Christmas Cheer

Blue_ChristmasHeading into December most of our attention is on Christmas and New Year, so I’d like to start by wishing you all the best for the end of year season.  While ideally it will be a time of comfort and joy, for some it feels more like the last minute sprint to the end of the year, with simply not enough time to cram in all the commitments for work, family, functions and parties.  In the mad rush sustainable living can be relegated to the back burner until well into the new year.  However, sustainable choices should make for a better Christmas and not be seen as an additional burden.

When it comes to gifts, I used to be the world’s worst, I would leave it all to the last minute and buy stuff I was less than happy with for people I suspect liked it even less.  I would get increasingly more frustrated, this was not helped by my partner, Cathy, having her birthday on Christmas Day and feeling a bit cheated, but that’s another story.  That’s changed and I now am well at ease with the cards and gifts I give and know that by and large the receivers also enjoy the experience.  I no longer buy stuff, I choose things with value greater than monitory.  Gift tokens were a step in the right direction, but still felt a bit mercenary and not personal enough.  Many of you will know my passion for the arts, and subsequent respect for artists and performers.  For me it is much better to support the arts community with my gift buying than support the retail sector, I know this will not be welcomed by the retail sector who feel they are doing it tough, and see Christmas as a time that supports the rest of the year.  For close friends and family something specific becomes an easy choice, for example last year I bought a friend tickets to the Ballet and we joined her at the performance.  This not only made her happy to get the tickets, she was delighted she was able to share her passion for ballet with us.  Yes it was my first time and I enjoyed the challenge.  As a councillor I attend a number of gallery openings around this time of the year and often buy artworks for friends, tending to focus on smaller works so they do not dominate when hung.  I get double satisfaction when buying from DADAA because the production of the work has often helped people on a life journey, I have seen the joy in the artist’s face as a red sticker goes on their work.  When it comes to gifts for acquaintances or people you do not expect to meet at Christmas, what better gift than tickets to the Festival of Perth Somerville outdoor auditorium, they can be used for any film and of course a group can enjoy a picnic and film together in the new year, again consolidating that friendship.  I always drop into Mills and buy a strip of Somerville tickets in early December and hey if I do not get to give them all away you I can use them myself.

I also use the gifts that keep on giving, you know the ones from Oxfam, where the person you give it to gets the satisfaction of knowing the item purchased goes to support a family or village enterprise in a third world country, be that a chicken, cow or dunny.  Christmas is a time we should reflect on our disproportionate wealth distribution and help others.

When it comes to sustainable living what better time of year to leave the car at home than in the lead-up to Christmas.  Using public transport allows you to reduce the congestion on the road and allows you to enjoy that glass of wine guilt free.  Once you see how easy it is to hop on a train or bus you will continue it throughout the whole year.  There seems to be a cultural need for us to demonstrate our wealth by buying far too much food over Christmas, much better to demonstrate our wisdom and buy less!  I can now relax with a modest amount of food in the fridge knowing I can provide a snack or meal to any unexpected guest.  Salad and vegetables in the garden are there if I need them and will always be at the pinnacle of freshness.  Ice cream Christmas Puddings are loved by all and do not need eating up by New Year.  Prawns are always a favourite in our house over Christmas, a couple of kilo in the freezer always see us through.  By the time Christmas Day comes I can think of nothing better than a piece of steamed salmon and a green salad, I will be completely over large lumps of red meat.  I know there are those who will have difficulty in putting a meal on the table, lets help them have a good Christmas.  A well chosen plate of food, or bottle of wine could bring joy to someone who would otherwise struggle.

As we enter the new year I hope my community looks back on Christmas having really enjoyed it, because we all chose the sustainable way.  Happy Christmas!

Published in Fremantle Herald 1-12-12

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