Bah, humbug!

Young women in Yiwu, China, packing up Christmas to send it to a store near you.
Photo by Liam Young, Unknown Fields Division

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!"
How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

I imagine your house looks a little like mine this Christmas - maybe like us, at the beginning of December you pulled down crates of Christmas from the attic. Maybe like us you put together the fake tree from Target, maybe like us you have an eclectic collection of department store baubles and lights, the lovely wonky Christmas decorations the children made in kinder, the beautiful hand-made Oxfam decorations, lovely hand-crafted treasures and the candy canes from the $2 shop.

I imagine that most of you, like me, have spent many years feeling uncomfortable about consumerism at Christmas and tried to steer your family towards more meaningful ways to celebrate. A couple of years ago, tired of the proliferating Christmas tat I decided that enough was enough and that we didn't need to spend another cent on Christmas decorating, ever. Recently I read this rather disturbing essay on the real home of Christmas  where thousands of young Chinese men and women churn out our Christmas wreaths and Santa hats and I actually felt ill at the state of our society that demands this kind of mindless and demeaning work from people out of mind and far away so that we can celebrate a religious holiday mindless orgy of consumerism.

Now, I am not intending to turn into a Scrooge-like figure of uncharitable grumpiness, or attempting an Oliver Cromwell-style Christmas ban. I think Christmas has many redeeming features. Hope and peace and joy are truly excellent endeavours. Taking some time out to consider goodwill towards, well, everyone, seems like a refreshing change. Gathering together with family and friends and neighbours to eat, drink and be merry has much merit. Thoughtful and restrained gift-giving, especially to those who really need it, seems like a pleasant and useful thing to do. And decorating our houses for fun and to make our December merry? Well, who doesn't like a bit of pretty with their cheer? I certainly do, but I don't want anyone in China to slave away for my Christmas festivities any more. I just don't, so here is my plan.

First, I won't be buying any more Christmas tat, ever. Second, I will care for what I have. I will sew the bells back on the Christmas hats and glue the Christmas decorations back together. The earth's resources are finite and so caring for what we have, whether it is Christmas decorations, clothes, cars, or public infrastructure, is a way to slow down the demand for raw materials and keep stuff out of landfill. Third, I will send Christmas bits and bobs away with the children as they leave home to share the joy so that they won't be buying Christmas decorations either.

And last of all, I will decorate with what I have. Like you, I have a lot, including a double set of drawers full of craft supplies that somehow never seems to diminish even though I refuse to buy more. Here are some Christmas decorations my clever girls have made over the years:

 Felt birds

 Felt angel on a dolly peg

 The felt Christmas magpie..

 Paper mache bauble

 Yesterday The Girl made origami stars out of wrapping paper

 ...and Posy started a paper nativity scene she is blu-tacking to the wall.

 This is The Girl's origami crane string made out of pages from a book that fell apart.

I don't actually do craft, but I can tie string around jars, which I did last Christmas:

And this afternoon I picked bottlebrush from the garden and stuck pine cones in a vase and on a cake stand. I am so all over the Christmas decorating!

And yes, I do realise that tea lights are made in a factory in China, but I have about fifty left from the box of 100 I bought two years ago. I am saving the little foil containers, and I bought a big chunk of local beeswax and Posy is going to attempt to make beeswax tea lights for me..

There are so many ways to celebrate Christmas without going to the store. Our homes and our lives are so full of things already - why add to them? Let's give some away, mend some, make some, arrange what we have, and make Christmas a little oasis of grateful thankfulness for the many good things in our lives..


Anonymous said…
Have just read that article. I am 100% going to do the same as you. No more tat and I think the idea of making the tealights is brilliant, hope it works !. I have never looked at my home at Christmas and thought 'I wish had more decorations'!! I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a happy2017. Love Penny L in Dorset U.Kxxx

Anonymous said…
I love your girls' crafty decorations, especially the Christmas magpie and the chain of cranes and hearts. I recently repaired some Christmas decorations. Well, asked an art teacher to do so. Bit of blue on one, wire on another and string on one more. Presto. All good.

I often say I won't buy more and then I forget my good intentions in the post Christmas sales. I will have try to remember. Mr S was going to buy decorations for his office. "Are you mad? Take some from home. We have enough. [Tat, clutter, decorations. Chose your own word.]

We haven't gone overboard on presents. In fact we are cutting right back. I made Mr S a photo book from Snapfish. It's from our trip to London. Together with some CDs of radio plays and chocolat, that's all. He just asked if the boys could buy him a silver polishing cloth for his perfect teapot. Nothing flash. He'd rather utilitarian.

I will read the article on the link.
Jo said…
Penny, welcome to the conversation! I just love your comment: I have never looked at my home at Christmas and thought 'I wish had more decorations'!! I am sure that goes for most of us:)

Lucinda, brilliant on getting the art teacher to help. I think the secret to delegation is finding the person who really enjoys what you are asking them to do.. I love your Xmas presents decisions. I am with Mr S, utilitarian is me.. that photo book sounds lovely though. Hey, I have a brilliant idea - if you stay home and read a nice book instead of going to the post-Christmas sales you won't accidentally buy any more Christmas decorations:) xx
Zena said…
I started off with a real tree we cut down and decorated with Oxfam decorations with the birth of my first son to have grown like you described to a plastic target tree with cheap decorations. Last year I sent half of it to the oppy and included handmade decorations. All decorations are at a minimal and I refuse to buy anymore ever! I can't stand all the plastic and mass produced cheapness of products in the store that people slave away making overseas. It is all landfill and toxic to them and to us. This post really made my day because often I feel I am a lone in my quest and then I read a post like this and see all the comments and think thank god I am not alone!
Jo said…
Zena, I just love all the brilliant and thoughtful commenters here! Like your comment, you all make my day on a regular basis:) xx

And like you said, all this stuff we buy - it's just not making us happy, is it? It seems like such a cliche to say that the things we make for ourselves are so much more meaningful, but then cliches are so often right. And like you, I find that the less stuff I have around, the more peaceful I feel..
Fernglade Farm said…
Hi Jo,

Really lovely! I particularly enjoyed the felt Christmas magpie. It looks great.

Jo said…
Chris, that was The Girl's contribution several years ago. It is wonderfully fat and jolly, isn't it, unlike actual magpies which are streamlined and scary with nasty sharp beaks..
GretchenJoanna said…
This year I was wondering if I need to buy some table decorations of the fake greenery sort. I never have wanted such things before, but I wasn't sure I would be able to accomplish the usual gathering of berries and evergreen boughs down by the creek. The city mowed down most of the shrubbery there, and trimmed the redwood trees way up high, a year or two ago.

But today on my walk I was scouting out the provisions, and I found LOTS of stuff I can use! I am so excited. We just had a big rain-and-wind storm, so all these plants have been washed clean. The berries of two kinds are in their prime, and beautiful, and no one seems to have trimmed the redwood trees close to the ground. I hope they put off doing that for another week!

I love your idea of making votives with beeswax. I will start saving my little tins, too.

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