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Rethink Christmas : Traditions not Stuff

The Christmas spirit is about the traditions not the stuff.

Christmas is coming, one of the largest celebrations that takes place around the world. . In the course of the season’s festivities we sometimes confuse creating an abundance of joy with creating an abundance of stuff. We need to create the feelings of abundance without all the consumption and all the waste.

Many of us are thinking about our Christmas celebrations. Our thoughts may be about food, gifts, shopping, travel, finance, family and the memories of Christmas past.   Zero Waste Canada asks you to RETHINK CHRISTMAS. This year create the spirit of Christmas with traditions instead of stuff.

Many of us would have difficulty listing gifts we received last year or the year before but we remember the interactions of with loved ones and friends, and the shared experiences. Remember the experiences and traditions that made past Christmas celebrations memorable. Traditions and rituals can be very simple like Dad making breakfast on Christmas morning or the family decorating the tree or the after-dinner walk.

Ellen Galinsky, cofounder of The Families and Work Institute describes a survey in which she asked children what they would remember most about their childhood. The majority of the kids talked about simple everyday family dinners, holiday get-togethers, and bedtime stories.

Christmas traditions and rituals do not have to be restricted to families.   For those who may find themselves alone, it is about redefining traditions and giving the gift of self-love. Perhaps Christmas dinner becomes the potluck gathering at the church or community hall.

Creating traditions and rituals is not about perfection.  Rethinking expectations can relieve the pressure of celebrating Christmas. Keep it simple and think about giving kindness to yourself and others.

Remember that traditions and rituals can change and adapt to life changes.

Traditions and rituals can provide a source of self-identity, and strengthen bonds between family, friends and community. Creating traditions and rituals can offer comfort and security. Values can be imparted and reinforced with traditions and rituals.

Traditions are not really about the stuff but the action or experience. Christmas traditions and rituals are about producing the outcome of peace, love and acceptance.

A paper published in the Journal of Happiness Studies by researchers Tim Kasser of Knox College and Kennon M. Sheldon of the University of Missouri-Columbia. After studying the Christmas experiences of 117 individuals, they found that people who emphasized time spent with families and meaningful religious or spiritual activities had merrier Christmases.

Zero Waste Canada asks you to RETHINK Christmas. Think less about giving stuff and more about the traditions and rituals that create the Christmas feeling.

10 Zero Waste Christmas tradition shares

  1. Sing. Sing to yourself or go caroling. “We try to carol to widows or those we know are alone for the holidays. Some of the older people we’ve caroled to have told us they remember people caroling when they were children.”
  2. Decorate a tree. If you don’t have a tree maybe decorate a branch outdoors with homemade bird treats .Or volunteer to help decorate a tree at a hospital or seniors’ home. Donate your time and decoration to brighten another person’s Christmas.
  3. Share a Christmas meal with family or friends (new or old).  Save and share any leftovers.
  4. Take a walk to look at the wonders of the world around you. Perhaps you look at Christmas lights, trees, the beach or interesting buildings but you are looking and exploring.
  5. Express yourself creatively. Make a snowman, write a poem or make a craft with recycled materials.
  6. Reminisce: Share family history or stories.
  7. Pose for a picture and share the picture via email or social media with family and friends.
  8. Revisit your childhood by playing childhood board games, or watching favourite movies or reading favourite books. Board games and movies and books can often be borrowed from libraries.
  9. Take part.  Go to a Christmas event or church service .Volunteer at a Christmas charity or event.
  10. Surprise. Surprise someone with an act of kindness.

Create Warm Fuzzy feelings Not Waste

Psychologists, anthropologists, and marketers have found that giving gifts is a surprisingly complex and important human interaction that helps to define relationships and strengthens bonds between family and friends. Gift giving has been part of many cultures and rituals for thousands of years. First Nation’s potlatches were a giving feast and in fact the word potlatch comes from the Chinook jargon meaning “to give away” or “gift.” Giving is embedded in our celebrations, our history and our expressions of caring.

Psychologists often point out that giving to others reinforces our feelings to them and makes us feel effective and caring.

Many individuals today lament that Christmas has become too materialistic. Many of us have enough stuff.

All the stuff associated with gift giving including packaging and wrapping also creates lots of waste. Household waste increases by 25% from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

Instead of banning gifts perhaps it is time to rethink what we actually are giving. Instead of objects perhaps we think of creating feelings, memories and experiences.

Creating memories can start with joining family and friends to prepare for the season. Baking cookies with mom may be a memory children remember long after any memory of shopping. Creating memories is about moments of togetherness and caring.

Sharing memories with parents and older relatives reconnects that past and present. Sharing family stories connects children with their family history.

Giving the gift of time enriches the lives of children and perhaps the neighbour who is alone. Reading a Christmas story with a child or inviting a neighbour for tea is about giving your time and attention.

Giving the gift of your services by volunteering with a community group or cause is another way of gifting the spirit of Christmas. Christmas is a time that food banks, charities, rest homes, animal shelters and hospitals are in need of volunteers.

Donating money or needed items to a charity is a gift that can help to create positive change.

Give a hug.

Give a hand, Offer to help someone.

Give love.

And with these gifts we can create fuzzy warm feelings not waste.