20 December 2012

Christmas: changing the questions

I struggle with Christmas. For me there are two completely separate festivals, both called 'Christmas' and celebrated on 25 December. 

One is a religious celebration of God sharing God's love by coming into humanity as one of us. This phenomenal miracle is profoundly significant to me and is, in my opinion, appropriately celebrated with prayer, reflection, community gatherings of praise and wonder, story, song and attention to the poor - those for whom God consistently shows the highest regard.

The other festival is a secular celebration of family, friendship and community (although many without family to share with feel the friendship and community aspects are not really celebrated by the majority, and as a result if is often a time of isolation and exclusion). It is celebrated with gift giving, eating and sharing time with loved ones. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a festival I don't feel very connected with. However, as it is a major festival of my culture and my families, I participate. I attempt to do so with good grace. I have a three-year old: I do not want to teach her to say bah humbug just yet.

The place of conspicuous consumption in the celebration of Christmas is disturbing to me for many reasons, not least because it appears contrary to the essence of the religious festival that it runs alongside, and is in my mind evidence of a deep spiritual malaise inherent in western culture. However, in the context of this blog my concerns are around its impact on our earth.

There are lots of practical ways to reduce your Christmas footprint, and I intend to write a separate post about some of the things we are doing here. The thing I am particularly committing to this year, though, is changing the questions I ask children (and others) about their Christmas celebrations.

The questions we ask teach others what we value. The most common Christmas question is What did you get for Christmas? I think this teaches children that we value hoarding stuff, even if in other ways we try to teach them other attitudes. This year I will be trying to not ask this question at all. Instead I will be asking:

Who did you spend time with this Christmas? What did you do together?

What was your favourite present you gave to someone this year?

What stories did you hear told at Christmas?

What did you notice that was beautiful?

And when the inevitable discussion of loot gathered arises: Who gave you [item under discussion]? What is your favourite thing about that person?

This takes no time and costs nothing. I am hopeful its impact is as one of the many feather strokes that form the character of my and others' children.

1 comment:

  1. A very thoughtful post. I especially like the questions at the end. Thanks Clare.