“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…” go the words of a well known Christmas song that rings out in malls and churches every time Christmas rolls round. And decorations and shop windows mirror that dream – snowy tinsel, snowflakes, cottony snowmen all pointing to a wintery celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Unfortunately this Euro-centric (and capitalist) perception of Christmas misses the point. As most scripture scholars agree, the actual birth of Jesus, going by the minimal evidence provided, would have been summer or early fall. It is not essential to go into that evidence here, but almost all of us also know that 25 December has as little connection with the birth of Jesus as does snow! It was chosen to ‘christianise’ a ancient Roman festival honouring the Sun God, Sol.
That birth in summer-fall must have been a lovely experience: warm and green, with leaves turning red and starting to fall, carpeting the ground with a crackly carpet. A season of life and growth moving slowly into the coolness of early winter.
If that birth was to take place today, however, that baby would be uncomfortable. Global warming has made the Palestinian summer unbearable, pushing temperatures into the upper 40s, and baking the earth into a dry clay that discourages growth.
Even the mythical white Christmas we sing about is fading – shorter winters, disrupted snowfall patterns, melting icecaps might soon render it obsolete.
How do we make Christmas green again? There is much we can do to bring the birth of new life to our exhausted and overused Earth. These are just some suggestions – more for urban settings – that we can implement and disseminate to others; feel free to add your own.
- Don’t use electric lights as decorations. Electricity generation is a major CO2
- Don’t put up a plastic Christmas tree with plastic decorations! Decorate a potted or garden plant instead.
- Make your own decorations using waste like streamers from newspaper or old wrapping paper strips.
- Homemade sweets are best! The amount of wastage in shop-made sweets is criminal!
- If giving gifts, avoid wrapping paper (at least the plastic/foil type).
- Be bold – do NOT gift items like smart-phones or digital cameras or motorbikes to teenagers!
- Take a Christmas resolution (take more if you like):
- Reduce food production to reduce wastage.
- Finish leftovers before making fresh food.
- Plant/nurture trees and plants.
- Limit mobile phone usage by two hours a day.
- Use less water during a bath.
- Switch on lights only when absolutely necessary.
- Avoid using an air-conditioner. If essential, use it at not less than 25o
- Use kitchen waste water for plants and trees.
- Compost waste and send recyclables for recycling.
- Spend Christmas at home with family and friends. No mall-hopping or pub-parties.
- Petition your Church to drop the vigil service. Attend the day service – the vigil service entails a HUGE outlay of electricity for lights and sound. Difficult to implement, but make an attempt.
- Use clothes and footwear you already have rather than wasting money on (and the environmental inputs of) new clothes and footwear.
- Adopt a Christmas stray dog/cat and give it a home and love. (You have some lovely reindeer names to inspire you: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolf…or maybe even Santa.)
An important thing to remember is that we can have a lot of fun and joy doing things simply and with minimum environmental impact. Getting together as family for sweet-making, decorating, and celebrating is more meaningful than store-bought produce that is mediocre and standard, and than commercial celebrations that are loud and noisy.
While some of the suggestions above might seem irreverent, it is good to know that no ritual or custom is above our good Earth that is in serious need of our care and love to regenerate herself.
Wishing you all a merry and green Christmas.
Suren Abreu, Green Madcaps
[This article was published in the December issue of the Prophetic Voice, the CPCI Bulletin published in Bengaluru]