My proposals for a healthy Christmas

November 23, 2020

Christmas is approaching fast, just like it does every new year. I myself is as exited as always over this holiday! It’s by far my favourite holiday. Well. It’s actually the only holiday that I actively celebrate, in a traditional Swedish non-Christian way like most of here in Sweden.

Christmas is—for me—all about spending time with friends and family, eating too much food, snacks and candy, drinking (non-alcoholic) glögg and julmust, doing crafts, baking and of course; watching a bunch of Christmas themed movies. I know, I’m a sucker for Christmas.

Christmas can be a stressful time for some

For a lot of people, Christmas is unfortunately everything but how I just described my Christmas. For some, it’s a period filled with stress and anxiety, perhaps it has even become some sort of mandatory service, rather than a cheerful voluntary holiday. They’re stressed for all the things they “have to” do, buy and prepare, all the places they have to visit and be at, all the friends and family they have to spend both time with and money on.

And let’s not forget all the unwritten rules and scheduled traditions some slavishly follow without even question it. That’s not really healthy though. Christmas should be a cheerful holiday, or perhaps nothing at all if you choose to not celebrate it. Because that’s just it, Christmas should be what you want it to be, and why not make it to something that you actually enjoy and look forward each year?

We’re overconsuming

A large issue with Christmas is the fact that we’re overconsuming food and presents. I’m from the relatively small country Sweden, we’re about 10 million people here, yet, last year (according to hui The Swedish flag) we spent 7.8 billion euro on Christmas shopping, and on average we spent 769.8 euro per person. It’s estimated that we’re going to break those numbers this year, just like we always seem to do every year.

All this is rather ironic considering the fact that (according to Svensk Handel The Swedish flag) 41% of the Swedes considers the environment and sustainability aspect to be the most important thing for us. If that’s true, then why are our overconsuming our planet to a rapid death?

Svensk Handel also mentioned that we rated Christmas presents the seventh most important thing on Christmas. That’s after friends & family, food, Christmas decorations, snow, Christmas tree and Christmas music. They also said that 79% of the Swedes likes giving away presents and that only 56% of us actually cares about receiving gifts. Why on earth are we giving away presents to people who don’t even want them and why are these people not saying anything?

I’m not completely surprised though, this is a fairly typical us Swedish people. We’re so afraid of conflicts and being offended that we rather waste money on each other, rather than talking to each other about it. Wouldn’t it be easier to tell our family and friends that we don’t want any presents (or at least not as much) for the next Christmas? For me, that sounds like a lot better option than sitting there and pretending to be happy for some presents that you really don’t want in the first place.

And think about it, we’re all adults, if we really need something, we’ll just buy it! We don’t need to wait up to a year for the next Christmas for someone to—maybe—give us that specific item we need.

We’re working hard, but for what reason?

Most of us are working long and hard days, we’re tired after work, to tired to care about what makes life worth living, we neglect time with our friends, our family and ourselves. And for what? If it’s only so that we can afford all those luxurious and excessive presents and food, is it then really worth it?

We’re wasting our planet’s highly limited resources on producing all the food that we “must have” for Christmas, only to eat a fraction of it, then throw it away in the garbage and then continue to spend the rest of the money on presents that no one really needed (or asked for) in the first place. It might sound like a harsh thing to say, but it’s the truth for a lot of people.

My proposal for a healthy Christmas

With all that said, I’m not implying that we should skip Christmas or any part of it, quite the opposite. I want us all to focus on what truly important and makes Christmas so great. Instead of stressing through a hundred things, I want everyone to focus on the core of Christmas, with the family and the friends we want to spend time with, not the ones we’re expected to spend time with.

I would like to see all of us to just drop all the “rules” and “musts”. If you don’t like something, just don’t bother doing it. If you don’t want to spend five weeks preparing food, then don’t. End of story.

I would also like to see less of that overconsumption from everyone. And no. I promise, it’s not the end of the world if we can’t buy “all the things”, there’s still a lot to for us to do and to even buy.

Make your own presents

I’m not joking. Making your own presents with things that you already own, can source in the nature and/or via secondhand shopping. It’s an affordable and highly personal way of showing someone that you care about them.

And if you’re not a handy or crafty person, there’s always other options like a framed photo with a personal photograph, a book or a calendar with multiple photos. It’s not as environmentally friendly and cheap as making something from things that already exists, but at least it’s not expensive and it should be something that’s going to last for a long time.

Buy secondhand presents

We should really not underestimate secondhand shopping. It’s a superb option for your wallet and our planet. Just be aware that secondhand shopping might not be the best place for any last minute shopping, as it sometimes can take a bit of luck and time to find the exact things you’re looking for.

I like browsing around on secondhand stores, and something that I have learned is that people are basically crazy, they give away and sell all kinds of things—in perfectly good condition—all the time, just because it’s not in fashion or that they’re just bored with “the old” and want new shiny things.

Buying secondhand is also good for our planet. If we buy more used items, use what we have, fix what we already have when it breaks or when it just needs maintenance—instead of throwing it away as soon as possible—we don’t have to produce as much of the new stuff that we do today. Our excessive carbon dioxide emissions—caused by our irresponsible overconsumption—is snowballing into a fast and brutal death of our planet. Why waste our frail emissions budget on things we really don’t need or care that much about to begin with?

Even if you don’t care about our planet, consider this

Even if you don’t care about our planet, consider the fact that spending less money can (and most likely will) improve both your health and the quality of your life. The less money you spend, the more money you can save and the less expenses you have, the less you have to spend of your life working.

With more time on your hands, you could spend more time with things that you actually care about, things that brings actual value and happiness to your life. Hopefully in an environmentally friendly manner.

Give away experiences and consumables

It doesn’t have to be an expensive trip somewhere, it can be something simple as an afternoon tea party at some cozy tavern or café. It often requires little to no effort and money. Make your own card or buy one at a secondhand-store like I do. I actually buy and stock them secondhand for about 0.1 euro each. I really don’t see why you need to spend 2-3 euro on new cards.

Another option is consumables. If you’re not a tea party person, there’s always the option to buy consumables. It can be anything from an environmentally friendly soap, some fancy coffee beans, to perhaps something like a simple chocolate bar.

A less common present, but equally appreciated, is donations to non-profit organisations and charities. If you want to give away something truly caring and unselfish, consider making a donation to something that does good for this world. If you’re not sure about where to donate your money to, there’s always GiveWell, an American non-profit charity assessment that search for the charities that save or improve lives the most per dollar.

Consider no presents at all

No presents at all is actually a valid option as well, as boring as it might sound. Just don’t forget that spending time with your friends and family should be everyone’s number one priority anyway. I really think that excluding presents is something that everyone should understand and be okay with, no questions asked.

If you’re simply not fortunate enough to afford presents and don’t want anyone to know about it, you could simply use the argument about our excessive carbon dioxide emissions as an excuse for not wanting to buy any presents.

Consider potluck Christmas dinners

A potluck is a gathering where each guest (or group) contributes with a different, often homemade dish of food to be shared. This means that you can all enjoy the things you like to eat on Christmas, while you at the same time equally shares and distributes the burden, the cost and the time it takes to prepare the food. This should leave everyone with more time for Christmas.

Just don’t forget to think twice about what food you really want for Christmas. You should also consider to only add the most important things, and in moderate portions. If you throw away food, you’re also throwing away your own money, money that you most likely worked hard for by trading away a portion of your highly limited life.

And if potlucks is not your cup of tea and you choose to go for something else, please make sure that everyone is okay with the distribution of the responsibility of the food. It’s unfortunately not uncommon that it’s still a one person (involuntary) job in some homes.


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