I’ve been pretty down on Christmas lately. I’ve seen exhausted fathers on the subway toting massive boxes full of the latest must-have plastic toy. I’ve heard my own younger siblings pester my parents about the loot that they expect. And I’ve heard 3560 versions of the song “Jingle Bell Rock” on the radio.
Why, then, did I catch myself glancing at the clock at 11 pm on Christmas Eve and counting the hours until morning? As a child, I would lie awake on that night and dream of tearing wrapping paper, hoping that my parents had gotten me the things I’d asked for. These days, I often find myself wishing for less stuff, not more, so my anticipation seemed strange.
What was it that had me watching the clock? Everything about Christmas morning except the stuff. I love sitting in the living room with my family, making breakfast, and seeing people happy about what they’re getting or giving. I look forward to these things, even though a central part of Christmas– getting heaps of stuff–has lost some of its luster for me.
As I see it, reconcieving Christmas requires the same approach as dealing with environmental issues like global warming. It’s less about changing the things we desire than it is about finding out what those things really are, then discovering more environmentally sensitive ways to obtain them. Renewable energy technologies can satisfy our basic needs (heat, light, etc) with a fraction of the impact of fossil fuels. We need a parallel solution for our higher order needs, like satisfaction, belonging and community. When we open gifts on Christmas morning, I think it is these things–rather than more stuff–that we really hope to find.