A Sustainable Holiday Season

| December 8, 2014 | 0 Comments

The holidays are upon us. It is a time of celebration and of excess, at least in my house. For years I spent hours looking for gifts, buying decorations, wrapping gifts elaborately, baking, canning, and most of all eating. As the years went by I grew less enchanted with the fuss and the mess. (However, the food is still fine!)

The holidays are upon us. From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve, we seem to wallow in excess. I am extremely guilty of this. Despite being a nice Jewish girl, I grew up celebrating the non-religious aspects of Christmas. For my family, it was a time to think about peace and goodwill. Nevertheless, presents were important, and decorating was rewarding and fun.

My husband and my children celebrated in much the same way as I had as a child. At some point I did introduce Hanukah, but it never “took” since their mom and her few relatives were the only Jews they knew.
I followed my mother’s lead and went all out for Christmas: tree, decorations, presents, food and parties.

By the time my children were fledglings and about to leave or just out of the nest, I had developed a hideous allergy to pine pitch. The children had no interest in helping put up the tree; my husband did the lights, but I was really the only serious participant. My mother-in-law (Episcopalian, low) moved to San Diego and she was the one who dealt with decorating and un-decorating the tree and putting the ornaments away.

Sadly, she died just before Christmas one year. That year when the holiday was over, I gathered my children who were no longer at home and had them choose ornaments. My son was married so he and his wife wanted all the hand-blown pre-World War II Czechoslovakian ornaments; my daughter wanted the bread dough ornaments I had been making for years, and thus I divested myself of decorations. (Most decorations, non-denominational items I kept for center pieces and doors.) I continued the elaborate wrapping tradition and the reckless gift-giving.

Gradually I became interested in recycling and aware of the rapid decline of our planet’s health. I had given up trees due to lack of participation and allergies; I am not fond of artificial anything, but the amount of paper and ribbon I used was obscene. I began recycling both. Now, my children and friends are afraid to tear paper and give everything to me so that I can resuscitate the accoutrements with an iron and store them for the future. I began giving permanent or semi-permanent gifts as well.

This brought me 2014. I still have tons of ribbon (salvaged and not yet used) and paper, but I am now considering how to avoid waste this year. I will give memberships to my grandchildren. My children need money always; and while it’s hardly sustainable, I know they will use it wisely. My friends and I have stopped giving gifts; those my age are trying to figure out how to get rid of stuff in lieu of accumulating more!

Decorations are easily improvised from yard cuttings, vegetables, fruits, seed pods as well as from buttons, scraps of yard, bits of fabric or worn out clothing. I am always looking at what I can do with really worn out stuff that is past its useful life. The fuzzy part of a slipper can become a stuffed animal or a cat toy or a decoration for a doll or piece of clothing. Gifts wrapped in newspapers, particularly the Sunday funnies, are fun. Children can decorate newspaper or scrap paper with paint, or cut outs, or writing. They can even make patchwork wrapping paper by gluing scraps of thrown out paper together to make a collage.

This is how I plan to handle the holidays. Of course I have not abandoned baking, but perhaps canning may be a bit more sustainable. I wish I could economize on wasted calories!

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About the Author ()

Barbara Strona is a native Californian who grew up in the Mid-West and Los Angeles. She and her architect husband, Carl, came to San Diego in 1968 and have lived in Mission Hills since early 1971. Barbara received a Bachelor of Arts from Scripps College with a major in English, and a minor in Art. She attended UCLA graduate school and received a General Secondary Credential. She taught English in Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, and at Point Loma High School. She has been a Realtor specializing in residential sales since 1984. Her passions include her job, reading, writing, foreign languages and foreign countries, animals (feathered or furry), theatre, and her family: husband, two adult children and two grandsons.