buy nothing christmas '03
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Buy Nothing (for) Christmas: Give of yourself instead of giving to corporate coffers

By SUZANNE ELSTON

From Western Catholic Reporter, November 24, 2003

The pressure's on. With a month to go, the annual Christmas shopping frenzy has begun. The stores are decorated, the catalogues distributed and television commercials compel us to shop 'til we drop.

But before we deck the halls with boughs of commercial Christmas clutter, Buy Nothing Christmas has another idea. According to the Buy Nothing Christmas website, "This Christmas we'll be swamped with offers, ads and invitations to buy more stuff. But now there's a way to say enough and join a movement dedicated to reviving the original meaning of Christmas giving."

The goal of Buy Nothing Christmas is to get people thinking about how our rampant consumerism has co-opted the true meaning of Christmas and plundered the planet in the process. A national initiative started by Canadian Mennonites, Buy Nothing Christmas is open to everyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action.

Aiden Schlichting Enns writes, "Many people have asked me why I am participating in a Buy Nothing Christmas. After being continuously confronted with stats on the rich and poor and our level of consumption, I had to do something.

"In the case of the Mennonite Church in Canada, the majority of its members, including me, has benefitted from the current economic arrangement (free market capitalism). But our affluence has come with some expense to others. Participating in a Buy Nothing Christmas is one way for me to continue looking at peace and justice issues in terms of global economics."

He concludes, "It's 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."

Alternative gifts
The Buy Nothing Christmas website has a great list of alternative gift suggestions for those who still want to acknowledge the season in some tangible way. These include:

  • For those who wish for "Peace on Earth and Goodwill Towards Men", ask them to select their favourite charity, and make a donation equivalent to what you would ordinarily spend on a gift.
  • Give of yourself. Provide babysitting coupons for new parents, snow shoveling coupons for seniors and free housecleaning coupons or a ready-made meal for busy friends.
  • Give the gift of an indoor herb garden. Seeds planted now will be sprouted by Christmas.
  • Make hand-made soap or candles.
  • If you are skilled in a particular area, offer the gift of a lesson or class.
  • Collect quotes that make you think of someone. Make a small booklet out of recycled paper and write them out in your best handwriting.
  • Fill a basket with homemade goodies.
  • Ask your parents about their childhood memories and record them for your children.
  • Record younger family members singing Christmas carols for grandparents.
  • Create a memory quilt for children out of fabric clippings from favourite outgrown clothing or baby blankets.
If you still feel compelled to buy something, The Green Guide offers its 12 Top Products for 2004.

The guide includes everything from recycled paper, soap and shampoos to larger consumer items like carpets, furniture and even cars. Other gift suggestions that won't cost the Earth include compact fluorescent light bulbs and low-flow showerheads. These gifts give year-round by saving energy, water and money.

Another way to embrace the spirit of Peace on Earth is to buy from fair trade organizations like Bridgehead and Ten Thousand Villages.

Both put people before profit by linking consumers directly with small-scale farmers and artisans in the developing world.

Recommended websites:
For more on Buy Nothing Christmas, go to www.buynothingchristmas.org Read Bill McKibben's inspirational essay, Hundred Dollar Holiday on The Center for a New American Dream website at www.newdream.org/commerc/100holiday.html. The Green Guide Institute offers green living tips, product reports, and environmental health advice along with the Green Guide to New Products at www.thegreenguide.com. To purchase fair trade products, visit Bridgehead at www.bridgehead.ca or Ten Thousand Villages at www.villages.ca.

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