It's the end of the year, and the streets are busy with frantic shoppers hunting for every last item on their list for their loved one, and associates. There is a tendency to get caught up in the hectic pace of the holiday rush and consume (food and spending) without consciously being aware of the impacts on the earth, on others, and on ourselves. This is just a gentle reminder that the reason for the season is not to spend and produce more waste blindly, but to fully love and enjoy the company of others.
The winter months for our European ancestors, mainly northern Europe, were harsh and cold with little light. In Southern California, yes, the days are shorter, but the weather this winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, will still be in the 70's. Relating to those who really needed to bundle up, huddle together for warmth, combine winter rations for survival and take care of each other in times of sickness is hard for most of us to understand. In those times, the feeling of gratitude for others was easier to notice. This year, make it a point that giving gifts should really be a sign of appreciation and not an obligation for the holidays, or a competition to be the most giving person.
The pine tree is a symbol of life in these colder months, as it is one of the only plants that stays green in winter. Decorating the tree is a cherished memory for most, but these trees generally just get tossed out at the end of the month. Fake trees are not much better seeing that they don't degrade for a very long time. There are creative ideas to avoid either option like decorating a live tree, or implying a tree on an object like a lamp or on a wall. Planting a tree would also be a great gift to give back to the environment.
The tradition of Christmas lights goes back to those darkest of days in European winters where the Festival of Lights was yule log fires and candlelight meant to brighten people's spirits and keep up hope for the coming spring. With the discovery of the light bulb, Tomas Edison was the first person to create a Christmas light display. Now, it is a tradition that whole neighborhoods devote their houses and lawns to fantastic light shows. Thankfully, most Christmas light companies opt for maximum energy efficiency and run on timers, so this tradition is not overly wasteful.
Gifting done without much thought can be wasteful consumerism. If you don't know someone you are giving a gift to, food is a thoughtful option since it is something everyone needs universally. Asking someone, or others closer to them, what they like or want isn't rude, it is better to get them something they would appreciate and not just throw out. Gifts for loved ones should have thought and meaning in them. Again, get things with purpose that will be used or enjoyed completely by this person. Preferably, find ways to minimize the packaging and wrapping of the gifts to reduce waste. Instead of wrapping paper, use newspaper or grocery bags. To those who would appreciate it and already have charities and causes they take action in, gifting them the honor of donating to something they believe in their name is probably one of the most thoughtful gifts.
Giving back to the world environmentally, or on a humanitarian level would be the most heartfelt gift of all, not just for others, but for yourself. If not with money, volunteering for the benefit of all and being apart of this emerging global community we are all apart of is the best way to feel the love and joy tied to this beautiful season.
Happy Holidays and may peace and love prevail for all!