The winter solstice is approaching in the northern hemisphere. Days are short and nights are long. It is that moment each year when nature offers us the chance to stop for a moment and take the time to meditate, to learn from the past year, and reflect on it.
Most people are busy doing just the opposite. They are spending a lot of time maintaining good relationships with the people around them, but taking very little time to communicate with themselves or do any introspection. It shouldn’t have to be one or the other. In my opinion, a good balance between both is an appropriate recipe.
I have always liked the Christmas season, with its lights, its colors, the bustle in the streets and the unique, peaceful sound of Christmas carols.
I remember the Christmases of my childhood as moments full of happiness and joy. Every year we travelled from Madrid to Cartagena, where my grandparents lived. There we would meet with almost the whole family and we catch up with friends who lived there.
That was what I liked the most: the visits to each other’s houses, the stories that the elders told us while the little ones were stuffing themselves with chocolate nougat, the evenings of table games, and the heat of the fireplace. These were the days of magic and human warmth.
As the years have passed, I have not lost that same excitement that I felt as a child, but I do recognize that I had to do an important exercise of self-awareness before cutting with the whirlwind of consumerism which , this time of the year, seems to have become, and thus to giving it a more adequate sense for me.
It all started one day when I was on the lookout for a holiday gift.
I was in a well-known, large Spanish department store in the center of the Madrilenian capital when suddenly a terrible feeling that I could not identify at the time struck me. I stood still for a moment, looked around me, and said to myself,
“Look at us! What the hell are we doing?”
I promised that I would never enter that place again. And I did it only to prove to myself that it wasn’t necessary, that I didn’t need to buy anything from what was there to be found, and that it had nothing to do with Christmas. It was nothing more than pure social inertia in which most of us are trapped if we do not stop and reflect.
From then on, I rethought the true meaning of Christmas, and began to walk away from the consumerism path.
The first step was to get back in touch with nature to better understand the meaning of the solstice: the return of the Sun, the rebirth of light and hope. Everyone seems to take a new pulse after Christmas.
Afterwards, I analyzed every aspect that is affected by consumerism these days, in particular food, gifts, ornaments, and social relations. I started doings things differently, step by step.
Today I will share with you what I have been putting into practice.
Who does not like pleasing loved ones with a nice gift?
As my virtual friend Mamen Pérez says:
“Giving is like winking at someone else to tell him/her: I’m here and I care about you”
In this section there are several options.
For example, in our family, when we all meet every Christmas, our “Christmas gift policy” is called “Secret Santa”. By playing this game we avoid the stress of endlessly hunting for gifts for every single family member. When you just have to take care of finding a gift for one person, you are much more likely to put more energy and love into finding an object or experience that adds value to the person’s life.
The other option that I love is to give handcrafts – unique objects that come out of your own hands or of the hands of professional craftsmen. We are all creative, although most of us have forgotten this along the way. During the month of December, I create products of plants and herbs for my loved ones.
For wrapping the gifts, I use newspaper or cloths that can be reused.
Eating, eating … and more eating!
No, you don’t have to eat until you drop dead! Really, believe me! It’s possible.
You only have to do one thing: change the way you think and stop doing things because
“it has always been done like that”
I am the first one who likes to eat and try everything but there are limits and things can be done differently.
I do not see the sense of having to eat stuff that literally poisons me, when, precisely today, in this part of the world, there are so many healthy options. You choose what to eat, not the food industry.
We have the ability to decide at any moment what to buy and what to eat. I have reached a point where I am unable to eat the typical Spanish Christmas sweets I liked so much as a child. I do not need them; I do not like them; I do not want them. And if suddenly I feel like eating a Christmas sweet, I prepare it myself. At least I will know what’s inside.
You can prepare exquisite meals and dinners of high quality with the ingredients that nature offers us without poisoning or overindulging ourselves. It is a question of choosing the best for yourself, both quality and quantity.
These are times that I like being full of energy to share quality time with my beloved ones. If I opt for excessive eating (yes, it is optional, nobody forces you) I feel bad, and I lack energy to enjoy these days to the maximum.
Today we have enough information and awareness not to continue to put our money into “food” that damages us. And it’s not just once a year …
Last week was the beginning of the Christmas market here in the city where we live. The streets were exquisitely decorated, and the lights highlighted even more the beauty of this university town. I enjoyed myself as if I were a child getting lost among the craft stalls.
All this to tell you that I love the decorations. But as the offering of Christmas decorations is becoming more overwhelming every year, the vast majority of the ornaments are soulless plastic objects.
In the past, when there was no such things available, people were creative, and decorated their houses with natural materials: holly, mistletoe, fir twigs, dried leaves, pine cones, ivy, small pieces of wood, and so on.
Personally, I love to decorate our home with these natural materials. If you do not have the time or desire to create them yourself, go to the local markets. I am pleasantly surprised to see the return of these types of ornaments.
Social relationships vs. chosen loneliness
Christmas is also a time of social commitment, of dinners and meetings with friends and family. Although that is not my case, many would prefer to avoid it at any cost. But once again, social inertia drags them to a place where they do not want to be, in the company of people with whom they have nothing to share.
Some time ago I heard a quote saying something that resonated a lot to me:
“Loneliness is the gym where you begin to train self-esteem.”
As I said at the beginning of this article, the winter solstice is an annual moment that nature offers us to stand still for a moment and take some time for introspection.
What would you think about the idea of running away from all the noisy and superficial celebrations to celebrate Christmas or the end of the year with no other company than your own? Taking the time to listen to your inner voice, to discover and know yourself, to pamper yourself, to love yourself can be one of the better choices you make.
I have to confess that I have this one fantasy that I dream of carrying out one day, at least once. Having moments of chosen solitude are advisable and necessary to connect with our inner self and discover who we are and what we really want. Why not doing it during these magic days?
Now, I invite you to gather with yourself and/or your loved ones to celebrate the return of the Sun and the rebirth of light and hope.
What are your tricks to reduce Christmas consumerism?