I am not really a decorator. Beyond some framed photos, you would be hard pressed to find many things in our apartment that are not purely or mostly functional in nature. Having moved nine times in the last ten years, I learned to identify the few things that were absolutely necessary, a few other things that are nice to have, and the rest has been gradually cast off or never purchased in the first place. This not only saves the trouble of keeping track of and packing so many possessions, it’s easy on the wallet and allows me to allocate more of my budget to what I really value, which are great experiences like travel and spending time with friends.
Suffice it to say, you wouldn’t find any Christmas (or other) decorations tucked away in storage, to be hauled out for a few weeks a year but otherwise occupying precious apartment space. As a sustainability professional, I am also aware of just how not green many home decorative items can be, many made in developing countries with poor labor conditions and lax environmental standards. There are reasons why a long string of tree lights only costs a few dollars.
Lest anyone start getting the idea that I am the second coming of Ebenezer Scrooge, I really do enjoy the festive holiday atmosphere. Cities and towns that otherwise seem ordinary take on a dreamlike quality when decked out with bells, banners and millions of twinkling points of light. I am happy to leave this work to the professionals, especially when I have some of the best just a short train ride away.
Many have seen photographs or at least have heard of the large Christmas tree put up every year at Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan. It is quite another thing to stand at the base and stare up at the Swarovski crystal star atop the roughly 75 foot Norway spruce. To boot, the tree has been decorated with energy efficient LED lights since 2007 and is partially powered by a solar panel installation on top of one of the Center’s buildings.
What I like most about the experience of the tree and other fixtures of Christmas in New York is the fact that you get to share them with many others. By sharing communal resources we have hitherto thought of as personal, whether it is Christmas trees or car sharing, our net resource consumption goes down.
We gain something else by sharing, often overlooked, which is the sense of being part of a larger community. Home may be warm and cozy, but for me it doesn’t quite have the same feeling as huddling together with a crowd of thousands that is too giddy to notice that it’s freezing. To be carried along by the tide of good cheer emanating from a sea of humanity, one is assured that there is no place he would rather be.