The other day at work I had the unusual job of sorting through donated Christmas decorations. The donations came from the husband of a woman that supported the organization. She, unfortunately, passed away over the summer. The widower was now in a convalescent center. A friend of his helped him collect their old Christmas decorations and deliver them to us to be donated to families in our housing program. It was shared that this gesture of giving was in honor of her love for Christmas and desire to help others. Very kind.
Late Friday afternoon I set up a staging table to sort through the five boxes of decorations, dividing them up into containers for delivery later that day. Some items were in better shape than others. With each item I wondered, perhaps, it held a special place in someone’s heart and memory. These were precious to someone at one time.
A couple of times I felt myself getting spooked out by it, I’ll be honest. Especially when an ornament was broken and had to be thrown away. However, reason dominated the afternoon. “Decorations are not HOLY,” I told myself, “items that require special handling.” They are not Mezuzah’s for example; old or broken Mezuzahs MUST NOT be thrown away but buried.
“Even though it is the scroll that is the mitzvah, the case also becomes holy because it is used for a Mitzvah. Therefore the case should be brought to a genizah – that is a place where holy items are brought to be buried in the Jewish cemetery.”
The embroidered caricature ornaments of Mr. and Mrs. Clause or a broken snowglobe with a water-bubbled Frosty, arms full of presents, do not require special disposal like sacred communion wine and baptismal water. Leftover blessed communion wine and the vessels used for serving MUST be washed in a sink that empties out into the ground.
“A piscina is a shallow basin placed near the altar of a church, or else in the vestry or sacristy, used for washing the communion vessels. The sacrarium is the drain itself. Anglicans usually refer to the basin, calling it a piscina. For Roman Catholic’s sacrarium is a “special sink used for the reverent disposal of sacred substances. This sink has a cover, a basin, and a special pipe and drain that empty directly into the earth, rather than into the sewer system”
Religion fascinates me. All these different rules, detailed rules, stifling rules, people make up for the brand distinction. Of course, at the root of many religious rules is the respect for the object and what it represents, such as the Word of God or the Blood of Christ. So, how do you categorize a ripped 1978 cross-stitched fabric wall banner of a geriatric man with fancy cherry-red lips proclaiming “HO! HO! HO!” that hung on a wall 23 days a year for 42 years? CAN it be thrown away, in the trash, to the landfill? Why yes it can—and it does.
The newsletter for Peninsula Sanitary Service, Inc (PSSI) and the Stanford Recycling Center located in Redwood City, CA, USA, reported Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year’s holiday period than any other time of year. The extra waste amounts to 25 million tons of garbage or about 1 million extra tons per week!
PSSI and SRC suggest some rules: reduce, reuse.
If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet. If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields. The 2.65 billion Christmas cards sold each year in the U.S. could fill a football field 10 stories high. If we each sent one card less, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.
It is a delight for all non-profits to receive donations of any size shape and configuration. After going full circle in my thoughts I was happy that this family decided to donate their Christmas decorations to less fortunate families. Standing over my staging table, I wondered at the stuff, so much stuff. I sorted through each shoebox, bag, and large plastic containers of Christmas ribbon and plastic snowflakes, Christmas candleholders, Christmas ornaments made of glass, plastic, ceramic, tinsel and yarn, Christmas tree toppers, Christmas banners, tree garland, Christmas wreaths for the table and front door, Christmas votives and Christmas coffee cups. Whoever wanted a bag of evenly distributed items, they was ready. I tossed out the few old and broken and passed forward future memory makers.
Here are some 2020 ornaments that caught my attention. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas! Hope you are safe, warm, and bubbled up with folks you can tolerate.