I used to love Christmas.
I loved putting the tree up with my family and decorating it with our individual ornaments that had our name on it that Mum made.
I loved running downstairs Christmas morning and seeing a full to over-flowing Santa sack waiting for me to tear into it and discover all the toys inside.
I loved buying gifts for my family, I loved receiving gifts from them even more.
I loved the big family lunches where we would stuff ourselves silly.
I loved I would receive even more toys from our extended family.
I loved curling up Christmas Day afternoon with a super full belly and napping.
I loved carols. I loved how the world seemed to take on a magical quality.
I loved Christmas.
Back in 2016 I made a decision that radically changed my life. This change came not overnight but has seeped in over the years until now it seems like a permanent lens in which I see the world.
In 2016 I bought a business. That business was an ethical online fashion marketplace. That decision set me on a course of progressively being made aware of how our consumer habits had led us to a world where we purchase needlessly and thoughtlessly and when we are done; we throw it away without any sort of consideration for where “away” actually is.
More importantly, it has revealed to me that I am a modern-day slave owner. “My” slaves don’t live with me or tend to my house or serve me dinner. “My” slaves instead work in factories in foreign lands. I don’t own these factories, I’ve never visited the factories, in fact, I couldn’t even tell you where they were. But every time I purchase something from a business who isn’t thinking about how their supply chain impacts the world and doing something about it, I keep “my” slaves in slavery. I keep the environment on a crash course with disaster.
I am a great justifier too. I can justify anything to suit what I want. For years I have justified buying my nieces and nephews (of which there are 9 in total) toys and junk they don’t need and will ultimately play with for 20 minutes or until it is broken. But financially I can’t justify buying them all ethical gifts, spending $30-$40 on each of them as a minimum is $300+ dollars I don’t have to spend at Christmas in addition to gifts for my parents, siblings and a couple of close friends.
The reasons I used to love Christmas are now the things that make me feel like not celebrating at all.
So here I find myself at Christmas 2019 and in a bit of pickle.
I don’t want my choices at Christmas to mean I keep people in modern-day slavery.
I don’t want my choices at Christmas to mean I’m sending the environment on a crash course with disaster.
But I also choose to not disappoint my nieces and nephews.
I fell out of love with Christmas when I saw how my choices were not truly aligned with the meaning of Christmas. If Christmas is about Jesus, then what does Jesus want Christmas to look like?
This question has set me on a trajectory to discover a new kind of Christmas and to fall in love with it all over again. Here are two ways I consciously and actively embrace Christmas ethically.
What I used to do: Every year I would pick a colour theme and buy brand new decorations for my tree that matched my new colour theme. What happened to last year’s baubles and tinsel? Sit in the cupboard or thrown away.
What I do now: I no longer have a tree and probably never will again. I don’t have Christmas ornaments or knick-knacks that are covered in snow or represent any sort of a white Christmas. Why? For a few reasons…
- Christmas Trees are made of plastic that pollute our earth and the cheap ones that I would buy would be made in conditions less than ideal for humans. Plus, it’s a pagan symbol, so when it comes to thinking about how Jesus would celebrate Christmas, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have a pagan symbol in his home in honour of his birthday.
- I live in Australia. Christmas falls in the peak of summer. So why would I decorate my home with things to do with winter? It does not represent reality. Christmas is hot. It’s shorts and T-shirts. It’s fresh seafood. Not a reindeer or snowman insight.
What I do now: I’m not against decorating my home for the festive season, I just do it in a way that I feel is more honouring to Jesus and represents what Christmas is really like for me in Australia. This consists of getting my friends together for an afternoon of bubbles and garland making using only Australian natives. We have such uniquely beautiful flowers and trees all around us, so why do adorn our homes with mistletoe and holly? Give me a bottle brush and gum leaves any day. Our Aussie natives dry really well, so the decorations can stay up for a few weeks. When they are ready to be thrown away, you can put your decorations in the compost, green lid bin or your garden. No long-lasting damage to the environment or need to store it. Plus, who doesn’t love an afternoon with the girls!? What a great way to celebrate Christmas with friends.
What I used to do: Panic. Present shopping is so stressful with all the hustle and bustle and last-minute gift ideas. I would feel stressed out and completely deflated because I knew my shopping cart was full of things that were not ethical.
What I do now: My nephews and nieces don’t know it yet, but they are all getting a good old helping of Aunty Neri’s time. I messaged my sisters and asked for their opinion on an idea I had – instead of gifts that just added to the clutter in their houses, how about I gave the kids the ingredients for cupcakes or brownies and I would come to their house and bake them with them while Mum and Dad got a little downtime. To my surprise the response was a resounding “Yes!” and not just because of the downtime but because my siblings wouldn’t have to battle even more toys and clutter.
Not only do my nephews and nieces get some time with their favourite Aunt but I also help my siblings out by not putting them in a position where they are contributing to the devastation of the environment. Because we all know at some point those cheap toys will get broken or forgotten about and unless they have someone to pass them onto, my siblings will just throw them out. So the flow on effect of this idea not just helps me stick to my values, but it helps my siblings engage with being environmentally conscious without even realising it because there will be nothing there to throw away after 6 months. One less toy in landfill – that’s a win.
You may not be able to give of your time in the way I plan to, but I encourage you to think through what ways you could give ethical gifts this year, be it homemade or store bought.
These are just two ways I am thinking ethically about Christmas. Modern day slavery and climate change are huge issues and it can feel overwhelming because it is. It simply is too big for one person to address. But change collectively begins with a choice. I encourage you to, where possible this Christmas, choose ethically. I think it’s the best gift we can give Jesus for his birthday this year.