Green Christmas in the time of climate change

A Christmas tree installation at the coffee shop in Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park. Photo: Special Arrangement 

A Christmas tree installation at the coffee shop in Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park. Photo: Special Arrangement 

There was a time when “Green Christmas” just denoted Yule celebrations free of crippling snowfall — and nothing else. With that meaning, the term works only in places with extreme winters that suffer a “whiteout”. It is ludicrously out of place in the tropics. Absolutely in Chennai. When that genius of a satirist-comedian Stan Freberg employed it to take a playful jab at how Christmas is fused with Commerce to make an inseparable pair of ‘Cs’, his immediate American audience guffawed, getting the joke straightaway. The ‘green’ in Freberg’s “Green Christmas” (released in 1958) was a smart synecdoche for business, denoting the green printing ink that goes into the American currency. Before moving on to the subject at hand, sample a couple of hilarious Freberg lines that are a spin-off from a timeless carol: “Deck the hall with advertising/ Fa la la la la la la la la/ ’Tis the time for merchandising/ Fa la la la la la la la la”. The way Freberg used Green Christmas rings truer, with “Christmas shopping” having entered lexicons under every sky.

Climate change has added another connotation to “Green Christmas”, one that is truly global cutting across climes. Unlike Freberg’s, this Green Christmas is not something to laugh about. And it comes with with an all-season, all-region relevance. Festivals make a fertile ground for sustainability messaging. After a tour of “green golus” during the Navarathri season, it is just the season for green Christmas trees. There is an almost universal appeal to Christmas trees and its branches would be right pegs to hang a sustainability message, besides of course all those glittering baubles. Here are notes from two initiatives that did just that.

Junk-wood tree

A glittering Christmas tree standing at the coffee shop in Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park is a newly-sprung ally to the towering ceiling, as it gives visitors a compelling reason to look up from their foaming latte.

Beneath the colour and glitter of the artificial trees lies junk wood that had been left ignored in the hotel’s carpentry section.

The installation was done by Bhagwan Chavan and Aparajithan Adimoolam from the Cholamandal Artists’ Village, with assistance from artists Bharath and Selva Senthil.

Bhagwan Chavan recalls the first meeting he and Aparajithan had with Anand Nair, general manager, Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park, about the Christmas installation. Anand showed the exact spot for the tree, and he wanted it to flatter the high ceiling of the coffee shop.

The meeting was coming to a close when Anand had asked if they would like to look in on the carpentry section to check out some junk wood. The artists took a look at the material that was to all appearances past their usefulness.

“That night, I and Aparajithan were doing some scribbles. Generally, Christmas trees follow a pattern. We also went through the origin of Yuletide tree. That is when it struck me that the tree installation can be done with any material,” recalls Bhagwan.

From there, the idea of a 14-feet high installation began to emerge. “We collected the junk wood and started cutting it into the shapes we had planned. As the design had delicate curves, we went in for machine cutting.

With eco-friendly powder paints, we painted the trees in the installations — in gold, green and silver colours. We gave two to three coats. On top of it, we used glitter powder — that transformed the whole picture,” notes Bhagwan.

Bhagwan notes that wrapping paper was used and it would have chemicals; and that the installation largely eco-friendly.

He adds that besides the green message it wrung out of the junk wood, the installation has achieved an effect harnessing the light and shade from around it.

“When we designed the Yule tree, we wanted an interplay of natural and artificial light. The coffee shop is rotund-shaped, with three-fourth of it glass, a factor that allows light to stream in unhindered. During daytime, the shadows of the natural trees outside fall on the coffee shop.

When we did the basic sketch in the studio, we put lights from different directions to it. When you light from different directions, you have shadows falling all round. When we installed the whole thing, what we discovered was that, the marble floor also reflected the tree. In the night, when you put the lights on, the reflection falls on the glass and you see three installations at one time.”

Seashell tree

Actor Surya Ganapathy and the GM of InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram at Covelong, stand in front of a Christmas tree made of seashells. Photo: Special Arrangement 

Actor Surya Ganapathy and the GM of InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram at Covelong, stand in front of a Christmas tree made of seashells. Photo: Special Arrangement 

InterContinental Chennai Mahabilpuram Resort in Covelong chose to put out a sustainability message, by having sand and seashell replace bark and branch.

Kunal Shanker, general manager of the resort points out that the in-house conceptualised and put together the 14-feet tall tree with seashells and sand. He adds that made with sand and seashells, the installation has little commercial value, but abundant ecological significance.

“It is biodegradable and comes from nature itself,” remarks Kunal.

The GM elaborates that by zeroing in on this theme, the sustainability message has been infused with a strong local favour.

“We wanted to impact the local fishermen community by creating something symbolic of sustainability. It is symbolic of the fragile marine ecosystems around Mahabalipuram,” he notes, drawing attention to the olive ridley nesting that happens on the coast and the sensitivity that is required to see the turtles are protected. Sensitivity includes also proper waste management. He adds that the tree is also meant to be a reminder of the issue of eroding coastlines.

The seashell tree, installed in the open, in the lobby courtyard, will put down sustainability roots at the spot until January 5.

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 9:09:36 am |