This brief, eloquently presented book offers a simple and inviting strategy for handling the most complicated holiday of our times--Christmas. Reacting to the commercialization and overspending that has come to define it, author Bill McKibben (The End of Nature
) argues in favor of only spending a hundred dollars at Christmas. Rather than grousing about the deterioration of Christmas, McKibben matter-of-factly explains that there was a time that giving extravagant presents may have been a satisfying and meaningful ritual. "The Christmas we now celebrate grew up at a time when Americans were mostly poor ... mostly working with their hands and backs," he writes. If we now feel burdened and unsatisfied by the piles of gifts and overconsuming, it is not because Christmas has changed all that much, he adds, "It's because we have."
What we need and long for now are the gifts of time, meaningful family connections, periods of silence, a relationship with the divine, McKibben writes. How to give and receive the Christmas gifts that matters? Make homemade presents (he even offers a chapter's worth of great ideas). Give children coupons for zoo visits or an evening devoted to playing board games. It's likely that McKibben, a former staff writer for The New Yorker, could launch a national movement with this inviting and sensible concept. But no matter how many dollars you spend, factor the cost of this book into your Christmas budget! --Gail Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
Environmental author McKibben (Maybe One; The End of Nature, etc.) makes an impassioned plea for a less consumer-oriented, more meaningful Christmas celebration. But this book is more than just an echo of the recent vogue for simplicity. Tracing the history of American observance of the holiday season, McKibben discusses both the needs such festivities have filled and the excesses and problems they have created. McKibben avoids the trap of nostalgia for a nonexistent time when Christmas was free of commercialism or drunken reveling, but he recognizes the current holiday frenzy, dread and depression as symptomatic of "the underlying discontent in our lives." He offers thoughtful "new forms of celebration" to fill the cravings for "silence and solitude," "connection with each other and the natural world" and "some relationship with the divine" that plague these times. McKibben also blasts "those relentless commercial forces" that lead Americans to annual overspending. Instead, he suggests making the holidays as much fun as possible, filled with song and food, creativity and connection. One hundred dollars, McKibben says, is not a magic number or even the point, but rather a simple reminder "to give things that matter." Begun as a project for the author's rural Methodist church, this slim book offers us tips on giving one another the priceless Christmas gifts of time, attention and fellowship. Agent, Gloria Loomis.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.