Monday, December 6, 2010

Less is More this Christmas

I finally feel composed enough after taking Rip Van Winkle like slumber after gorging myself on Thanksgiving to sit down and express some thoughts regarding this Christmas season. (Side note Happy Chanukah to those who began their celebrations last week!)

Dad's beautifully smoked turkey
coming of the Big Green Egg
Not only did Thanksgiving afford me the opportunity to spend time with friends and family members (big thanks to Leesa (Mom) and Faye (Grandmother)), whom I had not seen since moving to EPP's new office location in Charleston, SC, but it gave me time to reflect on the idea that sometimes (not always) the cliche that "Less is More" is 100% accurate.

Even as a child when I was without an alternative and was forced kicking and screaming to accompany my mother and her friends on Black Friday shopping sprees, more often than not, the "shopping sprees" were more about quality time spent with friends and less about finding that long sought after deal at Macy's, Rich's or Sak's. I'm certainly not going to criticize or poke fun at those who awake prior to the paper boy to hunt down deals or those determined to pile the latest gadgets, toys, and trends under the Christmas tree. Like anyone else, I enjoy new gizmos and try to dress fashionably, but as a society, I feel that we've lost touch with the meaning of gift giving.

From Christmas to birthdays and so on, "if it's not the priciest, then it isn't a worthy gift"is a motto many go by.  It's reported that consumers spent an estimated $1 Billion this "Cyber Monday." And despite the fact I rejoice at that news as a sign of economic improvement, I worry about the cultural shift it underscores.

How many parents cave to giving their kids gaming systems or cell phones before they can read, do basic arithmetic, etc.? How many husbands (don't) know what interests their wives? And buy jewelry in lieu of a thoughtful gift (and vice versa)? I remember when a list for Santa consisted of 2-3 material presents and 2-3 noble ideals; does that still exist? Hardly, lists are pages long, double spaced, 12 pt font and posted on Facebook. And worse, instead of asking, hoping, being extremely good so Santa will reward their behavior, to the kids, the gifts are expected, if not demanded. But the cultural shift is another topic for another post.

Santa, there are still no presents under my tree &
 I promise I was good this year.
As I begin searching for gift ideas, I think back to the meaningful ones I've received in my life. Those that immediately come to mind didn't fetch a hefty price but were thoughtful - hand made gifts from my mother, books from my dad, family treasures from grandparents. These were gifts that transcended dollar value and touched the soul.

For years, Americans have piled on holiday debt only as a means to keep up with the proverbial Jones' to later find those debt laden gifts outdated, unwanted, or unused months if not just a few weeks later.

On this blog we focus more on promoting energy efficiency and sustainability than touting "green" to be green products and services, so I'm not going to urge you to buy some $250 phone charger just because it's solar powered. As Paul Anater says over at his Blog, Kitchen and Residential Design, "screw greening your Christmas, make it sustainable instead."This season, due to economic hardships, many Americans will abstain from gifting big ticket items like iPads, Playstations, or a 3D Televisions, and give the most sustainable gifts of all, gifts with meaning and that convey the love of the giver. It's amazing how a child will ultimately forget or worse break that toy he/she had to have, but they'll always (speaking from experience) cherish the scrap book of pictures & school work compiled by a loving mother.

It wasn't the presents that made the Whos in Whoville gather to sing; it was the love of each other that did: the most sustaining gift of all.  This song still puts a giant smile on my face (from the end of Dr. Suess' How the Grinch Stole Christmas)

Please, share some of your treasured gifts and holiday (Christmas or Hanukkah) memories.

Happy shopping: 19 Shopping Days Remaining

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