buy nothing christmas '03
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Stories of Buy Nothing Christmas

These stories were submitted to us, which means you can add yours too. [Hint: rants against this effort will be accepted, but hate mail gets deleted.]

For years, I tried to swim upstream fighting the materialism associated with christmas.....- my solution... separate religion from culture. I have now come to peace with this. I call it Merry Materialism Day and concede to the idea that this is what it has become. Let us also take into this equation, that Jesus was not born at christmas anyway and that this birthdate was established to bring more pagans in line with Christianity by transferring their new year celebration to a Christian celebration. - Cheryl Prokosh

I have just spent an hour reading the stories from other people about the way most people celebrate "Christmas".....I was so glad to find out that I am not alone in my despair. This year,when people ask me "How was your Christmas?"....I say "quiet and reflective, and spent over dinner with my husband and daughter." They look confused and sorry for me....what, no piles of gifts? no tree? no shop 'til you drop? no wrapping? no parties? I retort with the ideas of decorating the evergreens in the yard with treats for the hungry birds, walks and conversations with the people I love, time spent in the kitchen making them a delicious dinner, and the general clean-out of cupboards and drawers of gently used things that we no longer need, and donating them to the Salvation Army Thrift Store so that money can be raised to help the less fortunate. We also give small gifts of the money we can afford to the younger children in the family so that they can give it to others or get something they need or desire...the beautiful creche is placed on the buffet so that we are reminded throughout Dec. why we have Christmas. Bless you all and a Happy New Year - Sandra

Like a lot of other people whose stories I have read on this site, we are gradually scaling back how we "do Christmas." For many years my husband and I have limited spending on our children to $100 each, and on each other to $20 each. This year we have eliminated gifts to each other altogether. We also decided to put our Christmas tree up on our deck outside and decorate it with lights, popcorn, and birdseed--all of the other decorations have remained in their boxes in the garage. In our extended family, we have begun drawing names among the adults, so that each of us buys for only one person. Thank you for the encouragement and inspiration your web site provides. Merry Christmas! - Susan Mazzara

Our culture jamming group in Atlanta created a public service announcement for radio. People can download it here and put it on their local stations. The link can be hound here - Thanks for doing this! - frankie, Atlanta, Georgia

Our family is taking this message to heart this year. We hope to make strides each Christmas. We live relatively close to the Amish and Mennonites of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and I have been interested in working more closely with them. Thank you for this initiative. - Michael Esposito

Hi there from, New Zealand. I'd just like to say a big well done to you folk behind this great initiative. It's about time. For about 5 years, our family has not given presents or decorated our home with Christmas decorations. Instead, we cherished the time we had with each other and concentrated on why Christmas is celebrated. Keep up the good work. - Heather, New Zealand

All you lot are cheap skates. - Kelly, UK

We are editing a book entitled "Doing December Differently: An Alternative Christmas Handbook", which will be published by Wild Goose Press (a radical Christian outfit), Glasgow, UK for December 2006. We are invitingcontributions from anyone and everyone who is switched off by western culture's focus on consumerism and the idealisation of the family at Christmas. This organisation is EXACTLY the kind of thing we are interested in. We invite contributions of personal stories, poems, liturgies, practical resources, etc. for doing December differently. Would you be able to circulate this to your members? We are keen toget contributions from Canada and the US as well as the UK. Rosie Miles and Nicola Slee Birmingham, UK Contact Rosie via this link.

I would like to thank you for you honest down to earth site. I am 16 years old and due to the fact that i no longer beleive in my strict families christian values i was told it would be disrespectful for me to participate in the holiday itself. i was horrified knowing the extent of commercialism and lack of religion found in most families christmas including ours. your site supports my beleifs and gives me strength to refuse to give or receive physical gifts this season. My family is expecting for me to find the "christmas spirit" and conform to the capitalist ideals of american x-mas and their imposing religious beleifs. yet i beleive that no matter how many gifts they have under the tree they will hopefully realize that in the attempt to celebrate the son of god they lost their own son on christmas. Thank you and have a happy christmas and may the gifts that truely count surround you inside of your friends and family. - Brendan Shaughnessy

You people are nuts! Get a life. Christmas is about giving family gifts, love etc., you will never change that. So give it up. No one will listen. - Leigh

Wow, I have really enjoyed reading all the stories written by people with my same outlook. I don't think I had given the commercialism of Christmas much thought untill I was in my mid 20's and I worked in a mall. All the greedy snatching and grabbing, the over limit credit cards, it was just sad. Still it didn't really register until one day I passed a mother and her child looking at christmas decorations, the little boy really liked a miniture manger scene and wanted to have the baby Jesus in his room. The mother told him no, she didn't want any of "That religious stuff" in her house. Um, hello? Isn't the reason for this holiday to clebrate the birth of our saviour? Too many people have forgotten this. I stopped the shopping excess that year and have avoided it ever since. My husband and I have decided we are going to start taking all the money we would have spent on Christamas and use it to take a trip to a warm place in December. No gift giving, no decorations, just us and any extended family member that wishes to come along. On Christmas day I spend extra time thinking about Christ and giving thanks for what has has done for us. God Bless everyone, and I hope your idea spreads like wild fire! - Andi

Just discovered today about your activities! That's called "a day late and a dollar short", but here's my story anyway. In 1968 (yes, that's sixty-eight) my family gave up Christmas altogether. By a family vote (unanimous) we decided it was not for us: no decorations, no wreath, no tree, no cards, no gifts, no big dinner, nada. Of course, this decision was not received kindly by some of the "outer family", but we stuck to it, and it worked for US! Our children have all grown up (all four of them 50+ now) and, with their own families, they have celebrated when their children were little, but my husband and I (76 and 79) still continue our non-Christmas, so I guess we qualify for your Buy Nothing Christmas. When asked about our Christmas activities by others, and we respond with "we don't celebrate Christmas", we are met first with shock and then an embarrassed "oh, I wish we could cut down". We thought we were the only ones on the planet who felt this way. Finding your group makes us feel a little less lonely. Keep up the good work! - Ellie Clark

Great site. I'd like to put a link to your site at our gift-giving alternative site, Canadian Mental Health Association. It fits with our efforts to try and reduce the stress that comes with over-consumption and financial burdens associated with the holiday season. We're encouraging people to give donations instead of gifts, and we offer a card that people can give in lieu of a gift. Keep up your good work! It's a beautiful site, as well as being helpful. Best regards. - Dena Ellery

I love this idea and organization. I got permission to pass out flyers and pin up posters of a buy-nothing-christmas at my high-school. My youth group is soon to be involved, and I am so excited! Many of my teachers are now full supporters. Buy-Nothing-Christmas is growing everyday! Good luck, I'll keep the chain going! Lillie-Kate

Change your religion. Then you don't have to buy anything at all. - Sally

Like most others I'm tired - and embarrased - by the annual commercial cashfest. Currently I'm working in a hospital. I'm also studying for my massage therapy qualification to use in hospitals and general practitioner surgeries. I'll speak with several of the medical and surgical consultants and offer my skills to people unlucky enough to be in hospital over Christmas. A hand massage, a foot massage, a soothing back massage - it's a wonderful way of connecting with people and my way of giving something back over a period which is so difficult for so many. Good wishes to everyone! - Suzanne B, London UK

We've been "buying nothing" for Christmas for over a decade (within certain circles). We find used items that are just right for the person or make something ourselves. It's much more fun without the guilt of knowing one has spent too much money, supported child labour or contributed to pollution and toxicity, and even knowing one is not "in the true spirit" of the season. We started it because we were poor students and really COULDN'T buy each other anything fancy. But the tradition became permanent because it just feels right. We are SO THRILLED that this movement is taking off. I never would have guessed it to be possible. Thank you all so much! - Sara Parks Ricker

I want to say thank you for starting this movement. My husband and I have been thinking about "taking back" Christmas for a while--doing what we want rather than what society thinks we should. Your web site has given us the encouragement we need to go through with it this year. - Treasure

When I was a grad student, my family all said, don't buy us anything for Christmas. I didn't. But when I got to Christmas eve with nothing for the people I loved and cared about, I set to work. I took books from my shelves that would interest my dad and my aunt. I made a blouse for my sister and by morning I had made and re-allocated gifts for everyone. And I had come to a precious understanding that giving is the greatest joy. To this day, I make almost all of my Christmas gifts. - Gail

Each year my immediate family celebrates the Roman Saternalia and Winter Solstace by swapping roles for 1 week over the children's holiday break. The children run the house as the parents, beginning with a grocery trip where they buy the week's stock, and we parents become the children. The "parents" must delegate work to the "kids" and take on the lion's share of duties around the house. They can stay up as late as they want and put the "kids" to bed as they see fit, for example. They really look forward to exercising this power and taking the responsibility for the way things happen in the home. My sons are now 8 and 12, and we've been doing this for 3 years. During this topsy-turvy time, we get an appreciation for how the other half lives. We also have a ban on purchased consumer goods, giving small handmade gifts, baked goods and cards to the people we love. Although one mitigating bit of consumerism that we tried 3 years ago was to collectively choose a house gift--something that all of us could get use out of but that we generally couldn't justify buying in the normal budget. We decided to purchase a camping tent and sleeping bags and this helped the children transition to a holiday without excessive consumer goods. - Andrea Sprenelli

Last Christmas our grown daughters suggested that instead of buying gifts for each other for Christmas, that we didn't need or want, and that we go away and spend a weekend together just being a family. I really don't like shopping at all and find the holidays to be stressful enough without the malls, so I jumped at the chance. Christmas morning came without any presents. We did have small stockings followed by a quiet breakfast together after which we readied ourselves for family gatherings. Early in January we went away to Minneapolis - the girls, their partners, my husband and myself. We had a blast enjoying each other - visiting, eating, some shopping [ouch!, ed.], playing in the pool - for three whole days. It really made the holidays easier to deal with. We plan to do this again at the end of November, staying closer to home. I can hardly wait. I encourage others to try this and get back to what is really important - family! - susan hryb

I am responding to the Winnipeg Free Press article. Your attempt to look at alternatives for Christmas consumerism is laudable. Although I haven't seen the musical I'm sure it is very thought provoking. It is an issue we have been struggling with for many years and needs to be addressed. However I do take issue with the language Aiden Enns used in the interview, e.g. "p..... ..f". If you are artistic enough to write a musical you can also use proper English which is a very rich language. It is unnecessary to use such coarse, degrading language in this context, especially if you consider yourself a Christian. I had considered going to see the musical but am not sure now if I will. - Katherine D.

I'm writing from st. louis. We're planning on doing a 'sweat-free christmas' campaign, using many of the resources on your site. Hopefully we will get people in Catholic parishes to sign a pledge to buy nothing produced in sweatshops, and provide alternatives. Thanks for this wonderful site and resources. - Jenny Truax, Catholic Action Network

We're taking baby steps. Two years ago, my husband and I agreed that we would exchange one present and one stocking stuffer, and we did so. Last year, we went tree-free. This year, we've agreed to ditch the stocking stuffer, and exchange one present. (I'm hoping for a velvet dress, and he's getting a bicycle from eBay, assuming I win the auction.) Next year, we'll see if we make the big leap into a true Buy-Nothing xmas. Our boston terrier is exempt from the above, by the way. - Frances Gentile

This is the first that I had heard about you guys and what you're saying is very intriguing to me. I live in Indiana and I have to work and I hate it....I would rather be at home with my boys who are home schooled by my mother. My ideal life would be living out in the country off of the land with my own chickens and garden, etc. I would love to seperate myself from this mean world out there, but with all of the instant gratification that our societies encourage it's almost impossible, but I know it's doable especially if you get more people behind you and working with you. I guess I just want to say that I support you guys. Keep up the good work! - Donna Curry, Indiana

I love it, this Christmas I am going to give each of my siblings a card that documents a full day of time that I donated to a non profit organization. I'll take pictures of what I did or record video and give my day of donation as a present to them. Thank you for the inspiration. - Jon Karsunky Bellingham, Washington

Every Christmas my husband and I get together with our closest friends and have a dinner at our house. In years past we always had a gift exchange but since the birth of our first son we have realized that we have everything we could ever want. So as of this year we have asked our friends to bring a food hamper and children's clothing that we can donate. We hate to think that there are children out there with no food or warm clothes for the winter. - Katerina Wiehler

In my Social Psychology class, I mentioned your website and then went to the class computer and pulled up the site and further discussed your ideas. The teacher enjoyed it and it made the students think for once. Thank you and keep up the good work! — Jeremy Schneider, Rockland County, NY

Hi, I have just contributed over 100 volunteer hours to Ten Thousand Villages here in Austin where we opened a store Nov 1. We just sold over $100,000 (US) worth of merchandise. Might you not consider this a worthy alternative alongside "buy nothing?" I didn't notice "buying fair-traded items," in a quick-scan of your "alternatives" section. — Ray Gingerich, Austin, TX

[A hasty editorial response, read further with caution: Hi Ray. I consider buying and giving fairly-traded items a good thing... with limits. I hope we, in this culture of excess, are in a time of transition. That is, when we buy fairly-traded items, we begin to spread more of our our wealth back to producers, and, by extension, their families and communites. This is my best view of so-called "fair" trade purchases, and pro-capitalist, micro-economic lending, and charity in general. However, when we condone the purchase of fairly-traded items we actually tread tremblingly on the slippery slope leading our earth to a fireball of destruction. I mean we have an out-of-control, consumer capitalist economy, runaway population levels and a developing world that benefits, in the short term, from increased consumption levels in the developing world. Meanwhile we're buying more SUVs and looking at Ford Explorers asking what percentage is recyclable. It's time to shout to our society, STOP consuming so darn much. We're living way out of synch with nature (understatement). Spending more and more on any items, fair trade or not, just reinforces the notion that, as president Bush loves to say, we can spend our way out of any problems. So, while I fully support Ten Thousand Villages (that's my coffee supplier, for example), this is why we don't feature it very highly on our Buy Nothing Christmas website. You can,however, find mentions of it in the list of stories. I'll see if I can add yours, along with this editorial note. Cheers, Aiden.]

It's pleasant to know you exist as I have never heard of anyone else as "crazy" as we are. We live in rural Missouri. My co-workers respond affectionately to my idiosyncrasies as I do not participate in gift exchanges. My family enjoys our low-keyed version of the holidays. We each contribute to peace on earth through our thoughtfully lead lives. — Wendy in Missouri

Found your site via Adbusters and you spoke volumes from my heart. I truly dislike how corporate interests are telling us how we should celebrate our holidays with large purchases (much of it on credit) and how we as a society are loosing sight of our true desires. From now on I'm making donations in the name of family members or helping the less fortunate over the holidays and celebrating our family with togetherness. — Mike

I am so glad I got information about this necessary campaign. I live in Umea, Sweden, with my family - and everything I wish for this Christmas is time. Time to think, time to talk, time to read, time to laugh, time to be silent. And I want nothing of this to be covered by over-coloured papers and hysterically covers of Silent Night. Peace to all of you. — Eva Renstrom Wettavik

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