Occupy This: The Crusade Against
By Barbara Thau, Daily
December 15, 2011
Kurt Armstrong won't be buying any presents for his three children,
ages 7, 4 and 5 months, this holiday season.
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Instead, the Winnipeg, Canada, resident, who patches together a living
with a handful of disparate jobs -- handyman, freelance writer, church
worker -- is making them a board to play crokinole, a game
similar to marbles. "I salvaged some 100-year-old maple flooring from a
house I was working on, milled the wood and am using it to build their
gift," he says.
Armstrong's reasons to forgo holiday shopping are twofold. "We barely
scrape by," he says. What's more, "We're trying to establish different,
healthier ways to celebrate."
He won't be the only one skipping the mall scene this holiday season.
Armstrong is a devotee of "Buy
Nothing Christmas," one of several online movements that have
shined a spotlight on people who -- for philosophical, economic or
religious reasons -- are doing something radical this holiday season:
saying no to gift buying.
Many of these non-shoppers are replacing the annual buying spree with
rituals that they believe more aptly reflect the meaning of the
holiday, such as sharing time with loved ones, offering up a homemade
gift or donating to a favorite charity.
"The idea that we express how we love through buying consumer items is
so outdated," Aiden Enns, founder of Buy Nothing Christmas, tells DailyFinance.
The group, started by Canadian Mennonites, rejects what it deems the
over-consumptive shopping patterns of North Americans, urging people to
spread the message of non-shopping at home, work, in their communities
and places of worship. It's grown from a group of about seven
Mennonites in 2001 into a national movement with 36,000 web visitors in
November, Enns says.
Buy Nothing Christmas is on a mission to recast the holidays so that
they're "richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth and
greater in giving to people less privileged," according to
BuyNothingChristmas.org. It also aims to expose the downside of an
economy largely reliant on consumer purchases.
Other, similar sites have sprouted, such as The Christmas Resistance Movement and
The crusade against holiday shopping has assumed a new resonance this
year amid the rise of Occupy Wall Street, which, like the anti-holiday
buying crusades, rally in part against corporate greed.
Indeed, Occupy Wall Street was branded by Adbusters, the Canadian
anti-consumerism magazine that sparked awareness for Buy Nothing Day,
which encourages people to boycott shopping on Black Friday and is now
Forgoing store-bought presents will no doubt save
the Armstrong family money. But Armstrong says that his decision mostly
reflects his kids' pure appreciation of the homemade gifts he's been
making them for several years now. "I built my kids a Lego table last
Christmas, and they've spent hundreds of hours there over the past
year," he says. "My kids are young, but I know they already appreciate
the things I build for them."