The year is coming to its end. Streets are illuminated with fairy lights in all colors, suddenly it smells like cinnamon and oranges everywhere, children are getting increasingly excited, people are baking ginger cookies and lots of us are still dreaming of a white Christmas.
Well, some of us might just get desperately drunk on the Christmas markets, but still, most people somehow have their own little Christmas traditions. And there is nothing wrong about people are looking forward to those few peaceful days with family or friends full of relief and thoughts about the past and following year. I don’t even see a problem in celebrating Christmas without being a religious person, because it could be also just seen as a good chance of being together and spending some loving and peaceful moments that are too rare in this world anyway. However, this is only the bright side of the story.
Greedy over-consumption on Christmas
The shady side is the ever rising overconsumption connected to Christmas time: over-feeding, over -shopping, over-wasting of money and resources. Christmas is not just about religion, family or gratefulness anymore. It is about loud and flashing shopping centers full of products no one really needs, cheesy decoration stuff that is bought every year again and screaming gift advertisements that nearly initiate epileptic seizures in everyone who is gazing too long. It really seems that Christmas has been evolving from an original feast of devotion and silence to a big hectic consumption and trash festival, where the focus clearly lies on presents, gaudiness and too much food.
About Christmas presents & buckets of trash
The average German spent around 260 Euros for buying Christmas presents in 2014, which is slightly more than the EU average. Sounds moderate? You are damn right. For once, the Germans are not among the top consumers and only reach position 6 in the European Christmas shopping contest! Winner is the UK with converted 408 Euros, which is still nothing compared to the USA, where a survey from 2013 revealed that people even expected to spend on average roughly 700 US Dollars on Christmas gifts. How much of that do you think is ending up somewhere hidden and unused in a shelf or even in the trash? I couldn’t find any numbers, but let us be honest: who of us has never bought a Christmas present for someone without really knowing what to buy – just to have something to give? In the end we often get some useless shit. Apart from that urge of buying-something-no-matter-what, wish lists are growing as well and are far away from being modest. Puzzles, footballs and family photographs are history, smartphones and PS5 games are what the children of today want, as do older generations.
Additionally most of the presents are wrapped in paper, whereby the major amount is not used for recycling. Some10% more paper wrappings than usual is ending up in trash during Christmas in Germany.
Good old advent wreath is not enough anymore
When it comes to Christmassy decoration the advent wreath is not enough anymore. We need Christmas tablecloths, Christmas jumpers, Christmas doormats, Christmas blankets and even Christmas toilet lids (No, I am not kidding). And obviously we need new and more things every year. We get blinded from all the stuff that is sold already in November, manipulated from advertisements and their surroundings, giving the illusion that all of this belongs to the feast of love. It’s actually kind of scary – almost as if once a year there was a transformation from human beings to Christmas zombies wandering through a fake winter wonder land.
Imagine: Christmas without consumption madness!
Don’t get me wrong, I am not the Grinch. I am not against Christmas and although I am not religious, I do celebrate the holidays with my family and friends. But I am against all the overconsumption, pressure and waste behind it which to my mind is a contradiction to the real sense of the celebration.
What I wish for Christmas is that people think about what is really important during those days and what they really need. There are lots of options to surprise your dearest ones in a special but sustainable (and unwrapped) way; and if you really want to, you can still spend lots of money on it.
Giving time & experiences
A favorite one is gifting time together or a new experience. It could be a nice dinner, an invitation to a concert or a weekend trip to a certain place. Another possibility could be education. A new language, computer skills or cookery courses – we never stop learning and it is a good way to keep us mentally fit and optimistic in any age. And in case you have some more active friends, then what about a top rope climbing course, yoga lessons or a ticket to the next year’s marathon of your city?
My current favorites are second-hand presents. You can buy them in appropriate shops, but alternatively you might also find something at home which you for any reason cannot use anymore but which would make another person happy. I am not talking about the trash you got from last year‘s Secret Santa, but about clothes that don’t fit you anymore, books you have already read twice or decoration that does not suit to your new flat.
Then, there is of course always the option to create something yourself, which is often much more special than anything else. Well, just make sure you are talented in what you are doing otherwise it could turn out as being a waste as well.
Maybe you even go for a buy-nothing Christmas and instead just spend some happy days. This is a good idea as well!
Back to the basics
Generally we need to get away from the intention of wanting more and more every year and seeing potential and satisfaction only in new products. There is a lot to explore without material goods and it is worth trying to turn away from all this pressure of consumption (nnot only) during Christmas time
As it gives you something which cannot be bought: Release.