Published on
The Toronto Star

My Spirits of Christmas Past and Present

Maybe it's because the youngest kidlets in my family are Jewish and don't celebrate Christmas that I am not feeling the ho-ho-holiday spirit.

There's none of the screaming excitement that my siblings and I would feel when we were finally allowed downstairs to dive into the monster piles of presents all around the living room.

Maybe it's because even the older children, who have everything and more, are blasé about adding to their stockpiles of electronics and other goodies.

Besides, I find they are far more appreciative when I take the time to teach them how to play Texas Hold 'Em or hopscotch and old-fashioned skipping games.

Maybe it's because, when I look around the loaded table, I see those who are no longer there to tuck into the turkeys and hams, the stuffing and the dozen desserts: my father, my brother-in-law, all but one of my aunts, all of my uncles, including Uncle Peter, who would dress up as Santa every year.

At least my 92-year-old mother is still there. Kind of.

These are my spirits of Christmas past, especially if we're talking Crown Royal.

We would think nothing of filling up a dozen garbage bags with crumpled gift wrapping and tissue, empty boxes and blister packs. My aunts, who were teens during the Great Depression, would attempt to hang on to the bows for reuse – we didn't say recycle back then – but, more often than not, they would be snatched up by the kid who was on designated rubbish duty.

And, of course, there was all that plastic.

Somewhere, in some landfill, my old Betsy Wetsy doll still stares open-mouthed under tonnes of discarded Barbies and Lego sets.

All this has been very much on my mind as I monitor the big fat wasteful developed world's moves this week at the Copenhagen climate talks – with Canada's shameful Oil Can Harper performance the worst. The international press on us is so brutally bang-on that millions can no longer recognize our country.

We are polluting not just our backyard, but everybody's planet.

I know. Canadian retailers are hurting and Christmas is their biggest money-maker.

And besides, it's fun to shop for the kids, especially if you can afford it and can avoid the big box zoos.

But please, spare a thought for all those children not so fortunate, who don't even have clean water, let alone the latest toys. What little they do have is drying up, no thanks to climate change.

Even right here in Toronto, kids go without mittens, which the Star's Santa Claus Fund attempts to provide.

There's an old North American Indian proverb which goes something like this: "Treat the Earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.''

You want to give your kids a gift?

Give them a planet without climate refugees, without wars over water, with clean air and arable land – and with polar bears and penguins, rain forests and living oceans.

Last year, I gave my goddaughter Rosie an elephant for Christmas, via the David Sheldrick Trust which rescues and raises those orphaned by poachers and drought in Kenya. No thanks to the resurgent ivory trade, this year the trust has been overwhelmed by new arrivals.

So she's getting another elephant to sponsor this year, and maybe an orangutan in Indonesia, too.

And so is everybody else on my list.

So maybe I have the Christmas spirit after all.

Not just peace on Earth but peace with Earth.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Won't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Antonia Zerbisias

Antonia Zerbisias is a former columnist for the Toronto Star and is the co-creator of #BeenRapedNeverReported.


Share This Article

More in: