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By Freya Rawlins

Having a conscious festive season can mean many different things. Being conscious means being aware, whether this is being aware of your surroundings or a situation, I feel it can be applied broadly, and personally I like to apply it to my way of living: being conscious of the planet, the people, and how my actions affect what’s happening around me. Some apply it as thinking rationally and positively all the time, where every act is a conscious one. But, for me it’s more related to the Earth and people, wanting to ensure that during my time here I’m able to give back and give thanks for them sustaining my life. Perhaps it’s cheesy, but it gives me purpose.

At times like Christmas, I hold onto this concept of conscious living even more. When we’re bombarded with advertisements, encouraged to embrace materialism, consumerism is brought to the forefront of this festive season, and we’re tricked into feeling we’re missing out if we’re not celebrating in a certain way. Overconsumption, whether it’s extracting from the planet, or consuming material objects, and even food, continues to drive us deeper in the climate disaster.

I believe an important aspect to living consciously is ensuring that as humans we are happy, healthy, taking care of ourselves, those around us, and of course the planet. For me, having a Christmas tree, decorating my apartment, and giving a few gifts is part of the festive season, and so I look upon this with a conscious lens. But what does this mean?

It was a few years ago when I began to change my own life to live more consciously, and when that Christmas came round, I had to look at traditions and what Christmas had become from a different perspective. I remember reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, reading about the gift economy and what it is to give and receive. I came across this quote:

“Give thanks for what you have been given. Give a gift, in reciprocity for what you have taken. Sustain the ones who sustain you and the earth will last forever.”

Gift giving is as old as time, we’re given gifts in many ways every day from the Earth and from each other, and not just in material ways.

Perhaps one of the tricker things to navigate this time of year is gift giving and gift receiving consciously. How do we consume consciously? I stated a few years ago that I didn’t want to receive anything, and that I would no longer be giving gifts for the sake of it being Christmas. Yet, I still love the gift of giving, the hunt for something, the joy when you find it, and then the giving. Each year I talk to my significant other, one of the only people with whom I still exchange gifts, and we make suggestions of things we’re looking for, or need. We shop consciously, buying from companies that are doing better, getting second hand items if we can, making things if we can, or trying to find someone who might be able to do so. For wrapping I’ve used old paper bags that I’ve collected through the year, using twine to keep them together and add some flare. All the time thinking consciously about the money being spent, what it’s being spent on, to whom that money is going to, what the item is, who made it, where has it come from, its purpose, where it’ll end up. Consciously looking for gifts, or anything, can be time consuming and exhausting, but I hope in doing so I’m choosing the better options for planet, and society –  whether it’s those being employed to make the gifts (for example, see the Remember Who Made Them campaign), to those receiving the gift.

For the past couple of years, I’ve lived in Girona, and half my belongings are still in the UK, including my tree decorations, most of which have been gifts over time. I love these decorations; I love that they mean so much to me and every year when I decorate my tree, I think of the people who gave me each decoration. But with restrictions on travel, I haven’t brought them over and so for the past two festive seasons I’ve made zero waste decorations from scratch to decorate my tree and have loved every minute of the little festive ritual. From salt dough figures, dried oranges, and popcorn ropes (when they don’t get eaten by my significant other), my tree still brings me joy. And each year I’ve done this I’ve looked forward to it and looked forward to spending that time mindfully making decorations. I look forward to the day I get the decorations that mean so much to me back, but for now having this mindful ritual each year is wonderful and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon. Consciously creating and decorating my home and tree has become a part of my conscious festive season and it’s even better that I can share this with those I love who come over to bake salt dough cookies and festive cookies together.

Whatever I do during this festive season, I always come back to thinking consciously, and what that means to me. Spending Christmas and the festive season feeling joyful, sending love to those I miss, particularly now, and spending the festive season giving the greatest gift we can give anyone, our time. I often reflect on this quote, again from Braiding Sweetgrass:

“Though the Earth provides us with all that we need, we have created a consumption-driven economy that asks, ‘What more can we take from the Earth?’ and almost never asks ‘What does the Earth ask of us in return?’”

What does the Earth ask of us in return? During this festive period when we get bombarded with consumption, how can we give back to the Earth, live consciously, and take care of ourselves and those around us and afar?

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Check out the La Bruguera handmade, upcycled and reclaimed wood Christmas tree!

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