I got the annual “simplify the holidays” email from Kanu Hawaii today. I have been *trying* really hard to simplify my holidays for several years now, but it never quite works out as I would like it to.
Kanu’s description states:
The Holidays are supposed to be a time of reflection, generosity, and charity, but it’s easy to get wrapped up (literally) in waste and excess instead. Americans produce 25% more trash between Thanksgiving and New Year’s than at other times of the year – about 25 million tons in all, most of it paper and food. The Holidays are not only hard on the environment, they can take a toll on our pocketbooks and our patience: we’re likely to see more over-spending than holiday spirit on trips to the mall.
I couldn’t agree more! For those of us with large families, buying Christmas gifts can be an overwhelming and expensive task. Even when you try to simplify them. For the past few years, I continue to plead with my family to alter our tradition. Everyone seems to agree that we don’t need elaborate gifts, yet most seem hesitant to get rid of the tradition all together. How has this expensive, wasteful tradition become so ingrained in most of us? I admit that it can be a lot of fun to sit around on Christmas morning surrounded by colorful paper and ribbons watching our loved ones open something special that we picked out just for them. Yet, how often do we really find that perfect something that they really wanted/needed? In my experience, the vast majority of the time our carefully picked out gifts (or last minute rushed purchases, as they may be) turn into wasteful clutter that our loved ones don’t use but are hesitant to throw away or recycle.
So, how do we break out of this manufactured corporate-driven tradition? We have tried pulling a name out of a hat and getting something for just one person. For some reason that has never stuck with my family and it takes away some of the gift opening magic that we are all so used to. We have tried putting a maximum dollar amount on gifts. That just succeeds in increasing the chance that our gift is really just useless crap. We have tried making the rule that all gifts are home-made and/or tasks/chores we offer to do for each other. That usually falls apart due to lack of time or ideas. Two years ago, we even tried eliminating gifts altogether except for the young children… or so I thought. Until I discovered on Christmas morning that I was nearly the only one that kept that pledge. As I opened gifts from others, rather than joy at what I received all I felt was increasing guilt that I didn’t have anything to give them in return.
In my mind, Christmas is a time to spend with family. To sit around and read books and enjoy each others company. To eat good food and have stimulating conversations. Can we keep that spirit, while reducing the consumerism?