buy nothing christmas '03
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Enough buying, teens say
Spirit of Christmas weighed down by 'mindless over-consumption'

By Carol Goodwin

From Kitchener-Waterloo Record, Friday November 26, 2004

Karin Fast (left), Michaela Krahn and Corey Schlueter hold one of their posters for the Buy Nothing Christmas Campaign at Rockway Mennonite School in Kitchener yesterday afternoon.

KITCHENER -- Pssst! Here's a novel idea. Don't buy anything for Christmas.

Celebrate Christmas by all means, says a local group of students. Exchange gifts with those you love. Mark the occasion with ceremony. Create memories. Get together. Have fun.

It's all possible without buying into the shopping frenzy, the media overkill and the commercialism that blots out the true meaning of the holiday, say Michaela Krahn, 16, Corey Schlueter, 16, and Karin Fast, 14, students at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener.

It's an idea that's snowballing across North America, according to the website www.buynothingchristmas.org

"What with the malls and the media, Christmas has become a Hallmark holiday," Karin said in an interview at her school.

Corey and friends are planning to quietly spread the word at a local mall this weekend.

"I don't like the idea of mindless, chronic over-consumption -- the whole idea of buy, buy, buy," he said.

The students won't be talking to shoppers, simply handing them a small flyer and a mirror "so they can look at themselves buying stuff they don't need."

With the encouragement of Jane Snyder, their Sunday school teacher at Erb Street Mennonite Church in Waterloo, Michaela, Corey, Karin and others in Snyder's class, decided they'd give up one or more of their own presents this Christmas.

They plan to ask their parents or other family members to donate the money they would have spent on the gift to the Sunnydale Community Centre in Waterloo, Snyder said. The centre serves a neighbourhood of ethnically diverse and low-income residents.

"We've been discussing consumerism, advertising, commercialism and the Buy Nothing Christmas concept in our Sunday school class," Snyder said.

"This would be a way of calming our own Christmases, as well as helping someone else," she said.

Besides working on the community centre project, the students have issued a challenge to join the Buy Nothing movement to other Mennonite churches in Waterloo Region and Perth county.

The movement began four years ago in Vancouver and was picked up in the U.S., where a Buy Nothing Day was set for just after the American Thanksgiving, estimated to be the biggest shopping day of the year in the U.S.

The local effort is not centred on a particular day, Snyder said. It can continue right up until Christmas.

So what are the kinds of gifts you could exchange, spending very little or no money?

According to the Buy Nothing catalogue, you could make coupons promising sessions for child care, foot or back massages, a recipe for homemade bagels, a visit, a meal, a cake, a photograph of a favourite place or flower, a jar of preserves . . . the list goes on.

"Christmas should be more about the idea of Christmas, and the people you care about. Not tonnes and tonnes of money," said Corey.

By Carol Goodwin, Record Staff

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