The holidays are a time of celebration for many of us! I love hearing about all the different ways people celebrate. It seems as though underlying them all is good food and lots of it, parties, gift-giving, family and friends, etc. Unfortunately, the holidays can also be a time of sizeable consumption and extreme consumerism.Along with the joys of the season also come the stresses of the season brought on by societal expectations. We often feel obligated to spend tons of money by giving expensive gifts, throwing lavish, over-the-top parties and by cooking up incredibly large amounts of food. With all of these distractions, it’s easy to forget the true spirit of the season.
The Real Reason for the Season
Our family often talks about the real reason for the holidays and recently my husband and I had a talk with the children about the proper way to celebrate this time of year (well at least our opinion on what “proper” is). We talked about how we shouldn’t expect that the holidays are all about getting cool gifts. And we will continue the dialogue in the coming days, hopefully moving the expectation in the opposite direction of materialism. I’ve been reflecting on this a lot lately, and while some of these things listed here are not original ideas, I thought I’d share a few of my thoughts in hopes that it might encourage you along your journey toward sustainable living. For those of us living in the United States, this is the week of Thanksgiving. My favorite part of Thanksgiving is getting together with family and friends. We are all gathering together at my home this year for dinner!
4 Virtues For A Sustainable Season of Thanksgiving
I anticipate that we will spend the day catching up, watching some football, and sharing our joys and our sorrows from this past year. And of course, we’ll all eat way too much.But what should a sustainable Thanksgiving really be about, besides family and friends? It should be about:
These are the virtues that sustain us. And all too often, they fade into the background, behind the chaos.
This year I want to stop looking at what I don’t have, and look at what I do have instead. Do you ever look around and lament over how little you have? Well I do; and I’m tired of examining my life and seeing only the things that are missing from it! If you could read my mind these are the thoughts you would come across… I wish I could be living on our farm full-time, I wish my garden could be larger than the 4-5 raised beds that I have, I want more chickens, I wish my children would listen to me just once… the list of wishes and wants could go on forever! And it’s so easy for me to forget that there are people all around me who would love to have the things that I have. Not to mention all of those who are begging for shelter, food, warmth, and safety.
My deepest desire is to be grateful for what I do have. I am constantly seeking to redefine my “enough” and live in peace with my present situation. In order to do this, I must recognize that happiness is not a future destination, but instead a present reality.
Instead of getting angry at someone else, demonstrate forgiveness. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” ~Paul of Tarsh, The Apostle. Bitterness and anger are unsustainable! It will destroy your very being. However, forgiveness isn’t always easy to give, or receive for that matter. But I can promise you that it is a great thing. If you get mad at your spouse, family member, or neighbor for example, because of something he or she did … bite your tongue, control your actions, and don’t react in anger. Instead, take a deep breath, and begin thinking of reasons why you are grateful for that person. Could it have only been a misunderstanding? Remember all of the nice things they have done for you.
Find something positive, anything, even if it’s difficult. Living a sustainable life requires some level of dependence on others. We can’t do it alone and if we withhold forgiveness we may find ourselves unable to live in community with others.
I’ve always wondered how it became culturally acceptable to spend tons of money over the holidays? I have my theories, but I’ll have to save them for another post (wink). I do think it is important for us to find ways to celebrate without having to spend our life savings. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the other holidays should not require getting deeply into debt. If your family usually spends a lot of money to celebrate the holidays, this might be a good year to have a sit down and discuss alternative, sustainable ways to show generosity.Don’t get me wrong, I love both giving and receiving gifts. But this season of gift-giving doesn’t have to be about buying stuff in order for us to be generous. You can give in other ways:
- Invite someone who may be lonely to your family’s Thanksgiving meal (i.e. a local homeless person, an elderly neighbor, the couple whose children all live far away…).
- Create homemade gifts.
- Go caroling.
- Visit the elderly in a local nursing home.
- Volunteer at a charity organization.
- Have a get-together without the requirement of a gift.
- Gather family and friends together and go do a community project.
- Help another like-minded family complete a home project they’ve been working on.
These are only a few of my ideas, I’m sure your creative minds have many more you could come up with and share!
Living a sustainable lifestyle is often quoted as being very isolating. This is because it often requires some changes in deeply-held traditions, and it sometimes requires uncomfortable discussions among friends and family. This lifestyle means agreeing to do things differently, and perhaps being seen as a “freak” or “weirdo” (I have my own personal favorites that I’ll keep to myself).
Whatever you do, never give up! Always maintain hope! For if we lose hope what else to we have? Even in the midst of discouraging comments from naysayers, continue to pursue your dreams and follow your convictions. Sustainability is always within reach.
Take time this week, and all through the holidays, to ponder these virtues. It just may change your perspective.
What are you grateful for during this season of Thanksgiving? Who do you need to forgive? In what ways do you plan on being generous this season? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section!