12 November 2008

Time for the annual Christmas rant

I wish Christmas was like Thanksgiving. A holiday with very little baggage. Of course, there are some people who get hung up on whether it's a Christian holiday or a pagan harvest festival and whether those things are good or bad, but for most of us, it's an opportunity to share a nice meal with family and be grateful, if only that the turkey is not too dry this year. In Canada, we wisely celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October which tends to be the peak of autumn colour and is often a lovely mild day. We enjoy a long weekend, maybe take a drive in the country and that's it. Unless you count planning and buying groceries for a big meal, there isn't much preparation required. There are no parties with people at work, no gift buying, no Santa lie to perpetuate with kids, no chocolate, no stockings, no dead trees, no light displays, no wrapping, no expectations, no cards, no political correctness, no advertising, no credit card hangover, no concerts, and no pressure to buy anything. It's basically even optional, with no explanation required if you choose to opt out (except to your mother, and even she will get over it).
Thanksgiving has such a nice small footprint compared to Christmas. The food tends to be locally grown (or could easily be, with a little awareness) and other than the travel, celebrating Thanksgiving doesn't much change your environmental impact. Christmas is another story. Last year I figured out that the amount of money I budgeted for Christmas gifts for my more-than-adequately-possessioned family was more than what 15% of the world's population earns in an entire year. I get the same feeling when I see the tons of gold, red and green plastic crap in every retail outlet as I do when I see farmland destroyed for more McMansions or yet another big box mall.
Every year I rant about Christmas, every year I get accused of being a grinch, every year I reluctantly participate to appease others' expectations (not least of which are my own child's) and every year I grit my teeth until the “holiday season” is over. I expect this year to be no different. I will, however, happily mark the longest night with a warming beverage, lest anyone think me too Puritan.

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