December is a season of celebration in many parts of our world. Unfortunately, traditions of holiday revels have been co-opted to push an environmentally-destructive consumerist agenda. How can we reclaim older holiday traditions, and create new ones like Climate Caroling, to heal our communities?
How Consumerism Stole the Holidays*
During the Holiday season, we have lost our sense of community and replaced it with materialism in the form of ‘giving’. The holiday season culture has shifted from spending time with each other and connecting with our communities, to buying expensive, and often impersonal gifts. The concept of purchasing presents every year contributes to increased environmental waste and feeds into the dominant culture’s capitalistic identity.
The introduction of St. Nicholas and the spirit of family and kid-oriented gift giving in the home was a reaction to the proletarian public revelry and holiday unrest in the beginning of the 19th century. The elite transformed Christmas to feel safe from the workers they exploited.Our Changing Climate
The turn to consumerism was pushed even further through the 1930s marketing campaigns of none other than the Coca-Cola corporation. They hired the artist who created the image of Santa Claus that set the standard in the decades that followed. As toymakers and retailers amplified their consumerist messages, the pressure was increased for the overconsumption and waste that now threatens the integrity of our biosphere.
Our feelings of love, worthiness, and guilt are now wrapped up in the quantity and quality of gifts we can give. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Holiday season became an extension of these sales promotions and consumerist culture. People are overwhelmed with the mindset of spending and buying in the Holiday season. As advertisers push families to buy toys for their children as a form of ‘seasonal spirit’, they drive over 1 in 5 Americans into debt through holiday spending.
Not only has Christmas created a financial burden for families, it has also taken away the community aspects of the Holiday season, enforcing separation by keeping us within the boundaries of our own homes and families. What was once a time for shared celebration has been circumscribed into the private sphere.
In the early 1800s, public revelry and “misrule” were an important part of how most people in the US and Europe celebrated the time around the Christmas holiday. The working classes partied on the streets, wassailing, making a ruckus, and playing loud music in “callithumpian” parades, with a particular emphasis on disrupting the comfort of the rich in their homes.
Climate Caroling is one way Novasutras chapters can bring the community together in merriment, with messages abiding in agaya and ubuntu. Novasutras community actions promote positive change to protect and restore the climate, the biosphere, and our social cohesion.
For the last two years, Climate Caroling has been our way of bringing the genuine and authentic ‘Holiday Spirit’ back to Santa Cruz, while bringing the members of our community together, singing in common cause.
Climate Caroling in the Community
Climate Caroling is one of the most festive forms of activism. By singing new lyrics to familiar holiday tunes, we can celebrate the season and motivate action to address the climate crisis.
You might choose to sing climate justice carols at your local branches of banks that fund fossil fuel projects, at the offices or public appearances of lawmakers, or just in busy public spaces and popular shopping areas.
In Santa Cruz, local climate justice activists modified some lyrics in climate carol sheets from Extinction Rebellion (and made up a couple of new ones) to create festive booklets that we could hand out to any who wanted to join our caroling.
The Melbourne Climate Choir has even more suggested modified carols and hymns.
Join us in Climate Caroling, wherever you are.
Other Holiday Hijinks
Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping are pioneers of anti-consumer caroling and other hijinks to break the trance of holiday consumerism, and celebrate more just, ecologically-sane and humane ways of living in society.
What are some other ideas for public actions to heal consumer addictions or add ecological consciousness to the holiday season? Share your thoughts or links in the comments below.
Celebrate the Solstice in Agaya & Ubuntu
Many holiday traditions have their associated problems. However, seasonal celebration is a wonderful way to build community and share joy. If we are devoted to growing a world of agaya and ubuntu, we need to be aware of the harm some traditions may cause to people and other beings, and make efforts to do better. Here are a few articles sharing ways to reduce the negative environmental impacts of the holidays:
- What is the environmental footprint of Christmas?
- This holiday season, reduce your environmental impact with ‘Buy Nothing’
- The Environmental Effects of Holiday Shopping
- The Environmental Impact of the Holiday Season
In Novasutras, we encourage celebrations around the December Solstice that bring joy and delight, without bringing a huge carbon footprint or tons of waste. We offer a message of global unity and reverence for nature in our online synchronous meditation at the moment of the Solstice.
How are you celebrating this Solstice? Tell us about your plans in the comments below.
Share your celebration with us!