Christmas Outside the Box

It’s that time of year again!  If you haven’t already heard your favorite Christmas song to the point of disgust then you clearly haven’t made yourself available to the Christmas Spirit!  It’s on the radio, lighting up in the trees, the clearance racks, and ribbons and pine can be found scattered all about homes and shopping centers.  The smell of cinnamon, holiday flavored lattes, evergreens, and credit card machines has everyone drooling.  We don’t have a TV, but I can just imagine the seductive commercials of kitchen gadgets, toys, flat screens, fashion gear, plastics and more all at the right price.  It is the Holiday of Consumption and my goodness is it in full swing!

Now please, don’t get me wrong.  I appreciate little more than a clever gift, well thought out and useful (or beautifully crafted.)  Christmas may be the only time that Elliot and I get items we are too self righteous to buy for ourselves.  It’s just the magnitude of the whole affair.  So much waste and consumption of resources is designated to this holiday that supposedly (having a few different origins) celebrated life and goodwill towards men (and my god, women too), none of which having much to do with spending as much money as you can on cheaply made products not meant to withstand the test of time.  I am certainly no authority on religion or the practices therein, but I do notice how convenient it must be to go from celebrating a uniting spirit and giving to those in need to celebrating a fat man in a red suit who is willing to give you anything and everything you want, all at once.  Have yourself a merry little indulgence!

I’m not pointing fingers here, it is very satisfying seeing someone’s face (especially children) light up over a gift.  This holiday ritual has also been going on for a very long time.  But what does Christmas really mean to us?  The reason so many of us are drawn to purchasing gifts, and wrapping paper, ribbons and tape is because of the love we share for those near and dear.  The obvious rush of adrenaline that takes over the minds and intentions of people Christmas shopping is a clear sign that our industrialized society has a significant hold on us.  As long as the fat cats who’ve manipulated our resources for the best quality of life money can afford them can rely on targeting our citizens through flashy advertising and ritzy products, they will do so.  They will do so at the expense of human beings, the environment, and those trying to enforce strict codes of conduct for the safety of our Nation’s people.  Now if there is any pattern worth obscuring with love, it’s this one!

I’m not saying if your mom buys you a car for Christmas you should give her a crappy Christmas card you made out of bark and sap, either.  I’m not saying you should do away with Christmas gifts and give your expectant children hugs and haikus when they come down to an empty tree.  I’m just encouraging all to ponder the idea of “Less.”  Try to buy less products so that you can spend more of your money on higher quality items made to last.  Try to buy products that have traveled less of a distance to reach your Christmas Tree.  Try to buy less paper and plastic to adorn your packages and household while thinking of creative ways to recycle materials or try and make your decorations yourself.  Select a Christmas tree from a farm whose practices involve less of an impact on the surrounding landscape.

The ultimate less is trying to come up with Christmas presents that are handmade by you!  Just because the elves working hard in Santa’s workshop at Nike can churn out a product that seems inconceivable to design does not mean that you with your normal human hands have to make poorly put together handmade goods.  There are several incredible things you can make with your own two hands that are beautiful and desirable.  There are many ancient skills lost to the everyday American who has grown up in the age of convenience.  If you need help coming up with some ideas, send me an email..  I have loads.  My family will undergo the joys of Darby and Elliot creations whether they are ready for them or not!

But really.  Beyond the spending, the less, the more, the here, or the there, Christmas is about celebrating the people in your life that keep your heart warm through the chilly winter.  It’s about giving back to those who have given so much to you.  It is a Holiday that exists only in your heart and it can mean as much or as little to you as you choose.  No matter what you get or give, I hope that you embrace those crazy people in your family and show them how they’ve all helped see you through to Christmas Day.

“Good workmanship-that is, careful, considerate, and loving work-requires us to think considerately of the whole process, natural and cultural, involved in the making of wooden artifacts, because the good worker does not share the industrial contempt for “raw material.”  The good worker loves the board before it becomes a table, loves the tree before it yields the board, loves the forest before it gives up the tree.  The good worker understands that a badly made artifact is both an insult to its user and a danger to its source.” --Wendell Berry