Last week was Easter and I didn’t plan anything special for my kids.
Yup, that’s right. Nothing special. Actually nothing at all. Partly because I knew my extended family would come through for them (and they did–dinner, presents, plastic Easter egg hunt and all!) But mostly because I was feeling paralyzed by the fact that I had no idea what to do.
I mean, I could have bought Easter baskets and filled them with plastic grass–but I did that last year, and at Christmastime I was still finding little strings of plastic grass that clogged up the vacuum cleaner. So plastic grass was off the list. I didn’t want to buy toys, because my house is already overflowing with kids’ toys, and not only is the mess making me crazy but I am also tired of this culture of mass consumption that we live in. I didn’t want to buy candy, what with the whole ruining-my-children’s-health-while-financally-supporting-chocolate-companies-that-have-child-slavery-in-their-supply-chains issue. I didn’t want to buy eggs at the grocery store because it makes me sad that chickens are tortured for appetite and frivolity, not to mention the fact that I am dubious about what’s in that egg dye.
So I didn’t do anything. Well, I helped my mom make our contributions to the dinner buffet: A quinoa-sweet potato salad, a roasted asparagus and arugula salad.
My husband thinks that all the holidays at our house, for the rest of forever, are doomed to be lame.
On Monday, the day after the Easter celebration that my relatives kindly took care of for me–and I am truly grateful for this, because without them my kids wouldn’t have even known that Easter happened–I was cleaning up dozens of plastic Easter eggs and picturing landfills dotted with April pastels. I was arguing irrationally with my 18-month-old (who ate an entire package of Peeps when I wasn’t watching and spent the rest of the day growling at me and begging for more candy, totally apathetic about my explanation of the effects of high-fructose corn syrup on his small and impressionable body). And I started thinking about how it is difficult for me to conceptualize holidays free of the trappings of mass consumerism, environmental degradation, and disregard for physical health. Even though I try to minimize unnecessary consumption in my daily life, holidays and birthdays really trip me up. Because I don’t know what to do other than wrap presents, buy paper decorations, fill candy bowls, stuff plastic baskets full of plastic grass and plastic eggs, and bake, bake, bake.
I know that I’m supposed to focus on the “true meaning” of holidays, but let’s face it: my kids don’t want to sit and read with me. They want to do fun, memorable things. So I’m trying to think of interesting, symbolic traditions that are real celebrations, but that don’t produce garbage bags filled with waste, knowledge of animal and environmental suffering, piles of plastic toys that are strewn around the living room until I freak out and throw them in the trash, and sugar highs that last for hours.
So I want to hear your thoughts on this. Feel free to share specific non-consumerist eco-friendly holiday traditions that your family has dreamed up, or just your broader thoughts on how holidays have become so commercialized (and become an excuse for indulgence in activities we wouldn’t otherwise choose).