Today is the last day of 2011 and I’ve been reflecting on Christmas and a new way of thinking that I am excited to catch glimpses of around the web. I realized that one of the reasons I am drawn to DO Christmas is the buildup and engaging in something out of the ordinary of daily life. It can also draw me closer to family that I have built up these traditions with and is part of my identity. But it seems like a lot of Christmas excess, or just consumer excess in general, happens when we let the market tell us who we should be, what we should do and what we should buy. But come on, we are smarter than that, aren’t we? And we don’t have to be humbugs about it and totally destroy capitalism in the process (tongue in cheek here!).
What if we decided to stop doing personal Christmas light displays and agreed to just enjoy community displays instead?
I love Christmas lights, especially the white icicles that people hang around their overhangs. Driving around looking at Christmas lights was something enjoyable we did as a family, often on Thanksgiving night. But as I was indulging myself this year, the sustainability researcher in me kept whispering, “this is not sustainable”. But the Joey part of me answered back, “but they are so pretty”. What to do? I wondered how much electricity and therefore carbon was was being spewed out to meet my and others’ need for “pretty”. Is there any way we could agree as a community to give up personal Christmas light displays? Aha! Perhaps it would be better if we just focused on community light displays instead. And I could WALK to my community light display, like this one at Iowa State, or downtown to Ames, and I might engage with other community members, sing a few favorite carols, bump into friends for hot chocolate at Cafe Diem. We do this to a degree, as there are Snow Magic and other community celebrations, but it’s not enough somehow. Could we learn how to let it be enough?