Merry Christmas, Tat is Over

A close up of tinsel on a Christmas tree
A close up of tinsel on a Christmas tree
Tinsel everywhere

As another Christmas disappears from the rear view mirror of life, and with environmental awareness greater than ever (aka our planet is dying), is it time to think about ending the tradition of Christmas tat once and for all?

What is tat? Some people call it crap but let’s be nice and call it tat. You know it when you see it and Christmas has an awful lot of it. Tinsel, crackers, random decorations, useless presents and streams and streams of wrapping paper. Is it time for a shift in how we do Christmas?

This past Christmas, I’d left my crucial present buying until not quite the last moment. I also needed to get some things for my wife’s stocking — a collection of cheaper, fun items. This year’s tat purchasing included the traditional gold chocolate coins, as well as a snowman wine stopper and a plastic tube containing tin foil-covered sweets complete with a fabric bear in an elf costume on top.

Luckily I had left it near enough to Christmas that there were several items already discounted but as I looked over each potential stocking filler, I felt increasingly unconformable. Most of it was not really anything useful. Some people complain about getting socks for Christmas, but socks are very useful. It would be discarded after Christmas and put in a drawer or even put in a pile destined for the bin in the post-Christmas clear up. The most useful stuff was heavily packaged, over-priced sweets and chocolate.

There was so much plastic packaging for everything. The rest of the year I try and buy things with as little plastic packaging as possible. All year long I carry my reusable coffee cup with me so I can do my part and not add to the landfill. I’ve started going to the grocer because I’d rather have my fruit and veg in paper bags rather than the plastic bags and containers supermarkets demand you take. It’s quite annoying to only be able to buy carrots from the supermarket in plastic bags. I’m not sure I really want Christmas to be a break from something that’s kind of important.

An elf bear

Sometimes I’m a little sceptical of how we have made saving the planet all about our choices as consumers. What about industry — what are they doing? What about the fact that we are still exploring for more fossil fuels to dig up and dump in the atmosphere? As we all wash our hummus pots for the recycling bin, I can’t help but feel we are being massively conned — that the battle to save the planet as somehow become about our choices as individual customers. But I just can’t abide unnecessary waste now. Unnecessary packing just makes me wish I’d not bought whatever it is in the first place.

Maybe I’m getting old but how much fun is all this Christmas tat? Can we not recycle something for use as wrapping paper instead of buying specially made stuff? Surely there are alternatives to tinsel? Maybe not every house needs a spectacular light show on display? Someone pointed out to me that Christmas crackers are a bit wasteful and I thought, they really aren’t they? Bits of plastic crap. I mean tat. Though I do quite like paper hats.

What kind of Christmas do I want? Friends, family and lots of food and drink. Maybe we don’t need much more? Of course there are still presents. It was my little boy’s first Christmas this year. For me, Christmas was seeing his excited face as he received his presents.

But as I bought gifts for my wife and child, I was a bit more restrained than normal. I don’t really like shopping, and I certainly don’t like spending more money than is needed — who does? Well, some people do. But consumers as a whole are getting thriftier, they are used to comparing prices, and why splurge on a Christmas luxury gift when you look for the cheapest item for the rest of the year? Many people are also becoming less consumerist, willing to have second-hand or cheaper furniture for example. On the other hand, luxury brands are still esteemed and people are more comfortable with throw-away clothing. There is a contest going on but I think the non-consumerists are on the rise.

What about the kids? Don’t they deserve the fun Christmases we had? But how much fun is it really? And don’t our kids deserve so much more? The planet’s dying and their future along with it. It was a little hard to watch my boy’s first Christmas at times as I thought about the unnecessary waste around us and how this rampant consumption is harming his future.

I’ve decided next year will be a no-tat Christmas. Nothing single use, no more waste. Some people will moan about this, the ‘I-want-a-certain-kind-of-lightbulb brigade’, but I want to enjoy Christmas and not contribute to wrecking the planet.

Happy New Year!

Psychology, politics, history, and moments of realisation and despair. There are attempts at humour.

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