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Molly Scott Cato
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Greens should revel in Christmas, not shun it

Molly Scott Cato

21st December, 2009

No hairshirt or sandals for Molly this year - she's bellowing carols and splashing the cash (in her local currency, of course)

Most of the time I find it is not only easy being Green, but a positive pleasure. Christmas, however, is a different matter. Christmas is a time when it is difficult to be green without seeming rather like a curmudgeonly Ebenezer. Greens tell each other not to send cards, not to buy gifts, not to over-indulge. The annual Christmas stuffing is a waste of energy, while the marketing campaigns distort and commodify our childhood memories, as though comfort and joy could be summoned merely by donning Victorian clothing and a liberal sprinkling of glitter. So can we find a way of celebrating that is not offensive to our new consumption ethic?

For several years now I have seen my Christmas spending as having a double effect, what a conventional economist might like to think of as a 'multiplier effect'. I make sure to buy gifts locally and, if possible, produced from materials grown in the local environment, such as a hand-made wicker hamper filled with wines and cheeses bought in the farmers’ market. This spending gives pleasure to my friends and family and also reinforces the bioregional economy — a new twist on ‘two for the price of one’.

However, this year I can go one better by doing all my Christmas spending in Stroud pounds. We launched our local currency in September and have over 100 members of the scheme and more than 30 traders. From vintage clothes for my kids and CDs for my parents to the festive drinks, turkey and Christmas tree  — all are available in a currency which is designed to serve the local economy rather than the global banksters. The value of the multiplier has now reached three since this spending is supporting local producers, giving pleasures to those who receive the gifts, and reinforcing the Stroud Pound Co-operative.

I think it is a mistake for greens to ignore Christmas; rather we should reclaim it from the tawdry offering of the corporations. Our native British traditions created a joyful and hopeful connection with the natural world, at a time when the flame of life can seem at its most dim. Bringing the yule log and mistletoe into the home reinforced our relationship with nature, while the preserved fruits in the Christmas pudding recalled the sweetness of the summer which had passed, but would return.

Christmas was also an opportunity for a bit of seasonal anarchy, under the temporary reign of the Lord of Misrule. This indulgence and escape from work routines lasted for a full twelve days and has survived into the 21st century, suitably downsized, in the form of the annual Christmas party, when drunkenness is used as an excuse to subvert the hierarchy for an evening. The campaign to displace the X-factor single with a re-release of the Rage Against the Machine classic ‘Killing in the Name Of’ is your chance to turn the world of popular music topsy-turvy this festive season.

Kate Soper writes of what she calls ‘alternative hedonism’, which sounds a lot more appealing than the hair-shirt and sandals of the greenie stereotype. It is a phrase that describes the pleasures we can achieve without vast expense and without a trip to the global supermarket. In Stroud the alternative hedonists congregate in the Prince Albert on the Sundays of December to sing traditional English carols. None of your Once in Royal David City for them, but rather the old Cornish favourite Sound Sound Your Instruments of Joy and other such lusty remnants of pagan Britain. Festive cheer accompanied by a roast lunch and a pint — both for sale in Stroud pounds of course.

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