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Living Lightly column

Christmas Can Be a Magical Time

By Ben Habib, WATCH (Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health)

I like the sense of expectation in the lead-up to Christmas as we wind down the year.  I enjoy the community spirit of this time as we let our hair down at work functions, embrace the joy of the season at carols nights and prepare for the festive feast at the Christmas farmers market.

I love reconnecting with family and sharing the unrestrained joy of children on Christmas morning, along with Christmas lunch, that communal meal that my family prepares and shares as an expression of how much we care for one another.

These festivities honour the anniversary of the birth two thousand years ago of an extraordinary man who changed the world.

But today, the wonderful aspects of the festive season are becoming overshadowed by the deeply disturbing social and cultural pressure placed on us to consume without restraint at Christmas time.

The good things—the love, joy and reconnection with family—are tempered by the expectation of spending bucket loads of money in the rampant consumerist orgy that the festive season has become.

For me, the joy of giving to others has become outweighed by resentment at going into debt to fulfil obligation to buy gifts.

There is no joy in expressing hollow thanks for the mountain of mostly unwanted junk that arrives under the tree as Christmas gifts, whose sole purpose in the New Year will be to take up storage space.

I lament the pointlessness of wrapping paper and cards, which cover presents under the Christmas tree for a few days before arriving at their final destination in the recycling bin.

And I wonder about the electricity bills people rack up in neighbourhood contests to see who can give their house with the thickest coating of LED lights

I am saddened by the sheer wastefulness of it all.

Why don’t we consider the “real” cost of our gifts, in terms of the resource, energy, water and labour inputs of their production, and the pollution generated in the process?

I often wonder if this is what Jesus would have had in mind as a fitting testament to his life’s work.

We could do greater honour to those teachings by celebrating Christmas lightly, by moving away from the crass consumerist perversion of Christmas to embrace the connection with family and community that makes Christmas time so special.


This is the Living Lightly summer series. This article was first published on 21st August 2012.