Thursday, November 22, 2012

Blog Guelph: November Christmas

Santa arrives by Bruce Shapka
Santa arrives, a photo by Bruce Shapka on Flickr.
It was around November 13th when I was doing a photo shoot at The Cutten Club, I noticed their main dining hall was sporting a Christmas tree and each table had snow globes with Santas and Reindeer. I think it was almost 20 degrees that day - but a company was indeed having their Christmas party.

You know, the holidays are in December. Christmas is not until the 25th. Despite this, it seems that as soon as the plastic skeletons, inflatable pumpkins, and other Halloween paraphernalia are taken down, the plastic candycanes and inflatable santas are put up.  And the mass slaughter of thousands of trees begins again for another year.

Why has Christmas become like Halloween?

I don’t understand it, personally. And I think it’s disrespectful.
I do think it’s nice to celebrate the holidays with friends and family, to enjoy each other’s company, to share food and drink and memories and futures. But I will never chop down a tree and decorate it as it slowly dies in my living room.

Also, why do we insist on celebrating Santa in November? There’s hardly ever any snow.  It’s like we can’t exist without having some form of a cultural carnival going on all the time. One now blends into the next and as soon as we get through the pressures of the Christmas holidays, we’ll be into the plastic hearts and cut flowers for Valentines.

It’s like we’re going through all the outward motions, but not the inward ones. We make a great show of celebrating, but the traditions themselves are eroding into nightmares of debt, shopping frenzies, environmental degradation, and major stress for a lot of people.

Isn’t it time we got back to what matters?

When I was little, Thornbury, Ontario used to have an old fashioned Christmas every year with hay wagon rides, fire barrels, dunking for apples, local food, hot cider, and a street dance with a live band. There wasn’t garbage and gaudy decoration. It was simple and community-focused.  It was always in December – and hey, there was usually snow!

It was always magical.

Isn’t it time we got back to Christmas in December?

~Aidan M.D. Ware


Unknown said...

Aidan, I agree with you on so many levels. But then, I have to caution on nostalgia as a way of assessing today. Today's children will see these ongoing festivals differently then today's adults. Every generation of adult sees the commercialism more clearly and yet prop it up to create the magic they remembered as children.

I disagree slightly on one point though, and that is with respect to real trees. In our house, the tree is a central part of our own Christmas nostalgia and our own family festival. Every year the decorating of the house and the tree in particular has been a focal point for family coming together. We create our shared illusion of Christmas magic around it and it becomes a connection to our family through the years. It is a morphing icon of our own nostalgia, collectively critiqued and remembered. "This one is better than....," or "remember the tree we had two years ago...."

For many years we had an artificial tree, but for some of the arguments that you seem to be suggesting in your post decided to return to the real tree (perhaps for our own nostalgia) and get away from the manufactured pastiche. We loved the imperfection of our tree, different each year. And, although it is true that it was cut down and dying, we were less troubled by that than the ills of a manufactured tree. We also considered two other points. First it was a crop like any other, planted and farmed for the purpose we had chosen to use it. If at some point no one buys real trees anymore than the crop will be changed to something else. Second, it was our belief that these do not go to the landfill but are collected and broken down to mulch or some other useful, organic purpose.

Other than that one little quibble, I loved your post. It put me in mind of how we keep trying to solve our economic woes by creating new ones; and, how we supplant human connection with artificiality. Thanks for sharing this.



Aidan M.D. Ware said...

Thanks Tom very much for your comments! You make good points too. Something about harvesting trees really makes me uncomfortable though - especially when they're just for decoration. They are part of that massive consumer machine now, just as the inflatable santas are. In my mind, these trees are harvested and killed for no good reason (and I don't recommend people buy plastic trees either) other than a two-week stint in someone's house. What does it mean? I mean what does it really mean to ave a tree? The memories you make as a family are not about the things, or the tree, they are about each other. They will always be there. There will always be new ones. Seeing all the carcasses of dead trees after the holidays is a sight worse than Halloween. It's horrible, disturbing. The excess of our civilization is both dramatic and terrible. If everyone in the world cut down a tree for Christmas we would be without trees very quickly. To me, crops are for survival - food. Trees are not crops, they are commodities. And this, I find very sad indeed.

For more great Guelph photos, try these links:

Downtown Guelph, University of Guelph, The Guelph Hillside Festival or The Guelph Lake Conservation Area.

On the other hand, you may be curious about what the City of Guelph looked like last October or maybe Spring.

Indeed you may be the type that would love to wade through our deep and refreshing archives. There are over 5,000 terrific Guelph photos, taken by a growing tribe of fantastic photographers, currently available for your viewing pleasure. Check out the Blog Guelph archives located 'back up there' and appropriately titled: Blog Guelph Archives.