What does Christmas mean to us? Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, born in poverty to live a humble life among ordinary people. Other symbols are for example Santa which came from a Bishop St Nicolas from Turkey. He gave to the poor.
But this humble and religious aspect of Christmas seems now completely lost, its meaning has changed, but to what? Most people would say it’s about spending time with family, eating well, and an expression of love, which seems now to be in the shape of presents and good food. Experiencing my 13 year old daughter, and witnessing our society, it appears that we somehow measure our love and care for each other in the amount of money spent on gifts and food.
So Christmas has become a symptom of pure capitalism; and capitalism comes with victims. In order to produce endless items (cloths, cosmetics, electrical devises, jewellery, toys, etc) cheap labour, often in developing countries like China or Bangladesh is required. We know how these workers are treated and with few rights they are left vulnerable and exploited.
Production of consumer goods means the use of energy; this means burning fossil fuels that leads to climate change, more violent storms, loss of live and livelihoods. We are facing the biggest environmental catastrophe in our history, which we have been causing by our ignorance and greed for ever more goods.
Our exploitation does not stop here; animals are also paying a huge price for our Christmas tradition. Millions of turkeys are slaughtered along with ducks, geese, pigs, lambs and chickens. Puppies and kittens are given away as presents, then often neglected or discarded by new owners when the novelty has worn off. Prettily packaged cosmetics and toiletries make nice presents, but were probably cruelly tested on animals. Rabbits and foxes have their fur stripped from them to be turned into clothing and accessories.
So is Christmas a season for giving and caring? Not really. But it does not have to be that way. In my family we have a rule no presents for more than £5 per a person – except the children, they get “normal” presents exceeding our limit. We do allow some capitalistic expectation for them, since living in our society we want to avoid them feeling left out or neglected. However, we will discuss the original meaning of Christmas with them, and the madness of spending a lot of money as some sort of expression of love. Furthermore, we will spend some time at Christmas thinking and talking about people here in the UK and over the world, who are suffering as a direct result of our unequal, exploitative culture.
So let’s try and make this a truly “Merry” (for all) Christmas; lets reduce this madness of consumption, let’s spend time with others, think about the less fortunate and vulnerable people, and let’s try to make this a victim- free Christmas. And then we truly can enjoy ourselves.
Oh yes – and cruelty free, here is a wonderful vegetarian nut roast that can replace the turkey, and you can still have all the trimmings!
Lentil and Cashew Nut Roast [for 6 – 2hrs 40min]
75g finely chopped red peppers
2300g red split lentils
450 ml vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
100g unsalted cashew nuts
11/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks, trimmed & finely chopped
100g mushrooms finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
75g mature vegetarian Cheddar cheese, grated
100g wholemeal bread crumbs
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 free range egg, lightly beaten.
• Rinse the lentils in a sieve under cold running water. Drain, then tip into a saucepan. Add stock and the bay leaf, bring to the boil.
• Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes until the lentils are soft and pulpy and the stock has been absorbed. Stir briefly to prevent the lentils sticking, discard the bay leaf.
• While the lentils are cooking, put the cashew nuts in a non-stick frying pan and toast over a moderate heat until lightly browned, stirring frequently, set aside to cool, then roughly chop.
• Preheat the oven to 190C/375F
• Line the bottom of a 1.4 litre loaf tin with a piece of greaseproof paper.
• Add the oil to the frying pan and cook the onions over a moderate heat for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, leeks, peppers and garlic and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Stir the lemon juice
• Tip the lentils and vegetables into a mixing bowl Stir in the breadcrumbs, cashews and 2 tablespoons of the parsley, followed by the grated cheese and the beaten egg. Season to taste then spoon into the loaf tin. Level the top and cover with a piece of lightly oiled foil.
• Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the bake comes out clean.
• Remove from the oven and leave to cool while set in the tin. After 10 minutes turn out and cut into thick slices
• Serve with all the trimmings and enjoy a cruelty free Christmas Dinner
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.