Monday, October 15, 2012

Holiday Decorating

This is the time of year when many Americans become interested in decor - decorating for the upcoming holidays, including Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other year-end holidays.  I'm not often in stores but when I do need to shop in the mall or a big box store, I am overwhelmed by the obscene amount of stuff available for decorating this time of year.  Many of these items are one-use items as they are cheaply made, flimsy - and of course will be so-last-year that they will be discarded after the holidays, never to be used again by the original purchaser.  

I was especially disturbed by the waste when I found a facebook post shared by a friend.  This is a photograph from Le Bon Samaritan (The Good Samaritan), a nursing home in Ouanamithe, Haiti:
Clearly, the nursing home needs new mattresses as they haven't purchased new ones in years.  New mattresses can be obtained across the border in the Dominican Republic for $45 each.  The average shopper at a store like Target or WalMart doesn't leave the property without spending at least $50 on a typical day.  During the holidays, I'm sure it is much, much more than that.

I've visited Bon Samaritan.  Residents of this home include a woman named Sonia, who was born in 1902 and a man named Sintelin who became ill and was abandoned by his family.  It's difficult to grasp the difficulties these people have lived through:  invasions, dictators, hurricanes, epidemics, deforestation...the list goes on and on.

This Time article from last fall says that Americans were expected to spend $7 billion on Halloween alone - with $300 million on costumes for pets!  This is a dramatic increase from a few years ago, when consumers were expected to spend just over $3 billion on Halloween in 2005.  The article went on to say that Americans were projected to spend almost $450 billion celebrating Christmas and the other fall and winter holidays last year. 

Contrast the photo of the stained linens and mattress, which can be replaced for a mere $45, with this photo from Better Homes and Gardens that encourages readers to make their homes into a "creepy cemetery" (I can't imagine how much it costs to do it):
Groovy Graveyard
Several years ago, while at a charitable event at church, a member shared her Christmas plans.  I tried not to react in horror as she told me that she had decorated her tree in gold ornaments last year, but this year she wanted to switch to silver and had to go out and buy new decorations.  Here we were, packing boxes of cheap trinkets for children in third world nations, children who often lacked basic water, sanitation, and food needs, and she was planning on replacing perfectly good but absolutely unnecessary decorations on a whim.

As we enter this holiday season, I encourage you to consider reusing the decorations you already have and to scale back on your holiday gifts.  Truth be told, most of us already have what we need to celebrate the holidays and most of our friends and family, the people for whom we purchase gifts, already have more than what they need.  Instead, look into spending money where it really means something.  If you do need to buy things, try to buy fair trade items and items that support people who are struggling.  For people in your life that have everything, look into gifts or sponsorships that can be done in their honor.  There are so many worthwhile organizations out there - and I'll name a few that are important to me:

There are many, many, many more wonderful charitable comapnies out there - these are just a few that I am familiar with.  The sharp contrast between the comfy - and wasteful - lives of those in the developed world and those in third world nations should shock and shame us.  I encourage you to learn about conditions beyond our borders and to research charitable organizations that are making a difference by saving lives.  Or consider making a donation to an environmental organization that is fighting the poisoning and degradation of our planet - and our bodies.  Whatever you do, please make your dollars work towards something good and productive.  For more ideas, check out the Advent Conspiracy website and turn the holidays upside-down:
I'll leave you with how inane our lives look:


Deanna said...

I totally agree with you. We've used the same Christmas decorations for years, most for over 20, including our tree. We each get a new ornament in our stocking each year and when Lisa got married she took her collection to start her own decorating.

I see those beautiful holiday displays and occasionally think about updating some of ours but I just don't feel justified spending money that way when what we have is just fine and others are in need.

Our church hosts an Alternative Gift Market every year and we always do a portion of our shopping there.

Cherie said...

Deanna, those displays are tempting - and the marketing people know our psychology soooo well that it really is hard to resist. But when put in perspective, I find the willpower to resist. I love that your church does that! You need to get them on board with Advent Conspiracy, too. ;)