If you’ve stayed at Champagne Castle Hotel over Christmas during the past 10 years, you’re aware of the imported traditional decorations we’re famous for. This year we did something completely different for Christmas decorations.

Champagne Castle Hotel is very unique in it’s geographic location. Not only are we situated in one of the most idyllic and beautiful parts of the world, we fall within a World Heritage Site. There are not many hotels that can claim that. Coupled with our responsibility as a hotel to do everything we can to look after the environment, we are continually reminded by virtue of our location, that the planet we all circumnavigate the sun on, receives a terrible beating from we humans.

This year we wanted to make Christmas count. We wanted to make a difference, on behalf of all our guests at this special time of the year, by creating a Christmas that would have a net benefit to the environment. We started our ‘doing more with less’ project early in 2015 and involved every department at Champagne Castle Hotel. The framework was simple….. every decoration should be constructed primarily from materials found in the forest, or from things we were throwing away. We wanted to minimise items brought onto the property to celebrate Christmas.

While you might think that doing more with less would cost less, we never imagined that it would take the investment of time and energy that it did, nor did we expect to learn as much as we have.

Our hope this Christmas, was that as our guests walked around the hotel and noticed the various decorations we’d created and the materials used, that they’d pause and take a moment to reflect on how doing more with less is a worthy Christmas message, and a worthwhile pursuit for each and every citizen of this most beautiful planet we call earth.

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As part of our Christmas theme we wrote a story to illustrate what we we had done…….

Juno and the Star Lift-Off Launcher

There is a little known story that occurred just over 2000 years ago. In an area now known as uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park.  A World Heritage Site of recent times, but not because of the Bushman paintings as some might suggest. It is, in fact, the story of a little girl that gave the area it’s protected status.

Juno was her name, and she had a very special job in those times. The King of the Stars had entrusted Juno to make sure every star in the sky shone brightly, and was in place for each night’s spectacular sparkly show. Juno was very good at what she did, and the King of the Stars would often visit to tell her.

One day the King of the Stars surprised Juno with an unexpected visit. He rushed into Juno’s kitchen, with a look of importance in his eyes.”Juno” he said with his deep and booming voice, “I have a very important task for you. Tonight I need you to lift the special star you keep for big occasions into the sky, and set it on a journey northwards from here. There is a child being born in a stable and wise men and women, kings and queens, shepherds and people of all sorts will be attending a celebration. We have been asked to make sure a star marks the spot, so that everyone can find their way. I know I’m not giving you much time Juno, but if anyone can, you can. Remember Juno, you might have to do more with less.”

And with that, the King of the Stars left Juno to get on with her very important task. Juno gathered her team of helpers together. Benny the rabbit, Sipho the fox, Samantha the Duiker, Noni the bear, and Raj the baboon. They collected all the equipment they normally used to launch stars, and Juno and Noni carefully removed the special star from the secret cupboard and gently packed it into Juno’s bag. They set off towards the highest mountain. There was no other mountain anywhere else in the world that was more perfect for launching stars. It’s top was large and flat, ideal for star lift-offs of the type Juno was known for.

It was normally a 10 hour journey to the top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain, but today Juno and her team had to do it in just 8 hours. They would need the extra time to get the special star launched. From the start they would have to be speedy. Juno put Benny and Sipho in charge of getting them there on time. She chose them because nothing is faster than a Rabbit, and nobody is smarter than a fox. If anyone could, they could. Juno remembered the King of the Stars last words to her, and while she didn’t understand them, she thought it smart to repeat them to Sipho and Benny, “Remember, you might have to do more with less.”

Halfway up the perfect, big and flat topped mountain, at the part it was always hardest and hottest, Noni the bear had run out of water. She called to Benny and Sipho, asking them to make a turn to the stream running down the far left side of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain. “Sipho, Benny”, she called. “I’ve run out of water, as I always do. I’m bigger than the rest of you and need to drink more water than anyone else.”

Benny and Sipho knew there was no time for detours. They had been put in charge by Juno to lead the team to the top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain faster and in less time than ever before. Sipho had a bright thought, as Foxes often do. He stopped the expedition and asked everyone to show him their water bottles. He saw that Samantha the Duiker had far more water than anyone else. Duikers are smaller and more nimble than most, and need to drink less. Now Sipho the fox had an even brighter thought. He asked everyone to share their water so that they each had what they needed, and no more. He had solved Noni’s water problem, and even made Samantha’s bottle lighter and easier to carry. The expedition set off again up the perfect, big and flat topped mountain.

In exactly 7 hours and 59 minutes, one minute shorter and faster than Juno had asked, Sipho and Benny got the team to the top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain. While everyone wanted to stop and high five and cheer, there was no time for that now. High fives and cheers would have to come later. What was needed now was for the star lift-off launcher to be assembled and put in place so that the special star could be sent northwards to mark the baby birth celebration.

Raj was always in charge of assembling the star lift-off launcher. Baboons are quick, and strong and can move up and down, and in and out of a star lift-off launcher better and faster than anyone else. While Raj always did most of the work, every now and then you’d hear him shout out to the rest of the team, “Will someone please pass me the green, grafter gaffle shwoop” or “Please throw up the tremor handle so I can fasten the wrapper to the rampoon nugget.”

While this wasn’t the first time that Juno and her team had launched a star, it was the first time they’d launched the special star. As Juno worked as hard and fast as she always did, she started to feel that excited bubbly feeling in her tummy begin to grow. The same feeling she always got when she was doing something for the first time. That feeling that let her know that she should pay extra careful attention to each moment, because these were especially extra fantabulous moments.

And suddenly, as if by magic, Raj shouted down from inside the top of the outside of the star lift-off launcher, “It’s finished. We can launch the special star.” Noni and Juno took the special star out of the bag they’d carefully put it into before they left. Samantha was in charge of placing it into the starter pocket. Sipho would line up the starter pocket with the ending shooter. Benny would press the button when Juno had made sure that everything was ready, and Raj would lie on the floor next to the star lift-off launcher because he was exhausted from putting everything together.

“We’re ready to go” shouted Juno. Benny knew what he had to do. He pushed the button and the special star shot down, at an incredible speed, from the starter pocket towards the ending shooter. As Juno watched, the bubbly feeling in her tummy stopped getting more bubbly. Something was wrong, and while she didn’t know why or what, her tummy was telling her so. And then the most terrible thing happened. The special star just stopped moving. For no reason that even Sipho could work out, and foxes can work most things out.

Raj, who was lying on the ground next to the star lift-off launcher, because he was exhausted, had been watching all of this, and maybe because he was just watching or maybe because he had a lucky thought, suddenly shouted over to Juno, “It’s the super slippery speedy pipe. It’s not long enough for the special star to get the right amount of speed to launch to the right height it needs to.”

What was Juno going to do? They had used everything they normally do to build the star lift-off launcher. There were no extra bits and pieces to make the slippery speedy pipe longer. This was a disaster. Juno would have to tell the King of the Stars that she had failed. Juno had never failed. What was she going to do? Juno fell onto the ground in a heap. Tears started to fill up her eyes. This would be the worst day Juno had ever had. And just when she was about to completely give up, the words of the King of the Stars played through her mind, “Remember Juno, you may have to do more with less.” For the first time that day Juno knew what the King of the Stars meant when he said those words.

Juno jumped up and shouted to everyone, “We have to do more with less.” Samantha, Sipho, Benny, Noni and Raj all looked up at Juno, and instead of thinking she was mad, their faces lit up and they all jumped into action. They’d never had to do this before, and they didn’t even know if it was possible, but if anyone could, they could. From the top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain everyone began to look around for anything that they could use to make the super slippery speedy pipe longer.

Noni found a tree that had fallen over. The insides had been eaten by termites and it was hollow. She had found a pipe, just long enough to be long enough. Raj and Samantha collected vines that they used to tie Noni’s log in place. Benny and Sipho collected moss from the rocks on top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain that they rubbed on the inside of Noni’s hollow tree to make it slippery enough.

When they were all done, Juno knew that she knew what the King of the Stars had meant when he said those words earlier in the day. As she thought about the day, she remembered all those moments where they had done more with less, and while they’re not words that easily make sense, doing more with less can make extra special things happen.

They launched the special star, and sent it northwards to mark the celebration of the birth of a baby. Kings, queens, wise men and women, shepherds and people of all sorts were there that evening at that stable.

As Juno and her team walked back home from the top of the perfect, big and flat topped mountain, Juno looked at her team and said to them, “When you do more with less, you can change the world.”