Tag Archives: christmas

Social justice isn’t just for Christmas

Christmas is a time for giving, for charity, for doing a shift at the local homeless shelter. If you’ve had any contact with the Christian messages associated with the season, you’ll be familiar with the charitable aspect.

However, if your giving and your social justice activities are just for Christmas, pause and ask yourself why that is. Equally, if those around you only seem to care seasonally, see if you can start a conversation about why that might be. Homeless people will still be cold and suffering in January. Charities will still need supporting.

The trouble with having a charitable dabble over the festive period is that it can ease our consciences and make us feel better about ourselves. It has a similar function to those old Lord of Misrule, Twelfth Night and Saturnalia celebrations. You get it all out of your system over a few days, and by this means, the status quo is maintained over the rest of the year.

Just as pretending a twelve year old is the Bishop for one day of the year isn’t actually a cultural revolution, a bit of seasonal charity isn’t social justice. If we want radical change, we have to commit to it as a whole year round thing. We have to start calling out the people who think they can rock up at a shelter or a food bank in December and thus qualify as decent human beings. Especially when they happen to be politicians whose policies created all the misery in the first place.

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Dealing with a dead tree

In the aftermath of Christmas, a great many trees will be burned or sent to landfill. I blogged earlier in the season about alternatives to cut trees (still better than plastic trees). However, we’re now at the point where you’ll be thinking about what to do with the tree, if you have one.

If you don’t have a tree, well done! Please feel virtuous and easy of conscience at this point because you’ve already done the most environmentally responsible thing you could do on this score.

If you are in the UK, your local authority may well have a tree collection point for chipping and deployment – chipped trees can be used to help maintain paths, and this kind of re-use reduces their impact.

In some areas, charities are collecting trees for a donation, and then recycling them as chippings.

Find a responsible way of dealing with your dead tree. Don’t send it to landfill.

And really, Pagans, if you’ve killed a tree to celebrate midwinter, you might want to have a think about this.


Rubbish Crackers, let’s not!

They come in boxes, usually with a non recyclable plastic front. You get the momentary cheer of pulling them. Out pops a non-recyclable bit of plastic tat, and a couple of bits of paper – a hat that will likely tear as you try to put it on, and a crappy joke.

If you shop around online and through eco-outlets, you can find all kinds of exciting alternatives, with worthwhile things in them, and no plastic. But even so, I question the logic of the cracker. There are many ways to dress up a table, they aren’t necessary for that. I detest the paper hats, for me they represent all the forced jollity I hate about the season. If you want people to wear brightly coloured hats for the meal, why not invest in some brightly coloured hats that can be re-used?

So much more rubbish goes to landfill over the festive period. It’s worth looking at what you think is normal, and questioning it. Crackers are not that great when you stop and think about how much pleasure you derive from them compared to what they cost and how much needless waste they generate.


Greener Christmas – spread out the feasting

Food waste at Christmas comes in no small part because we aren’t doing excess well. So much of the attention is focused on one day, and one meal. So you’ve got a roast, gravy, and veg and trimmings and pudding and mince pieces and Christmas cake and cheese and maybe there was a starter and perhaps you bought a bag of nuts… and by late afternoon on Christmas day no one even wants to look at it.

I heard a chap on the radio suggest that some people sit down to consume in the region of 3000 calories in that one meal. It’s hard on your body, doing that. It also isn’t that much fun. Excess can be fun, but not when your stomach hurts and you feel bloated and unable to move.

The trick to excess, is pacing. Why feast on the one day? Why not spread it out a bit? Puddings, pies and cakes on different days, perhaps. Several roast dinners of manageable proportions. That way, it’s easier to manage the flow of food, and the use of leftovers and not end up throwing much out. It also means you can skip gleefully into the New Year rather than feeling horrible, guilt laden and like you have to take up penance activities.

Cut your food waste, increase your enjoyment, make it easier on your body, and have a better time of it all round. Our Pagan ancestors took their time over midwinter feasting and festivities, and we should too.


Greener Christmas – keep the light levels down

Christmas decorations that light up are a way of warding off the darkness at the darkest part of the year. They are an antidote to short days and grim, wintery weather, and that’s fair enough, but less, is definitely more.

Consider the raw materials that go into making lights and the wires that connect them. Consider the energy required to power them. Consider the light pollution if you put a lot of them up outside. Consider how that extra light may impact on those around you, and also on wild things.

I’m probably preaching to the converted here. I find it hard to imagine Druids plastering the outsides of their homes in flashing lights made out of plastic, or running up the electric bills to burn brightly through the night.

I hate the wasteful excess of it all, and the ones that flash I find maddening. How do we persuade people to give up on this? I can understand the urge to have a bit of light, cheer and prettiness. But the mad excesses (yes, I have a near neighbour who does this) confuses me. Beyond a certain level, it’s just invasive. I can see no joy in it. I don’t know how to persuade people whose motives make so little sense to me, so if you have any insights, please pile into the comments.


Greener Christmas – cut out the plastic

Here’s a simple tip to make Christmas greener: Cut out the plastic. Don’t buy anything that has significant packaging on it – all those gift boxes the supermarkets like to put together are just bundles of waste that have to be dealt with. Let’s send them a clear message that we don’t actually want a ton of extra packaging as part of the season.

Don’t buy plastic disposable things.

Don’t buy gifts in single use plastic packaging.

Don’t buy gifts that are themselves made of plastic – especially not the kinds of cheap children’s toys that are likely to break soon and wind up in the bin.

It can be tempting, especially when buying for children, to want to present them with a big mound of gifts to open. It is of course more affordable to do this by purchasing lots of cheap, plastic toys. Overwhelming a child with low value things that will go in the bin teaches them some unhelpful lessons about consumption and waste and will set patterns they’ll have a hard time breaking in later life. If they can break them at all. It is much better to have fewer things of better quality and to learn to take care of them and value them.


Greener Christmas – give something useful

Here’s an option for making Christmas a bit greener: Give people things they can use. Give them food and drink, clothes, toiletries and useful or essential things that they are missing. Make sure these are things that keep well, and they will be used and none of them will be abandoned to landfill.

We are subjected to a lot of messages that useful things – such as socks – are terrible presents. A proper, glamorous present costs a lot more and has less utility. Children don’t want warm clothes, they want a plastic toy based on a TV program. Allegedly.

This is a great time to provide people with nice things they wouldn’t necessarily be able to fund for themselves. Think carefully about what the person you are buying for might need – so many people are living in poverty at the moment; small useful gifts are much more valuable than things of no utility in this context.

Also think about how to tackle the issue of gifts with any friends or family members who might struggle to afford it. Offering not to do Christmas can really take the pressure off. The gift of not driving someone else into debt is a huge one, and well worth considering.

Poverty tends to cause feelings of shame and inadequacy, so it can make it very hard to say ‘I can’t afford to buy you a present’. If you are in a better position, take the initiative here. Start those awkward conversations. Give the gift of caring about other people’s situations.


Greener Christmas – buy wisely

If you are going to spend money on gifts, take it as an opportunity to introduce some sustainable thinking into other people’s lives. Buy well sourced, eco friendly things that don’t cause harm through their lives. This is a great time to get someone some palm-oil free hard shampoo in cardboard packaging, or a fruit tree for the garden, for example.

Buy fair trade and organic. Buy palm-oil free. Buy things that are made from re-cycled and upcycled materials. Buy from charities supporting the environment. Buy local things, with fewer miles of transport in their history.

Get the Woodland Trust to plant a tree in someone’s name. Details here – https://shop.woodlandtrust.org.uk/christmas

Buy from independent retailers, craftspeople, local artisans, and creators. Support your local community and the people who live and work in it, rather than sending money to the shareholders of some massive company. Pay what something is worth, rather than seeing how many knock down items you can get that were mass produced and whose environmental cost is never factored in.

How we spend our money is one of the ways in which we have real power, should we chose to use it.


Have a greener Christmas

For the next couple of weeks, this blog is going to be all about having a greener Christmas, Yule, or whatever else you celebrate. I’m going to mostly say ‘Christmas’ because I think more people will find it if I do. Also, Christmas is the festival especially tied in to commercialmass, and it’s the specifically Christmas derived traditions that I am going to be challenging. So, if you’re having an eco-friendly Yule already, or a sustainable solstice, you probably don’t need what I’m wafting about. However, I’m asking for shares, tweets, reblogs and so forth on this content if you can spare me a moment over the coming weeks. (Not this one, this one doesn’t really have much in it…)

Christmas is a terrible time for waste, consumerism, debt and perpetrating the idea that stuff is what we need to be happy. As a species and as a planet, we can’t afford this kind of attitude.


Tis the season to be cranky

I don’t enjoy midwinter festivals much. I don’t enjoy the cold, or the pressure to be jolly. Thankfully, the man who made it his personal job to patronise me about this every year has removed himself from my life, so that at least, is progress.

As a self employed person, I don’t get sick pay or paid holiday leave. Several of my jobs depend on how well I do the jobs, so time spent not working can compromise how much paying work there is available for me in the future. But even so, there’s not much work to be done between Christmas and the New Year. It’s not a good time to try and sell books.

On the plus side, I get a whole week off. This will be the first whole week off I’ve had since this time last year. I do not recommend this as a way of working, but I have yet to figure out an alternative. I thought I’d manage to take a week off in the summer, but a loss of hours from what was then my main job made that impossible.

So between here and the great shutdown, I’m doing all the work I can. Christmas brings extra costs, I can’t afford for this to be a thin month. I know a great many other people have the same problem – unpaid holidays are a nightmare. Not everyone has the scope to pick up other work to fill the gaps.

I’ve got two late night jobs coming up and three days on the local market. The market work is a gamble, but hopefully we’ll make something selling books there. I’ve written all my blog posts already, and by the middle of next week I’ll hopefully have all my other from-home work done for the festive period. It’s a bit of a strain. I will likely hit the festive period exhausted and needing that week to recover, which is not what I want from a holiday.

And on the whole I know I’m lucky, because I do have paying work and I can afford to heat my home and eat over Christmas and many people are far worse off than this. If you are marginal, midwinter festivals are a nightmare, simply. The extra stress and pressures are not welcome. If you aren’t marginal, be alert to your scope for adding to someone else’s misery. Don’t tell them off if they don’t have the energy for parties, or don’t want to come out, or aren’t getting into the festive spirit – that just piles shame and discomfort onto existing problems. If someone doesn’t seem to be having a merry Christmas, try asking what would help rather than telling them to try harder.

It’s also a good time of year to avoid piling extra work onto other people. I mention this because that’s the thing I’m most cranky about. Not extra pay, extra work. At no notice. If you are comfortable, don’t assume everyone else has the same resources of time and energy to deploy at your whim.