There’s already an increasing intensity in the shopping centres of most towns and cities. Christmas decorations were up in October and the festive hype is certainly noticed by kids and parents too. Is it even possible to duck into the supermarket for a few groceries without kids starting to chime, “What I really want for Christmas this year is… (etc, etc)”?
The commercialisation of Christmas is unrelenting.
With many first world homes bursting at the seams with “stuff”, perhaps we ought to consider if Christmas this year could be more conscious, the giving of gifts to be a loving gesture using materials that do not, literally, cost the earth.
Film maker, Annie Leonard, discovered whilst researching her film, ‘The Story of Stuff’ that of all the resources transferred through the consumer economy, only 1% remain in use six months after sale. Christmas consumption accelerates this pattern. Children’s stocking fillers bought from the ubiquitous ‘$2 Shop’ amuse for a day or two before being tossed out either because they’re broken or one’s child (or grandchild, nephew, niece etc) has lost interest. “Things”, “stuff”, consumer trinkets and more are not built to last. In fact, they’re designed and built to fall apart, to be discarded and condemned to land-fill. As writer George Monbiot commented in his article, ‘ The Gift of Death’ ‘…rare materials, complex electronics, the energy needed for manufacture and transport are extracted and refined and combined into compounds of utter pointlessness.’
And this crazy mindless consumption is costing the earth and humanity.
Parents feel this pressure to provide an abundance of gifts – despite many having grown up without anywhere near the same. Somewhere along the way people get co-opted to thinking that if they pile a heap of wrapped junk under the Xmas tree, it’ll mean the family is happy, the family is prosperous. It’s an insidious myth and turns a festivity into a frenzied madness of late-night shopping, late-night wrapping and stress. At the end of the year, when many parents are burnt out and exhausted, we ramp it all up to a finale of collective consumption to show just how much we care.
It’s not too late in the year to stop and re-set.
It’s not too late in the year to envisage a conscious Christmas.
As a parent, I ask myself what do my kids really need? I know I’m time poor and my children know that too. I know I’ve been so busy and juggling a myriad of obligations all year. Could I ensure that this year I spend less money on them and more time?
What would a conscious Christmas look like? I’m dreaming of a Christmas where an abundance of togetherness far exceeds an abundance of consumption, where the trace we leave on the planet is as light as snow, where we fill our hearts, not some engorged stocking, with memories that last forever.
This year I’m going to make stuff, bake stuff and share it all around. We’ll pool pocket money and parent money and proudly buy something useful for a family in need (like those Oxfam gifts of chooks and goats or something). And we’ll just stop a while, leave those ubiquitous screens on silent and relax and be. Be a family. That’s what I’m wishing for.
At Sydney Rudolf Steiner College we have been running courses that enrich and nourish parents since 1988. Enrolments are now open for Early Childhood (ECF) and Primary Teaching (PTF) Foundation courses, a one-year part-time course that provides an integrated study of Steiner’s understanding of child development. Participants will enjoy an immersive and hands-on artistic and craft experience as well as gain greater understanding of their parenting and nurturing skills. Mostly, what you’ll gain is insights into how to stop a while with your children, how to be a conscious parent and find a community of people trying to do the same.
Don’t live in Sydney? That’s fine. We have distance learning options and welcome all remote and international students to join.