ode to the Grinch?

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Formerly published in The Other Press. Dec. 4 2012

Christmas traditions that should be eliminated

By Elliot Chan, Contributor

The word “tradition” brings a shiver down my spine. How can intelligent people be subjected to these mindless habits, and worse, why must they pass them on from generation to generation? It’s time for us to kill some traditions and move on, before they do the same to us.

As the holiday season approaches, I brace myself for all the shameful acts we’ll do just for the sake of tradition. Of course, I don’t have to look far. All I have to do is open my curtains and there they are: my neighbours’ Christmas lights hung from their rafters, rooflines, and porch railings to prove to the community that an upper middle class family resides within. Every block has an overzealous decorator, and while most houses are quietly conserving precious energy, these homeowners decide to add to the light pollution. Even with the new LED lights, the festive tradition is still a complete waste of energy. According to the Department of Energy, LED Christmas lights in an urban city still consume over 31,000 kilowatts (10 times less than incandescent) during the course of the holiday season. Considering that on a regular day a household only uses 16-20 kwh, we must prioritize our First World privileges. The only people worse than those who put up Christmas lights early are those who are too lazy to take them down. We’ll speak again in February.

I’m not a tree hugger, but seeing a young, healthy evergreen amputated from the earth and set to slowly rot in a living room doesn’t seem right. “But fake, plastic Christmas trees don’t have the fresh smell,” you say. I really wish that was a legitimate argument, but it isn’t. It can’t be, not in this day and age when we slap someone over the head for not recycling. Stop being so stubborn and at least make an effort. That’s not to say artificial trees are any better. Producing plastic creates by-products that are extremely harmful to the environment. These inauthentic trees leave a far more damaging carbon footprint than real ones. So dismiss the Christmas tree this year and take a sniff: “Ah… A fresh tradition.”

The generous act of giving is perhaps one of humanity’s most positive traits—surely that can’t be a bad tradition. It isn’t, but the fanatic desperation to find a gift is. There’s no such thing as a perfect gift. Eventually it’ll become garbage—broken down or shoved in the garage alongside the plastic tree. There are meaningful gifts, and then there are thoughtless gifts. Most of us can recognize one from the other, there’s no hiding it. The stress to find something meaningful turns generosity into unpleasant despair. There’s no reason for the shopping mall to become a war zone. Change this tradition. I’m tired of receiving knick-knacks and coupons for 10 per cent off after a $50 purchase. Share an experience with your loved ones. Take them out to dinner, go on a trip, and create a memory that doesn’t revolve around a stuffed animal or a box of chocolates.

It’s not my intention to ruin Christmas or the holiday season, but we must acknowledge that as the world changes, so must our traditions. If we’re going to preach about a better environment, a better community, and a better life, perhaps we should replace our white Christmas with a healthy green one.

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