Give cynicism the boot … spend time in a garden
The classic novella A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is always a reminder that the season is not about happiness through buying or hoarding things.
Cynical, old Ebenezer Scrooge learned the hard way about his miserable existence, which he paid for at the expense of not only himself, but those around him too. It is a classic tale about accumulating wealth that never gratifies, where he ended up a greedy, unsatisfied existence.
A Christmas Carol has never gone out of print since the time Charles Dickens wrote it. A century and a half later, we still find it on the shelves of our favorite bookstores. The story deeply resonates with our humanity.
Back then, the novella came about because of the author's concerns over the gap between the rich and poor in England and the exploitation of child workers. Exploitation that is as real a problem today as it was back when he penned the story.
Today Dickens' concerns might include our want to buy happiness, and as cheap as possible. Even if keeping the costs down on goods means the exploitation and misery of people on a global scale — all for more stuff, mostly meaningless stuff.
We don't have to choose cynicism. We don't need to go to the big stores and fight to find a parking space, fight the crowded lines, or fight over goods laid out on the table. Isn't it strange that shopping at this time of the year contains so many fight words?
I believe we make the holidays what we want it to be. If I want to take the commercial out of Christmas, I simply step away from the commercial!
What will our hearts remember about this holiday season? Most likely, the time we spent together, the family stories, and our connections to friends. Happiness comes wrapped up in the gift of giving of ourselves to others. These are more precious than any item at a store.
In the end, what we regret is time we didn't spend with loved ones, not what gifts we didn't give or receive.
What has any of this to do with a garden? Spending time with friends and family in a garden decorated for the season I think is a splendid way to take the fight out of Christmas.
Some of the following gardens charge a fee; however, these are not big commercial operations, and money spent in these places stays within our communities. These gardens are stress free environments where you become a participant in the enchanting experience — a great way to unwind with loved ones and reconnect to the magic of the season. Best of all, there is no bah humbug in these gardens!
Bellevue Botanical Garden brings us the charming Garden d'lights and worth a trip across the moat. The garden displays use over ½ million lights that are put together by volunteers in the community and beyond! Be prepared to ooh and aah over the charming displays. Fee: $5 (no admission fee for children under 10).
Just across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, you can enjoy the Pt Defiance Zoolights. Another event with lights in the zoo garden, plus the admission fee includes viewing the nocturnal animals, camel rides, meerkats and piranhas, and a large octopus or two. Santa diving with the sharks? Oh yes, that too! Fee: $10 at the gate or online for $8.50 (no admission fee for children under 2).
Meanwhile back on the Kitsap Peninsula, we have some great Christmas displays in gardens we can tour.
In Poulsbo, Christmas in Big Valley is about a 600-foot long path through a woodland, featuring over 65,000 lights, elves, the Clauses, nativity, garden railroad and more. — Fee: $7 (no admission fee for children under 6).
How about an Octopus's Garden? On the north end of the peninsula, The Port of Kingston decorates the garden areas around Mike Wallace Park with fun underwater characters and flowers sculpted with lights. The displays have expanded, so that most of the park is now decorated with lights. — Free.
Many community events around the peninsula kick off at the beginning of December with many fun ways we can enjoy with our loved ones. The volunteers whom give their time to our communities make many of these events possible.
I wish you a joyful holiday season, whether it's gathering for Christmas, lighting a candle for solstice, or any other way you celebrate!
Article originally written for Debbie's column "Garden Life" for the Kitsap Weekly, Dec. 2015.