Christmas – what does it mean now?

Posted: December 28, 2009 in Uncategorized

Christmas – this time of year means different things to many people. To a Jewish acquaintance of mine for example, it means a festival that puts her on the outer with most of the people she usually associates with. One thing that it has increasingly meant is garish displays of decorations at family homes. Contests are run to find the ‘best’. Tours are scheduled to travel around the more lavishly decorated. Locations of decorated homes are often published in local newspapers.

If someone wants to decorate their home, then in general principle that is fine with me provided of course that it isn’t something truly offensive like a neo-nazi display or a salute to serial killers. But there is another aspect to the story.

Are we not in a time when we should be considering the environmental impacts of pretty much everything? The nations of the world have only recently concluded an angst-ridden conference to tackle the issue of global warming. Yet each December, we start on an orgy of excess consumption of fossil-fuel-powered electricity to light up garish garden displays of lights of all sorts. Largely plastic decorations – yet more petrochemical consumption – are invested in and displayed all over the place. Yet more consumption of fuel for the trails of motor vehicles going around the ‘tours’ of garden Christmas ‘decorations’. How many light globes alone, are consumed each year in this exercise?

There are those that find putting together this display a thing of joy to do. Someone that I knew, sadly passed away now far too young, absolutely delighted in putting together a Christmas display in her front garden. But her motivation was a little different. She and her siblings didn’t have much of a Christmas such as that most of us take for granted. Sure, there were presents etc, but they were on open display for long beforehand, not even wrapped. There was not even an attempt at a Santa Claus pretense. So Sandra was determined to give her children the sort of Christmas she and her siblings were basically denied. That sort of motivation I can understand.

Sadly, understandable motivations like that would appear to becoming less of the norm. Instead, we see a growing trend of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’

“Look honey – the neighbours have seven more lights than we do. Get yourself over to Bunnings immediately and don’t come back until you have at least three more full strings of lights to put across the front of our place. And another couple of plastic reindeer. Do you think everyone can see our plastic Santa doing the limbo or should I turn the volume up to Three on the Richter Scale?”

When creating garish eyesores as supposed decorations becomes essentially a fashion statement, it is high time to put the whole stupid lot away – for good. If nothing else, ask yourself how much those excess decorations are adding to the greenhouse gas emissions – not just the power consumption of lights but also the resources consumed in manufacturing, transporting etc. Or consider how much more good could have been done by investing the same funds into welfare programs? Or even just as donations to charity? Or helping those we know who may be going through hard times.

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