Thanksgiving has so much going for it. Here we are at a big table with our family, expressing gratitude for the food we’ve put on it. We love the fellowship, the cooking, the eating and the celebration of indigenous fare such as turkey, cranberries and pumpkins. For those who don’t have to work on Friday, it’s a mini-vacation of four days! At least it used to be. Now we have Black Friday.
At sunup the day after Thanksgiving, all that gemutlichkeit vanishes and shoppers rush out to beat one another to the first big pre-Christmas sales in a desperate, unfriendly mob. Try to find a link between this and any Christmas tradition. Maybe it’s the journey to Bethlehem to be tithed by the Romans, with millions of Marys and Josephs now summoned and stretched beyond their means by the corporate command to buy. For many, this year will be black indeed.
There’s nothing wrong with gift-giving, but finding more affordable, sustainable and economical ways to do it will make Christmas merrier.
First, it’s more satisfying to shop within the community. Gifts from independent stores, especially when made by local artisans, support the local economy and seem more personal, too. My local bookseller always tips me off to what new titles the people on my list would like and might not have read. A meal at a special restaurant (good cheer around the table, again!) might be well received. In fact, any gift that is experienced or quickly consumed rather than stored has a double benefit. Most of us have little extra space for stuff.
Homemade gifts are always meaningful, whether hand-knit or home-grown. Okay, not everyone dreams of finding a kohlrabi under their tree. But many would love a basket of your garden’s (or your root cellar’s) finest on a holiday when many must be fed. Or spread it out over the season with a pie-of-the-month club. Give a membership in a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. No assembly required, no batteries included.
You might jump-start a would-be gardener by building her a compost bin, or having a truckload of well-rotted manure delivered to her yard. Give something that takes advantage of nature’s own economics, a system in which all living things are recycled. As the Greek philosopher Anaximander put it, “Everything that forms in nature incurs a debt which it must repay by dissolving so that other things may form.”
If tomorrow is a bleak Friday, it’s because not enough trickles down from the prosperity of the few. More years of that and no one will show up for the shop-fest, and we’ll then have trickle-up poverty. You heard it from me.
Meanwhile, slip into a stocking or a holiday card a packet of seeds, as a symbol of the natural economy. Whether it’s cress for the windowsill, cat grass for the cat or tomatoes for next spring, one tiny seed will produce great bounty, for little cost, and that’s worth celebrating.
Damrosch is a freelance writer and author of “The Garden Primer.”
Shred accumulated leaves with a mulch mower to save the hassle of blowing or raking. Make a second pass over thick layers. Worms and other organisms will break down the leaf shreds over the winter and add beneficial organic matter to the soil.
— Adrian Higgins