“Talk to me about Christmas”, said a friend recently when we went for coffee together. It’s a time of year she hates for a whole host of reasons, but she wanted to change and thought that hearing me talk about it might help. Because I love Christmas. I just can’t help myself! I love the build-up, the decorations, the food, fun with the family, time with friends, a chance to curl up afterwards with a book and relax… oh, and of course, there are the presents too!
But like so many of us, I’ve also become painfully aware of the cost of Christmas, not just to our personal budget, but also to the earth and its inhabitants, who sadly bear the brunt of our celebrations. A lot of my life is spent being aware of how I live and trying to live in ways that do as little damage as possible to our world and, hopefully, may even be of some benefit. So it is hypocritical if I throw all of that out of the window when it comes to Christmas. In fact, this may be one of my deepest ironies: that as I celebrate the God who loved his creation so much that he became a part of it to rescue it, I do so in ways that destroy that very creation.
And so, as much as I’m determined to keep enjoying the richness of Christmas, so also I want to find ways to celebrate it in a way that respects this world that God has made and all those who share this world with me, both human and non-human. I’m far from perfect and I’m not trying to set myself up as a role-model: there are many others lots better at this than me. But I’ve been trying, and have been taking little steps year-by-year to change what I do at this special time.
One area I struggle with is presents. On the one hand, the buying frenzy that is going on around me while I write this can be hard to take when we live in a world of appalling inequality and poverty. On the other hand, gift-giving can be a beautiful way to express your love for someone and let them know that you’ve thought of them. Christmas surely is a time to celebrate generosity! How do we find the balance? I’d love to know what you do in this area.
An easier area is food and I work hard at sourcing things locally, organically and/or fairly traded: actually quite easy to do for Christmas lunch which, of course, developed before the onset of agribusiness. The turkey, potatoes and veg can all be sourced ethically (however I have to confess that I fail when it comes to my rather delicious cranberry, orange and port sauce…).
Wrapping paper and cards I keep each year to re-use the next – and yes, my children are well trained in not ripping the paper and, yes, I’ve learned to put up with the jibes from other family members!
I love Christmas and hope you do too. May our celebration of it truly reflect our worship of the Lord of all creation.
How do you live green at Christmas?
Maybe these responses on the A Rocha UK FaceBook page when I asked that question might inspire you to do something similar. Let me know and please share what you do…
- We try to include people we know who might be on their own to share the food and despatch visitors with leftovers so no food is wasted.
- Not a crumb is ever wasted in this house! Every bit of leftovers goes in little plastic boxes, straight into the fridge, to be used in butties on another occasion, or as part of a buffet with some salad.
- We buy the kids a pressie but club together and the adults get one pressie each from ‘the family’. Budget £40 per couple or split per person.
- Make presents – cuttings from plants, sweets, biscuits, sewn or knitted items etc.
- At church we all bought a few extra bits, like the luxury biscuits, toiletries, etc, to put into gift boxes for families in need that a contact at social services distributed to (so it’s not exactly green living, more about living generously…)
- Decorate a nice bit of driftwood instead of a tree…saves on electricity plus not hoovering up the pine needles too!
- Using last year’s cards to make ones for this year with extra bits of ribbon, paper etc (and try to give them to people who didn’t send the original!) and e-cards / email messages vs too many cards.
- Not pigging out helps!
How about using a fake Christmas tree for 10 years, then take the wire and plastic to the recyclers? Store up the ribbon from the gift boxes, cellophane from the sweets, decoration from the crackers etc, and use that to decorate a few homemade cards. Try delivering most of your local area Christmas cards on foot, to help save postage, get fitter before the food and drink hits and even get to chat on the door – the personal bit really changes perceptions and community. And lastly, go in a well sung group carol singing…knock on the door…then offer a sweet or piece of a birthday cake. The singing gives the glory, the cake a personal gift of love. You should see the reactions on the majority of faces. Opens up conversations right on the doorstep. Blessed New Year!
Lovely, thank you, and to you too!
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