This is the second time I've taken this book out of the library, but the first time I've read it. I always take out stacks and stacks with such grand intentions, but end up only being able to read a fraction of what I check out. I'm so glad I took another stab at this one though. It's super short; I just curled up with it last night after the kids went to bed and read it cover to cover. It's more of a glorified pamphlet, but that's okay, it doesn't need to be any longer than it is. The ideas are simple, but so important.
Bill McKibben writes about the idea of a simplified, pared down, more focused holiday season from several angles; environmental impact, personal fulfillment and finding joy. He argues that the Christmas holiday has always been a social construct, and gives an interesting short history to prove his point. Whether the social salve between landowners and serfs that was wassailing, the pasting over of pagan traditions with a new holiday, or the corporate-induced consumption frenzy that is our holiday today, all incarnations of Christmas have ultimately come about because of the social and economic climate of the day. So, he argues, why not recreate Christmas to more aptly meet our current needs? The needs he thinks we should address as a society are the need for stillness and quiet, more time and less stuff, and communion with the Divine. He suggests that rather than amping up for the holidays with a frenzy of parties, decorating, and shopping, that we slow down, stay home more, spend less money and spend more time with loved ones.
Although it's simple, the book is really worth a read. If you feel the pull of so many "shoulds" around the holidays and find them more stress-inducing than joy-producing, check out his book. I felt like it gave me permission to buck tradition and create more of our own traditions that have more meaning for our family. Each year we've made more things by hand and spent less, while adding new traditions to our young family. I'm so excited about the upcoming holidays and the way we plan to spend them. Next week I'll share some of the ideas I have for some fun and meaningful traditions that we're planning on weaving into our family holidays.