My letter in the Sydney Morning Herald today. Something I've been thinking about a long time. I know that people can be pretty touchy about the subject - it is confronting to consider changing our routines and rituals, but thinking how we celebrate Christmas bears thinking about.
Christmas crying out for a makeover
Peter French's thoughts on the useless and environmentally damaging practice of sending Christmas cards (Letters, November 21-22) is the tip of the iceberg. How relevant is the celebration of Christmas in Australia? We sing of sleigh bells by candlelight, dress a fat man in a woolly red costume, decorate the house with lights and eat like it is the middle of winter even though we have heatwave conditions and the sun goes down at 8pm. We buy and wrap gifts for everyone we know, even though they may not need anything. We know the northern hemisphere pagan rituals are wrapped up with stories of Saint Nicholas and the birth of Jesus. We know the way we celebrate Christmas is damaging to the environment on many levels. Living in Australia, surely those of us who don't celebrate pagan winter rituals, don't believe in Santa and don't claim Jesus as our saviour can find a better way to enjoy a more meaningful and sustainable celebration of family and friends.
It seems strange to me that every day we think about how to reduce our environmental footprint, for example, turning off the electricity, then at xmas time we think, what is the biggest thing I can wrap xmas lights, around? My house!
Celebrating at the end of the year shouldn't be an environmental catastrophe, every year. There's no Christmas on a dead planet.
People talk about the 'magic of Christmas' and the joy on the children's faces. I think there is magic and wonder in the natural world. Each religion has its own causes for wonder. Giving gifts brings joy, regardless of the occasion. I have real reservations about the whole Santa deal. The depth of the conspiracy intrigues me. Everyone is in on the deal. Santa is everywhere. Strangers talk to our kids about Santa. He's in the mall, on the advertisements, makes appearances at preschool etc. All for the children. If we put the same effort into eliminating soft porn in advertising, or removing dodgy additives from food marketed to children, or putting shade over playgroup equipment, imagine how much we could do for the wellbeing of children. What if we applied the same level of commitment to eliminating poverty? But no. We keep Santa for the joy and 'magic' of Christmas. What makes Christmas magical? Is it like the magic of Disney? Or is it about being together, about ritual and community, which all people seem to need, since ancient times? Sure, lets get together and have our celebrations. I'm just saying we need to think about what we're doing.
What do you think?