Around this time of year, the grinches come out to complain about holiday decorations for various reasons.
Once again, downtown Winnipeg is adorned with twinkling snowflakes, angels and images of Santa Claus. The city’s public displays of holiday cheer date back to 1929, when a committee was formed to spread feelings of goodwill throughout the city.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Christmas,” musician Rusty Matyas says. “I’m not a religious person. It’s got nothing to do with that angle of it for me. It’s about the warm lights.”
Matyas says the displays are a welcome sight when the sky starts to get dark so much earlier after daylight savings time.
Though his enthusiasm has brought out negative reactions in people, Matyas understands where those feelings come from.
“The fact that it’s pushed to be such a positive, wonderful, rainbows and sunshine experience can exaggerate other people’s negative experiences. And I can totally appreciate that,” he says.
While Matyas has a long list of things he enjoys about Christmas, including the eggnog, he says the commercial aspect isn’t really part of it for him.
“My wife and I don’t exchange gifts. It’s not about that at all for us,” he says. “It’s purely just about trying to bring people together.”
Kari England, manager and buyer for Toad Hall Toys, says for her, Christmas is about the memories behind each decoration she unpacks and is a time for people to remember what it’s like to be a kid.
When people walk into the shop around Christmas, she says they often smile and laugh.
“We have a white tree set up,” she says, “and some of the odd and wonderful things that are on it right now are sushi ornaments, bacon, viewmasters, a Betty Boop, hot sauce, the tardis … I tend to go for whimsy.”
Neil Bailey, communications co-ordinator for Green Action Centre, says people should remember they have the luxury of choice and can express their individuality with how they celebrate.
One choice is to find ways to alleviate the stress of gift-giving by not purchasing for everyone.
Bailey says his family started a gift exchange where everyone brings one present and leaves with one.
“You buy something that almost anybody would like,” he says. “It actually ends up being one of my favourite parts of Christmas. It’s pretty much zero stress … When we actually do the exchange, it’s tons of fun, and people are stealing presents.”
Maybe knowing that a holiday celebration is environmentally friendly would help foster a positive attitude. Green Action Centre has some ideas.
Bailey stays green by using drawstring bags and upcycling old magazines or maps to wrap gifts. He suggests decorating a tree with edible treats, such as popcorn garlands instead of tinsel.
“Although my dad always takes all the tinsel off and saves it, so we’ve been using the same tinsel every year, which is kind of funny,” he says.
Bailey invites people to use this time of year to think about their deeper values and how they can best express them rather than going for disposable commercial sentiment.