. Of course, it's always exciting to receive presents, but what I think was most enjoyable as a kid was baking with my grandma, the food, and the company. While this post may primarily focus on and reference Christmas, most of its content could be applied to most other major holidays.
We easily lose sight of what what matters this time of year, and it's important to take a step back and breathe!
THE "WAR" ON CHRISTMAS
We now hear the term'war on Christmas!' every year, usually in connection
with things that have absolutely nothing to do with the actual meaning of the holiday, which ultimately don't matter much at all. For example, let's go back to the big Starbucks cup debate of 2015, when a plain red minimalist design had everyone in a tizzy! Firstly, aside from the fact that it still stuck to the traditional red and green Christmas colors, it's a disposable cup. It doesn't matter what it looks like, because it's lifespan is fleeting and it will be tossed into the trash/landfill moments after finishing your delicious beverage - it is something that will harm the Earth that God created as our home. I think God would much prefer we bring a reusable cup and strive to protect what He has given us! Does the lack of snowmen, snowflakes, Santa, and candy canes really take away from your festivities? We are bombarded with plenty of it everywhere we turn this time of year... Personally, I think the simpler design invites us to focus less on the paper cup and more on what's inside of it, and that by offering something plain and less desirable, it encourages us to bring our own.
This is just one example of how excessively commercialized the holidays have become. Many people can no longer separate the industry-created traditions and festivities from the true meaning of the holiday being celebrated. This goes for all major holidays. Industry has convinced us that in order to have an enjoyable holiday, we have to spend massive amounts of money on decorations and novelties, that in order for our loved ones to love us back, we must nearly go broke adorning them with presents.
The real "War" on Christmas is commercialism and materialism. Our focus is more on the things than the people. We live in a society where we go out shopping and trample people over sales immediately after celebrating what we're supposedly thankful for... how much lower can we sink?
HOW OLD TRADITIONS WERE RE-BRANDED AS "CHRISTMAS" TRADITIONS...
I find it funny how some people hold up certain Christmas traditions as being so crucial to the holiday, that without said tradition, this so-called 'war' is brought about. The irony is that most Christmas traditions have absolutely nothing to do with what we're supposed to be celebrating, the birth of Christ the Savoir!
The Christmas tree, for instance, stems from a pagan ritual surrounding the Winter Solstice. It is also widely believed that Christ was not actually born on December 25th, that the Church decided to celebrate His birth at that time because it coincides with the pagan holiday and could entice pagan believers to convert to Christianity.
And forget the mountain of gifts under said tree - there was actually a time when children only expected Saint Nicholas to fill their stockings with goodies!
Other holiday traditions have also evolved from pagan beliefs. People initially dressed up on Halloween, a pagan holiday, to "ward off spirits of the dead". We pass out candy in an effort to honor the dead. Easter is associated with bunnies and chicks because they are symbols of fertility and springtime, not because they have any connection with the Resurrection of Christ.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with liking any of these traditions; my point is merely that they shouldn't hold so much weight with the meaning of the holiday they're associated with, as they often originally had nothing to do with them anyway.
And for all of these holidays, we're expected to buy tons of holiday/seasonally-specific decorations and gifts. We spend money on these things, and then after a short time, we have to store them away. Even as a kid, I wondered why we dedicated so much storage space to holidays - why was something that was only displayed for two months out of the year so necessary? Of course, I do love decorations; who doesn't?! I love seeing houses lit up for the holidays and brightening up the dreary, dark winter evenings, and I love to see the ornaments hanging on the tree - it's festive! But at what point do we cross into excess? (Hint: if you expect your disposable cups to be equally festive, you've probably crossed over.)
Personally, I like simple, classic decor: white Christmas lights trimming the house, a simple wreath hanging on the front door, a modest Christmas tree with colorful lights and meaningful ornaments, a few stockings, and a ceramic nativity scene. Simple decor means less to buy, less to store, less to maintain, and less to dispose of; it meshes well with a zero-waste/minimalist lifestyle.
I will elaborate on gifting in a small series of upcoming posts, but in sum, try to avoid giving people clutter. You don't have to spend a lot on anyone, and think about the lifecycle of the wrapping and product before you give! And remember, your loved ones will love you more for spending time with them, not for spending money on them.
Okay, so where exactly does zero-waste fit into this holiday revelation? Zero-waste is centered around simplicity, on consuming less in an effort to dispose of less - the holidays are certainly a good time for this mentality to come into play! There is so much waste generated around this time of year: broken decorations, broken toys, cheap novelties, gift wrapping, product packaging, shipping resources, food waste, old cards, excess sales flyers/circulars/magazines, extra electricity to power lights, trees that are cut down and brought indoors to die, etc. I know I sound like a total Scrooge, but it's the reality. The holidays can be a truly magical time of year, but as Rumple says, "All magic comes with a price". By identifying these waste areas, we can work on reducing them. We can alter old traditions or create new ones to lessen the impact of the holidays on the environment and our wallets!
NEW TRADITIONS: BACK TO BASICS
We have an opportunity to reclaim the holidays and redefine them for the better. We can continue down this road of endless excessive consumerism, or we can go back to basics and revel in simplicity. What really matters, anyway? What matters isn't the gifts, it isn't the decorations, the festive prints, etc. It's the people you love and being able to spend time with them. It's everyone being together enjoying each other's presence, enjoying good food, being merry and filling a room with love!
What new traditions will you take on this holiday season?