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Dreaming of a 4-R Christmas

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POSTED: January 3, 2009 5:00 a.m.
For the first time in history, Americans’ personal savings for 2008 was a negative figure. Think about it. That means that most of us save less than nothing. There is a hole in our collective pocket.
Consider too that almost a quarter of Christmas season sales are charged, and January is the peak month for credit card delinquencies.
My artist husband created a holiday postcard this year with a picture of Jesus surrounded by lambs, holding a sign that said, “Thou shalt not go into debt in my name.” Though tongue-in-cheek, his humor hit home.
I have always thought holidays a little ludicrous in this country. They become so full of nonsense. Even Anna Jarvis, the woman credited with the idea of Mother’s Day, grew disenchanted with its commercialization. She was arrested for disrupting a Mother’s Day celebration and, before her death, told a reporter she wished she had never started the holiday.
Christmas embraces the birth of a prophet, and becomes a day in which 25 million tons of bright paper and 38,000 miles of ribbon gets wrapped around a multi-million boost to the economy.
In 1999, the U.S. Department of Agriculture figured that 32 million Christmas trees got cut. And Christmas lights use the equivalent of the electricity consumption of half a million homes.
The holidays are an environmental disaster. Yet we humans crave ritual and festival. We need it.
So every year I am left with trying to figure out how much is enough. Some sprigs of holly, yes. Cards on the mantel. Gatherings with friends. Cookies. Caroling. Yes, yes, yes.
But a few years ago, we called a moratorium on gift-giving. We began to make donations to nonprofit environmental organizations in our friends’ names. This year we are making food boxes to deliver to neighbors who are struggling. Children in the family get money, if we have it, in their college accounts. Any presents we give are homemade, as well as edible, reusable or biodegradable, and they are wrapped in the funny pages.
If you must buy gifts, please give the recipient something he or she wants. Give from the heart. Give gifts of service. Buy local. Draw names. Put gifts under the tree shortly before opening them. Take turns opening.
This Christmas, I beg you, for the sake of your pocketbook and our planet, reuse, recycle, repair and reduce.

Author Ray supports the idea of gift memberships to environmental groups and Georgia Organics for the holidays.
 

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