11/12/2016

(sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)
A week ago, I posted my thoughts about christmas considering waste production and suistainability. I showed that considering this aspects, christmas might not be such a good feast after all. But this waste is, to some degree avoidable.
Today, I want to look at christmas from a minimalist perspective, considering the things, we purchase that are associated with christmas and whether or how I want to change that.

1. decoration (including the christmas tree)
This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest issue, I have with christmas. For sure, the house should look festive, but I grew up in a holiday seasons with the windows full of stars and christmas pictures, small christmas statues and cribs all around the living room, at least three different chains of lights in the garden and a huge christmas tree full with decoration. Actually, we always had a "decoration evening", where my brother and me would spent the day hanging up as much decoration as possible. Thinking about it, I never considered this masses of decoration "beautiful", but I liked them, because I knew no other family who decorated so excessively (and tacky). I thought that, when I am older, I want to decorate my whole house festive. (for reference pictures, see that blog post of christmas two years ago: 1, 2)
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Decoration takes up time, money, produces waste and is not in any way minimalist after all. In our basement, we have two big boxes only for christmas decoration as well as one bag for light chains and one bag for decorations, that don't fit in the boxes. For easter, we again have one box of decoration. If we celebrated Halloween or Thanksgiving, I am sure, our basement would be one decoration storage room.
I don't want to spent my time or my energy or money on decoration, I don't even think is beautiful. If you type in "Christmas room" in google search, you will see a lot of pictures that I would consider just kitchy.
Above all, I can feel festive without decoration. I don't need to put up Santa statues and angel decoration to remind myself that that time of the year has arrived. Because of my affinity with zero waste, I cannot help but just see the waste, the decoration will become eventually.
The christmas tree is a waste issue as well. I would prefer an artificial tree that is reusable, like my family actually has one, but still: is it necessary? I don't think I would feel any less festive if we had not put this green piece of plastic in our living room.
Last year, even though I considered myself a minimalist, I still participated in christmas tradition as always. This year, I want to spent the time, I would spent hanging up decoration with something different, that is meaningful for me.

2. christmas cards
I cannot remember a single occasion, I did not write a christmas card out of obligation. Most of the time to relatives who also sent christmas cards to us or to friends, attaching the card to the gift.
So, what is the purpose of a christmas card? Wishing someone a merry christmas and sometimes already a happy new year. If not sending cards, people would definitely assume you wish them a horrible christmas and a even more horrible new year.
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Not.
I mean seriously, this phrase written or printed on these cards is so plain and obvious, do you really need a card to say it? Considering that you say this phrase to almost everyone, you meet in the holiday season, it does not appear to have a lot of value or be something specifically for your loved ones. If you consider that these cards are thrown away not later than early January, they don't seem to be meaningful for the person, who received it either.
Preferably, one could call the person and actually exchange more information than these words. I think it is way more personal than a 1€ card from a supermarket.
So, this year, I will avoid cards as much as possible and rather speak to the people personally. I already know, however, that I will definitely send one card to my host family in Japan and one to my friends there.

3. gifts
And this is the biggest issue. Out of curiosity, I re- read old blog posts of mine about christmas two years ago, back when I blogged in German about my personal life: (12). I looked at the presents, I took from the gifts, I received and found two things:
1. I did not talk about a lot more than what presents I got and how I liked them. Other thinks didn't seem to be meaningful
(source)
2. Out of 13, I remember liking and using eight presents and I still have one of this presents. Another one was really helpful (Japanese dictionary), but too broken to still use it. Literally, I only found two of 13 gifts to be useful in the course of two years. If this doesn't tell about how fitting and accurate these gifts were.
Also thinking back to last year's christmas, I think I have already get rid of half of the things, I received. This is, I belive, because things are bought out of obligation. While my desires and wishes for material things are ignored for a year, in holiday season, people are suddenly trying to fudge gifts out of nowhere, that I might like. So, even if this people know me and my wishes really well, they usually end up purchasing something unwanted. Thus, it is difficult for me to answer somebody what I want for christmas: my material wishes don't concentrate on one month of the year. Something, that I would feel way more positive about is giving gifts to people throughout the year, when they seem to desire something.
But even with that improved option, I would have a problem. Gifts are supposed to make one happy. Most of the time, they are materialistic. This reflect's society's assumptionss that materialistic things gain happiness. They can, to some degree, but more things definitely don't lead to more happiness. I feel that things, especially gifts, cause stress. I have to thank the person, regardless of whether I actually liked the gift or not, consider if I can use it or want to do so and then possibly deal with how to get rid of it. Most people use gifts to free themselves from the guilt of buying a gift anyway, so the thing itself does not have any meaning on a personal level.
But even this gifts, that are given out of obligation, without any emotional connection, take up time thinking about, money (686€ per person per year on average!) and energy and produce a lot of waste.(more information) This does not seem like a meaningful way to spent your time.
When I think about which presents I liked the best two years ago, two come to my mind: The Japanese dictionary, that I used until half of the pages were missing and the trip to Berlin. The first one was something I could actually use. Constantly. A lot. The second one was an amazing experience. I think that either of this gifts are the best choice to make, also on a zero waste level. They simply make one happier than any materialistic thing, that you don't really need.
So, giftwise, I want to introduce two changes this year:
1. I will give away as few gifts as possible in general. People, I don't care about don't need a meaningless gift from me. Those, who I give gifts to, I will try to give experiences or usable items. Apart from one gift (a self- sewn T-Shirt), I fulfilled this plan.
2. As for the gifts, I receive, I will a) make the wish to get them wrapped in newspapers/ other recyclable paper and b) only wish for something, that I really feel is necessary and will make me incredibly happy.

5. What makes me feel festive

If I put all this ideas 100% into reality, I would not have much left of what is considered a traditional christmas: no decoration, no cards, no gifts, (of course) no turkey... so what is a nice thing to do at christmas? Here are things, that make me feel festive and nice and like it it christmas:
1. Nice food (probably cooking it myself)
2. Meeting my relatives and having interesting conversations
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3. Snow, ice, cold weather in general (going outside)
4. Christmas songs (the ones that are played in church)
5. Charity (doing good deeds)

So, I will take efforts to minimize my holiday season to only this things, that actually make me happy.
Other inspirational posts about this topic: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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