...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Holiday Plans

Many thanks to those who noticed my absence last week.  It's always great to feel appreciated. The weeks have been a tad busier than expected and I decided not to stress if I couldn't post.  But I'm glad to be back.

Among other projects, I've been spending time considering our holiday plans.  We'll welcome my folks to Milwaukee for Thanksgiving, though I haven't thought a bit about my menu yet (though I have officially acquired an organic turkey for the occasion.)  The December holidays are also right around the corner.  As our beliefs have evolved over the years, we've been trying to figure out how to present Christmas and other winter holidays to our child.  Last year in the eleventh hour I realized I wanted to give her a sampling--or at least begin with a story--of various religious/cultural holidays that happen around this time of year.  I've started much earlier this year thinking about how we'll celebrate, if/how much we'll decorate and spend, what we'll cook, if/how we will give gifts.  Yesterday I attended a very timely meeting of a new parenting group I recently joined at our congregation.  We had an in-depth dialogue about what holiday traditions we observed growing up, how we choose to celebrate now, and our concerns for how we and our children will handle our celebrations outside of the "mainstream" beliefs.  It certainly won't be easy and I'm sure it will continue to evolve over the years, but I feel that because of the time I've already spent pondering, the celebration will be much more meaningful.  I'm hoping to spend time this week putting together a list of ideas for how to get the most out of the season of celebration while keeping it very simple especially from a consumerism standpoint.  Experiential giving and receiving seem to be the informal "theme" thus far.

Hundred Dollar Holiday book cover
Which brings me to the idea of giving my child, my husband, and my family the gift of time now (if not more in the new year altogether.)  I stumbled upon a pre-21st century book (i.e. pre- explosion of the internet, cell phones, and other electronic devices which have all changed our culture so) by environmentalist Bill McKibben, Hundred Dollar Holiday: A Case for a More Joyful Christmas.  It's been interesting to read his work prior to the extensive writing he's since published on the impact of global climate change (though this 1998 view of one of the nation's biggest holidays could be loosely linked to all the consumption and waste that do, in fact, relate to the "greenhouse effect.") His point in this piece is to greatly reduce all the money we spend on this national holiday.  I feel that we've already majorly reduced holiday consumption in our household, but I was interested in what he says about finding meaning in the holiday (whether you celebrate "Christmas" as a religious holiday or otherwise.)  It gave me great insight into why so many Americans celebrate in the current ways they do: huge fussy feasts, mass consumption, packed schedules, expensive decorations, endless parties, etc. One of my favorite passages from his book:
"...time is in many ways our most valued commodity.  If we could buy more of it from the store, the line outside its door would stretch to the horizon.
Our strategy with Christmas, then, has gone slightly awry.  We've gotten used to spending more money to make it special.  But if money's no longer as valuable as time, we're offering each other a devalued currency...If Christmas is going to be special, then make sure to spend time in special ways--make it relaxed time with the people who count in your life."  
He discusses enjoying this feeling of less stress year-round and voluntary simplicity (a lifestyle choice and social movement focused on reducing one's rate and scale of consumption and living with fewer possessions; in balance with the social and natural environment.)  There are so many more fantastic ideas in this very quick read, which makes a great handbook.

Aside from exploring other religious/cultural holiday celebrations, I'm planning to keep the meals and event planning simple.  I'm not making any homemade gifts this year (aside from one for a friend that's part of an on-going barter system).  We're focusing on spending time together; enjoying the stillness, light (or lack thereof), and warmth of the season.  In fact, I've made a short list of personal goals for myself this holiday:

  • Give the gift of time to family, friends, and my child
  • Spend more time outdoors (even in the darkness)
  • Visit those who don't have anyone (possibly after the holidays when people may be more lonely)
It's just a start, but if I can make time for those three simple things, I think the holidays will have much deeper meaning for me.  It's amazing how much less stressed I already feel as the season approaches.  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this! Your post was probably the last push I need to wake up for Sunday worship. We've been eying your congregation since we moved here.


    PS: I'll be blogging our renovation before/after pics soon -- will let you know so you can see more of Kevin's work!