Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was a fan of extravagant Christmas decorations. I came from the *if you can see green, it needs more decorations* school of tree-dressing. I was just continuing the traditions that had been established in my childhood.
But time has taken its toll. Encroaching curmudgeondom, environmental awareness, and Karen’s influence have all combined and changed my view. I still like to drape long strands of tinsel along the top edge of picture frames, but I’m no longer the lightoholic that I once was. The majestic exterior displays that some of our neighbours have implemented seem excessive and vain. I’d be happy to have one or two strings of low-power lights around the house, but Karen would rather that we don’t, and I’m cool with that.
We haven’t put up my 6′ artificial tree this year. We were concerned that Bernard would be unable to resist the urge to pull it down on top of himself. In retrospect, perhaps we were unnecessarily paranoid, but so it goes. While digging through bags of decorations (for tinsel, see above) I did discover the old foot-high plastic tree that I used to have in my bedroom back when I was a teenager, so we’ve put that in the middle of the dining table. That’s our tree this year.
The thing that baffles me is that “tradition” can make people do such irrational things. We install cavity wall insulation and loft insulation to reduce our heating bills. We replace our incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent alternatives. We turn the TV off instead of leaving it on standby. We worry about carbon footprints, and petrol prices, and all that jazz.
Then December arrives. Suddenly, it’s time to cut down a tree, decorate your house in unnecessary lights, throw the switch, and it’s all okay because (a) it looks pretty and (b) it’s tradition. I look at the aforementioned lightshow adorning the exterior of my neighbours house and imagine them saying *Kids, we can have extra lights this year, because Pete next door has been so careful with his energy consumption over the last eleven months! w00t!*
You know what I want to do? I want to walk up my street at 2am in the morning, ringing the doorbells of all the people whose Christmas lights are glowing brightly. And I’ll say “Excuse me, but would you mind switching your lights off? Oh, whoopsie, were you sleeping? Sorry, I assumed that you were awake, because YOUR LIGHTS ARE ON.” Maybe I should just head out with a pair of secateurs and switch those lights off in the old-fashioned way.
At the end of the day, I appreciate that the tradition of Christmas is very important to some people, and they will defend their right to be as wasteful as they like. And I have to respect that, because I know that I am not perfect either, and there are still probably thousands of ways that I could further reduce my negative impact on the environment. After all, what’s the difference between the people at #40 draping their house with enough lights to land a jumbo jet, and me leaving my computer on overnight to download the latest Ubuntu release?
*UPDATE: some photos*
*Next week’s stunt post will be entitled “What I want for Christmas” – look out for it on Monday.*