The Great Christmas Tree Debate
And An Eco-Friendly Solstice
We create our own traditions.
My tendency has always been to take the rockiest road to any given end. My dilemma didn’t start with fake versus real trees – rather, it started with the concept of Christmas itself. I had to decide if this is a holiday I chose to celebrate at all. Because, at its core, Christmas is part of a Christian belief system with which I don’t identify.
Then there’s that nagging concern about rampant consumerism and its impact on the environment. The Christmas Season in contemporary North America represents indulgent overspending which is particularly difficult for many of us in todays' economy. There's a sense of global social irresponsibility in our overindulgence in food and drink, and with the many other consumer products related to this holiday that harm our environment in a very real way. And on a mental health level, the cloying sentimentality of advertising, combined with our own extravagant expectations of the season can be intensely stressful.
Our Mom, the Grinch
My concern with the synthetic materials used to create artificial trees extends to a concern for what’s inside the boxes underneath those trees. If you’ve ever bought gifts for children, you know exactly what I mean. Toys marketed to kids in North America are predominantly made of plastics and other unnatural materials. Had I been a single adult, making the decision would have been much easier. But, as anyone who lives with children in an urban setting knows, the pressure to conform to community ritual can be overwhelming. I could not bring myself be the Grinch who abolished an entire holiday for my offspring! But it was also clear I could neither embrace the concept of an artificial tree, nor the notion of harvesting trees, either farmed or wild, on a planet where every tree is vital to its overall health.
Credit: Favim.comFirst, I addressed the matter of religious ritual by studying a variety of winter celebrations. The Winter Solstice seemed to be an acceptable compromise, given my Pagan leanings, 21st December is close to Christmas Day, and the desire to light up the shortest day of the year seems perfectly natural.
Solstice Branch: A New Tradition
I arrived at my ultimate solution to the notion of a Solstice Branch one frosty afternoon during a walk along the river bank, where I noticed a mess of fallen branches. On a whim, I chose a good-sized branch with a nice shape and lots of tentacles, and dragged it home. There I set it into a bucket filled with kitty gravel, strung it with low-energy decorative lights, and adorned it simply with decorations made by myself and my children from natural materials. Thus was born our Solstice Branch – a family tradition happily carried on for nearly two decades.
Now, as to the nagging question of what to put in the boxes beneath the Solstice Branch … reduce, reuse and recycle. Make it yourself, wrap it with brown paper tied up with string, and give it with love.