Occupy Christmas 2011

Garbage bag - holiday waste

Well, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at least in our mailbox.  Today the flyers outnumbered the total pages of our two (TWO!) community newspapers.  Sadly, there are more deals than news right now.  16,000 plus people in our region.  Let the wild rumpus start!  And we don’t even have a Walmart.  (Yet – but that’s a story for another day.)

It just isn’t right.  The flyers scream at me, “BUY THIS!  SALE ON THAT!  YOU NEED THESE!”  Haven’t we learned anything in the last few years?  I flipped through all the pages, looking for something practical that I might actually think it wise to spend money on.  I couldn’t find it.  Not one thing.  Not one single thing did I need or want. Out of all those shrieking catalogs and howling images.  Not.  One.  Thing. 

<There was not one thing that anyone needs in those pages, if you really think about it.  Not. One. Thing.>

The best I can do is to save the flyers to start our wood stove with.  I can’t even use them for paper plant pots as I’m not sure all the coloured ink is safe for my garden.  I might take them to the recycle box, but some idiot started a fire in one last weekend in our district, so now I hesitate to do that. 

The flyers are full of colorful pictures, sale prices and strident descriptions.  My husband calls such things “plastic pumpkins”.  Most are made in China or India, have no useful purpose, and are cheap and shoddy gadgets which will break or wear out at the earliest opportunity.  Most will end up in a landfill when the recipient (or a parent) comes to his or her senses after the mad rush of Christmas shopping and holiday “giving” wears off.  This seems to be the maximum life expectancy for the happy mindless crap, which is probably deliberate on the part of the manufacturers, like the iPod and its planned obsolescence.  If things lasted for a whole year (or even a month), what would the big box stores sell next Christmas season (or Valentine’s Day)?  Sales would be down, people would be laid off, unemployment would rise, the economy would descend into recession…… oh, wait.  Isn’t that already happening?  Hmm.

I think of the mounds of plastic packaging, zap straps, cardboard boxes, wrapping papers, nylon ribbons and bows that will populate the landfills after Christmas, and I shudder.  Do people still throw batteries in the garbage?  Good god, do people even know they shouldn’t? What about the cheap electronic toys and gadgets that break, worn out and exhausted, mere days after Christmas?  They should be recycled.  How many moms toss them in the garbage can with the rest of the unsustainable mess?  How many even pause for a second to wonder if they should?

My husband and I didn’t exchange gifts last year.  We aren’t going to this year, either.  We gave our friends homemade gifts – canned foods, baked treats, ornaments made from recycled junk.  Santa’s going to bring the kids a few, fairly practical, recycled toys from the thrift store (we’ve been picking them up for months, and pretty much finished yesterday).  And that’s going to be it.  I don’t know what to tell friends and family.  Those who know us, well, they get us.  Meaning, they don’t get us anything.  And for that I thank them.  Those who don’t?  They do buy things.  I don’t know what to tell them – they do it because they love us but how does that make it okay?  And if I don’t say anything, does that make me just as culpable for the whole materialistic galloping galumphing spectacle? 

I don’t know.  It seems worse every year.  The corporations seem more and more desperate to me all the time, as if they know I’m not listening anymore.  As if they know their time on earth is passing…

Will my children be upset that we don’t have piles of presents to unwrap?  I don’t know.  I do know that we are planning other things.  A bonfire for the Solstice.  An afternoon of sledding.  A winter skating party with friends and neighbours.  A feast with all the trimmings, mostly produced on our farm, or by our neighbours.  Aren’t these things worth more than a bunch of plastic pumpkins under a tree?  I think so.  It’s the memories they will cherish, not the toys.  The memories last a lifetime.

So I’m not buying it.  I’ll occupy my Christmas the way that I choose, thank you very much, Big Box.  My kids will be better human beings for it.  And they might still have a planet to live on after I’m gone. 

I’m totally outraged that commercialism and materialism still reign supreme at Christmas time.

Why aren’t you?

1 comment

  1. neko says:


    Really enjoyed reading this blog. Glad to know that folks are really thinking about ways to converse the limited resources we now have.
    We all need to think about ways of creating a more sustainable society.
    It is possible!

    I am a teacher who incorporates fabric in her lessons. Stop by to see what my 6-9 year old students have done with fabric scraps, would love to here what you think.


    Cheers Neko

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