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A Buy Nothing Christmas
by Wendy Priesnitz

Buy Nothing ChristmasBrace yourself. It’s time to go Christmas shopping again. But wait, does it have to be this way? While some bravely enter the fray of crowded parking lots and ringing registers, others are saying “no” to the whole shopping thing and finding ways to revive the original meaning of Christmas giving. In fact, in a recent Ipsos Reid survey conducted on behalf of World Vision, 84 percent of Canadians said they would rather have a holiday gift given to a charity in their name than receive more socks or sweaters.

There is even an organization encouraging us to have a “Buy Nothing Christmas.” It a national initiative started by Mennonites “but open to everyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action.” Co-founder Aiden Enns of Winnipeg says, “When I was working at Adbusters magazine back in 2001, I noticed how successful the Buy Nothing Day campaign was, especially in North America and the UK.” “What a shame that it’s only one day, I thought,” says Enns. So he decided to inject a spirit of radical simplicity into the whole Christmas season…and Buy Nothing Christmas was born. 

His first act was to gather a few of his Mennonite friends, pass the hat and purchase a full-page ad in their national church magazine. “If you think Christmas has gotten too commercialized, here’s your chance to do nothing about it,” the ad read. Then the group of volunteers took the message to the broader public and launched a website to spread the word. 

It’s not that Enns and his group are against giving things at Christmas. “Gift-giving is important,” he says. “It’s a profound action, an important glue that keeps communities strong, people less individualistic. But this gift-giving impulse has been exploited by consumer capitalism and a market that preys upon our appetite for wasteful gadgets and soon-obsolete fashions.” Gift-giving shows affection, thoughtfulness and love, he says. “While gift-giving is a good thing to do at Christmas, that doesn’t mean we have to go overboard.” 

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Buy Nothing Christmas suggests that, instead of buying a pile of glitzy presents, give a personal gift. That could involve giving someone a gift of your own artwork, a collection of meaningful photos, a collection of favorite family recipes, a shared trip to a movie, a coupon for babysitting to new parents, a charitable donation in the giftee’s name, etc.

When you do buy things, Enns encourages you to remember principles like buying locally-produced, fairly-traded products with environmentally friendly or no packaging. Recycling or re-using is also a good principle to keep in mind when considering Christmas gifts.

The main aim of the campaign is not to save money (although that can be a side benefit), nor to slow down the pace of Christmas (although that can be another side benefit). It is to challenge our over-consumptive lifestyle and how it affects global disparities and the earth.

Enns says, “Buy Nothing Christmas is an experiment. I’m curious to see what happens. I think it’s a great way to challenge our own consumer mindset, to put our faith into action, to offer a prophetic ‘no’ to unfettered free-market consumer capitalism, and an excellent way to generate some good dinner-table discussions on the topic of economics, politics, religion and what we’re not getting each other for Christmas.”

Wendy Priesnitz is the editor of Natural Life Magazine, a journalist with over 40 years of experience, and the author of 13 books. Visit her website. This article was published in 2006.

 

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