Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Holidays and How I Feel

Each time I mention my disdain for the holidays I get the same reaction.
Like instead of hearing me say "Christmas is not something I actively celebrate",
everyone hears "my grandmother died".

I wonder why? Have I crushed the collective merry spirit by honouring my opinion?

There is so much that feels "forced" at this time of year.
People pleasing, crowd following, competitive cheer.
Compulsory joy, enforced excess.

There are many unnecessarily wasteful and over-the-top practices that we seem to engage in "just because". "Just because" what? Tradition, pressure, insecurity?

Over the years, I've been taking steps back from the whole season and just looking at it. Observing and questioning.

Many of our "traditional" practices result in environmental harm (via carbon and emission producing) and psychological distress (guilt, frustration, feelings of inadequacy).


- we increase greenhouse emissions with flashy Christmas lights everywhere
- we waste paper & money buying and sending cards (which many of us do just for the sake of it)
- we cut down our trees, killing our oxygen producing cohabitants
- we buy the "latest" ornaments to hang on our trees
- we are victims of consumerism and are conditioned to compete to buy the "best" gifts
- we become greedy and look to material items for happiness
- we eat too much
- we drink too much

No, I am not the Grinch.
I just think that this is such an artificial celebration.

The Goo Goo Dolls say it pretty well:

and you ask me what i want this year
and i'll try to make this kind and clear
just a chance that maybe we'll find

better days

cuz I don't need boxes wrapped in strings
and designer love
and empty things
just a chance that maybe we'll find
better days

....and some place simple where we could live
and something only you can give
and that's faith and trust and peace while we're alive

Thinking about Kwanzaa kind of relieves some of the angst. Kwanzaa is an African American and Pan-African holiday which celebrates family, community and culture. Celebrated from 26 December thru 1 January, its origins are in the first harvest celebrations of Africa from which it takes its name. The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language.

Kwanzaa was created to introduce and reinforce seven basic values of African culture which contribute to building and reinforcing family, community and culture among African American people as well as Africans throughout the world African community. These values are called the Nguzo Saba which in Swahili means the Seven Principles.

(The Seven Principles)

Umoja (Unity)
To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
To build and maintain our community together and make our brother's and sister's problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose)
To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity)
To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith)
To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Dr. Maulana Karenga

These are some sensible core values. I could take these ones on in a serious way.

Even though I'm not African (at least in this lifetime), I'm sure I was at some point. So technically I could take this celebration on as one of my own, right?

It's kinda like how you don't need to be a "Christian" to celebrate Christmas - you just have to buy lots of stuff and decorate your house and create a huge carbon footprint by doing so.....

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