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Simply Christmas Sustainable ways to observe, cherish the season

By Wendy Healy I

n Tom Taylor’s house growing up, the Christmas tree went up the day aſter Tanksgiving and came down

only when it was so dry the needles fell off. As a kid, it was exciting to have

the colorful lights and festivities continue for months, but now as pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, Lindenhurst, N.Y., Taylor empha- sizes the importance of a sim- pler, more religious and less secular focus on Christ- mas. He advises that people celebrate the 12 days of Christ- mas and attend an Epiphany service, which exemplifies

the true mean-

ing of the season. “We try to

simplify the concept so people can focus more on the religious aspects rather

than the secular,” he said. Instead of starting Christmas

Giving handmade gifts, like this pot holder with children’s handprints, challenge Christmas consumerism.

preparations right aſter Tanks- giving, he said, “acknowledge the Advent season and what it means. If you put up a tree early, for example, don’t decorate it until

Christmas Eve. Te secular world thinks that the Christmas season ends on Dec. 26. It doesn’t.” Taylor and his family aren’t the

only ones trying to be more mindful of Christmas as the hectic consum- erism of the season—evident in


‘The secular world thinks that the Christmas

season ends on Dec. 26. It doesn’t.’

stores right aſter Halloween—over- whelms. People are seeking ways to spend less on giſts, eat fewer fattening cookies and, in general, “de-stress” Christmas. Tey’re also seeking to make

Christmas more meaningful and sustainable, said Gerald Iversen, an associate in ministry and founder of Simple Living Works!, a volunteer nonprofit educa- tional organization that advocates for simple living. Iversen has

embraced the concept of simple living and sustain- ability for more than 40 years, since first working with Alternatives for Simple Living, the precursor to Simple Living Works! “Our mission is

to equip people of faith to challenge consumerism, live justly and celebrate responsibly [year- round]. Tese three come together

especially at Christmastime,” Iversen said. Simple living also helps us meet

God’s call to care for creation. Te ELCA’s social statement “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice” ( defines this as a call “to pursue justice for creation through active participation, solidarity, sufficiency and sustainability, and states the commitments of the ELCA for pursuing wholeness for cre- ation,” Iversen said. Using an artificial tree or assuring that a real one is properly recycled cares for the planet. “Everything

is connected,” he added. “As we in America overspend and overconsume, it has a nega-



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