Simplify the Holidays

by Michael Smith

The holiday season is upon us and I am suggesting that we all "simplify the holidays."

Let's use this time of both great hope and great challenges to refocus on the season's deeper values of joy, peace, and family by making holiday choices that support and nurture our homes, our communities, our planet – and our family budgets, too.

I am no Christian and no believer in the story that Jesus the Messiah – Yeshuah ha Meshiach – was supposedly born on December 25 some 2,000 or so years ago in the so-called Holy Land in order to die on the cross to save us all, but nevertheless I believe that this season has become a hectic “must-have I want” kind of time and we must get back to the real values; those that really count.

When we watch then children in the stores with their parents it is not a case of “I would like this or that for Christmas”. No it is “I want that and that and that and that, ad infinitum” and the parents go “we'll get Santa to bring you that all” or such statement. Today's children are made into consumption zombies with no real understanding of the values of things. This can be seen in so many aspects, for instance the way they throw away things and such.

Join me in this campaign by making one or more of a special list of commitments to change our approach to the holidays. Some of the commitments could include: using a locally grown or potted Christmas tree, or, better still, don't use a tree at all (poor thing gets cut off and then discarded and even a potted one is not generally going to survive), giving edible gifts or plants, or hand-made gifts, reusing or using alternatives to traditional wrapping paper, and starting eco-friendly traditions such as picking up litter while caroling, if you do do the caroling bit, I mean. Would not be a good idea for me to do; my voice is horrible and I cannot carry a tune.

There are other things that you can do. Bring some cheer into the lives of some people that are worst of than you, such as homeless children, children in orphanages, at home and abroad. There are the schemes of packing a shoe box with a gift for a needy child ; somewhere. But most of all, give your time to someone. Start with your own child or children or some other loved one.

When it comes to giving gifts, make those gifts from the heart, gifts that you have made for the recipient, and not store-boughten goods.

If you have never tried to simplify the holidays then why not make this season the first. The fact that many, and maybe you too, do not have as much to spend and in light of the world economic situation think of laying by some money, this may be the best “excuse”, if one be needed, to start simplifying the holiday season.

Change begins with each and everyone of us and if we slowly but surely make a real effort to no longer give in to the commercialism of this season then maybe, just maybe, we can change the people around us as well, and here especially our families and friends.

If we want more compassionate communities, a more resilient economy, and a more sustainable environment, we ourselves have to take the first steps, even if they may be difficult or feel a little awkward at first.

With enough initiative and encouragement, we can help create a tipping point for how we approach the holidays – to live more consistently with the values that they stand for.

And this does not just have to be for the holiday season now, does it? We can use a similar approach to simplifying our entire life as much as possible.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008