Does having a woke Christmas mean more work for women?

Article by Caroline Zielinski /
The Daily Telegraph /
December 18, 2019 /
Click here to view original /

With each year that passes, the way we celebrate Christmas is becoming greener and greener.

For the most part, this is a very good thing. Given that the amount of household rubbish doubles during the Christmas period (most of it from gift wrapping and packaging), environmentally-speaking, a woke Christmas is the best kind of Christmas. But it’s also a holiday that tosses up a massive conundrum.Understanding that buying something only to fill an expectation of gift-giving has very real long-term consequences (like when it was discovered that Henderson Island, a remote uninhabited island in the South Pacific, is home to the highest ever recorded density of plastic debris – more than 4,400 pieces per metre squared) can only be a catalyst for good. And it will hopefully lead to a different type of consumer culture that is less focused on meaningless materialism and more on conscious consumption in years to come.

If you’re someone who erects a Christmas tree, be it fake or real, you’re either buying more plastic or contributing towards the destruction of important carbon-neutralising resources. And once you have the Christmas tree – laden with perishable fairy lights and upheld by mountains of meaningless presents and unrecyclable gift paper constructed from micro plastics that kill fish – what do you do with it all after?

At first glance, the rise in healthy eating, veganism, food intolerances, allergies and sensitivities does seem to be a step in the right direction. On the one hand, the decadence of yore – oozing, stuffed turkeys, roast chicken, kilos of ham, dairy and every pudding under the sun – now carries with it an undeniable whiff of debauchery that’s no longer in vogue. And given that Australians already regularly discard about 20 per cent of their food purchases, which generates methane, wastes precious resources such as water and the fuel used in logistics and transport and apparently costs the economy $20 billion each year, this is another step in the right direction.

But the task of making Christmas magic while also trying to minimise your own culpability in ending the world as we know it comes with its own special brand of torture, and is ultimately a responsibility that falls on women to worry about.

Unfortunately, millennial women are the crossroads generation: having grown up with Boomer parents and traditions, we are torn between the sweet nostalgia of a slightly over-the-top and carefree Christmas and the reality of a world slowly going to pieces around us.

Gift giving – an activity already fraught with stress and doubt – is tortuous. Do I get a trendy present or a meaningful one? Do I get an experience I don’t have time for but that’s good for the environment or do I go with the safe bet of a new iPad?

As for food? Dr Lauren Rosewarne a senior lecturer in gender and social studies at the University of Melbourne, points out, “when cooking for lots of people, factoring in everyone’s preferences, allergies and ideologies is just another thing that creates the capacity for Christmas to be stressful”.

Perhaps the best way to deal with it is to let go of the traditions and make the men in your lives responsible for more than just erecting the tree and supplying alcohol. And explain to family members (including kids) that buying for the sake of buying is not only spiritually unfulfilling, but unsustainable.

“It’s not essential to replicate past practices every single year – unless you want to, in which case you need to take responsibility for taking on this chore,” Dr Rosewarne says.

“Equally, losing expectations is useful: Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect or The Very Best to be enjoyable. Spending time with people you avoid all year, for example, isn’t the recipe for a chilled Christmas: as adults we get to decide how we spend Christmas and, more importantly, who we spend it with.”


So while I cherish the Christmas memories I have of seeing my Dad entertain guests at the table, while my Mum would run around frantically checking on the roast while topping up wine glasses and generally being unable to relax in case her abilities as the “perfect hostess” (i.e. her womanhood) were put into doubt, they’re not what I want for myself.

Today, we are slowly chipping away at the idea of the “perfect” hostess. And while gender roles are still firmly entrenched, they are a little more flexible.

Just like the way we celebrate Christmas itself.