Comment: We have an addiction to holidays. The Halloween candy hasn't even been eaten yet and we are straight onto "What can we celebrate next?". There's no pause to just enjoy spring, warm weather, or longer days without having to gear up for the next big event.
I walked into The Warehouse on November 4 to buy some socks for my son. (Where do all the socks go anyway? Perhaps a topic for another column.)
Anyway, I walked into The Warehouse and was greeted by pallets of clearance Halloween candy surrounded by stacks and stacks of Christmas ... for lack of better word … debris. Lining the aisle were Christmas crackers, ornaments, fake trees, cardboard printouts of fake trees, reindeer adorned oven mitts, Santa adorned oven mitts, snowflake adorned oven mitts (in the summer?).
I immediately roll my eyes.
Then I catch myself.
"But I love Christmas!" I tell myself. Christmas presents and fake snow and cookies are so happy and joyful and nostalgic. My brain is flooded with childhood memories of Christmas Eve with my Italian extended family, laughter, church, good food, and piles of presents.
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Nearby, someone presses a button on some red or green sparkly something and it starts tinkling out an electronic version of Jingle Bells.
I scoff. Audibly.
Wait, who am I? Am I the same girl who used to belt out that Mariah Carey Christmas song on loop from November all the way through December?
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I've become a zero-waste low consumption greenie. I've become so green that I can't enjoy Christmas. Have I become so green that I've turned into the Grinch?
When I think about it, I don't actually love Christmas any more. I look at the presents and I think of all the plastic being produced at increasing rates. I look at the meals shared with friends and I think of food going to landfill. I hear Christmas carols and I think of expense, waste and yes, global warming.
I'm sorry friends. I don't mean to be a downer, but I just can't turn it off. And in some ways Christmas is the perfect example of an internal dilemma that plays out in my head daily.
I don't want to be a greenie Grinch, yet I often feel like I have no choice. I am swimming upstream in a river of consumption and feel like I am at constant risk of being swept away.
Can the kids have a plastic-wrapped lolly? Should my daughter get a new gym leotard? What kind of birthday presents will they receive? Should we be travelling annually to visit our family? All of these things that brought me joy as a child are contributing to the destruction of our planet – to the destruction of my children's futures.
So how do I, as a parent, create a joyful life for my children, when so many of the things that brought joy in my childhood are linked to practices that I no longer believe in?
It's a familiar conflict. Many of us are in this same position, whether we are living in a different country or culture than we grew up with, have changed religions, or simply have partnered with someone whose family does things a bit different than our own. We long for our nostalgic childhood memories, while realising that they might not feel right for this time and place.
So what do we do?
So far I've been fumbling my way through it, trying to stop myself from chucking the baby out with the bathwater. Trying to keep the spark of magic and joy, without sacrificing my beliefs. It's a delicate dance, finding a balance on a line that is finely drawn in the sand – or perhaps a line that only exists in my head.
So in our family we give gifts that are secondhand or handmade but allow the grandparents to spoil our children as they see fit. We bike to school daily, spend our weekends restoring the land, but fly overseas once a year to make memories with cousins and aunties. We say no to lollies and gel pens but yes to icecream cones and coloured pencils.
We have tried to create meaningful traditions for our family with a hint of nostalgia from our own childhoods. When I cut to the heart of it, my happiest memories are of time spent with family, familiar rituals and enjoying the anticipation of special events that come once a year. I would guess that the same goes for many of us.
It's easy to become a grinch when we are simultaneously surrounded by both the superfluous corporatised trappings of holidays and the grim reality of an uncertain future. I, for one, will be battling my grinchiness this year by seeking out and enjoying the simple happiness that others find this season.