Friday, November 14, 2008

Change the ways we celebrate

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — I’ve been dreaming of a minimalist Christmas and a laid-back New Year.
Whatever your views on the outcome of a long and exhausting presidential campaign, 2008 has been a very tough year on many levels. There have been a lot of stresses and strains, from national gas price wild rides, rollercoaster stock markets and other global economic and ecological disasters to local changes that include deaths of beloved community members and closures of some of our favorite restaurants, shops and galleries.
In efforts to counter hard economic times, there is a national trend to push the holiday merchandise even earlier and more aggressively this year, and many of us are having trouble getting on board.
It’s hard to get excited about decking your halls when so many of us feel we’ve been thoroughly decked ourselves.
But I think it’s time to celebrate change ... and consider changing the ways we celebrate.
I’m advocating a minimalist holiday in 2008, but I’m all for over-the-top excesses when it comes to singing, learning, being creative and artistic and joining forces to help and share with others.
Even though gas prices now seem to be in a downward spiral, in this frenetic year, many of us will have trouble mustering time, gas or airfare to get over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving ... and many working grandmothers, like me, won’t be able to travel to see the grandkids.
When we’re still embroiled in a conflict that has lasted longer than American involvement in World Wars I or II or our own Civil War, it’s difficult to sing about peace on earth and goodwill toward men.
And that, of course, is exactly why we should. And I’m all for singing. It doesn’t cost a thing but a bit of breath and has the potential to generate good cheer and rejuvenate weary souls. I’m officially encouraging singing at home, at school, in the shower, in the car, at your place of worship, in community groups and at your workplace. Maybe you can learn some traditional holiday songs of different cultures and faiths, if you have an ethnically diverse circle of friends and colleagues ... or especially ... if you don’t.
You can learn about celebrations and customs for everything from Christmas to Hanukkah, Kwansaa and Hajj and Al-Hijira, the Islamic New Year, thanks to the miracle of the Internet, if you’re cybersavy, or if you’re not, consider a little research with friends, libraries and multimedia stores.
Downplay the red and go green this year. Recycle ribbons and wrapping paper, or better yet, make or buy cloth sacks that can be recycled year after year. Or pack gifts in sturdy cloth totes and inexpensive canvas bags that can be used for groceries and other purchases throughout the year, giving a gift to the earth of more trees and less plastic in her landfills.
I also think it’s time to reclassify re-gifting from the category of social faux to socially responsible blessing. And recycle those family heirlooms and consider bequeathing long-admired works of art, jewelry and collectibles to friends and family members who would enjoy them.
When you do purchase gifts, think local. Support both the local economy and ecology by buying things produced close to home.
And at a time when the stock market is iffy at best, it’s hard to beat art as an investment. At the very least, you’ll support a creative artist and you’ll have an energizing and rejuvenating hyacinth for your own soul; something you love to look at or listen to or read that will give you much more pleasure and less stress than trying to keep an eagle eye on your 401-K.
This year, it goes beyond cliché to survival strategy: Remember the true meaning of the season.
Simplify, simplify. And whatever your holiday plans, think homemade, ecological, economical, and do-it-yourself.
In the words of the late, great Tenny Hale, “When you feel most like giving out, give outward.” Ask friends and coworkers if they would be willing to skip gift exchanges and take up a collection to give to a needy child or family.
Instead of big, elaborate parties, consider neighborhood and office potlucks or caroling groups. Or plan a little get-together with tea and cookies or a stroll around the neighborhood with a few close friends or family members.
Which is what the holidays are all about anyway: giving thanks, sharing with others and generating memories and good times with loved ones.
Happy simple, minimalist holidays to you.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com

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