The time has come, Christmas is just around the corner. Ahh, Christmas. The flurry of shopping, the hours spent deciding what the “perfect” gift for mom would be. If I listen carefully, I think I can hear carollers. There they are! It sounds like they are singing “Silver Bells”. But wait the words are all wrong. Where did they get lines like “Maxing credit, running debits/buying things we don’t need”, or “Cash tills ring/must we spend Christmas this way?”???
Those words come from one of the “Twisted Christmas Carols” found on http://www.buynothingchristmas.org/. They are providing a voice to help remind people to think about the true meaning of Christmas. The idea of a Buy Nothing Christmas is based on the concept that our society has an illness, an illness I call consumeritis. Consumeritis pushes us to keep buying more and more, even when we really don’t need what the ads tell us we absolutely must have. How deeply affected our society is by this disease is shown when, in 2001, President Bush told people to do their part in the war on terror by getting out there and shopping.
Christmas is a bad season for consumeritis since we all want to get the “right gift” (or maybe it is the right gifts) for each person on our list. But it really doesn’t have to be. Christmas can be celebrated in ways that are wasteful of money and resources. It can also be celebrated in ways that are more resource and environmentally friendly. This means starting to break out of the habit of over-consumption.
There is nothing wrong with Christmas presents but we don’t need to overspend to give them. One of the ideas within Buy Nothing Christmas is to look at alternative gifts. The idea of giving gifts is to show love and appreciation for each other but can’t this be done better with one well-chosen gift than with 5 things we don’t really need? Gift-giving can be a way we build up our community so the Buy Nothing folks also encourage people to shop at local stores and/or support local artists in their gift-buying.
By now you may be saying “this sounds like a neat idea, what is there to help me discuss it with my family and friends?” Well there are lots of ways. (See the website http://www.buynothingchristmas.org/ for more ideas and information.)
- What are some possible ways to give gifts without taking part in the shopping frenzy? Take time to talk about alternative gifts.
- Want to take part in acts of consciousness raising? There are posters you can download with slogans like “Santa Came/Jesus Wept” (my personal favourite was the icon of Jesus with the caption “Where did I say that you should buy so much stuff to celebrate my birthday?”).
- Do you love carols? Well they have some “twisted” carols that help spread the idea of a Buy Nothing Christmas (the poetic among you may feel moved to write your own).
Buy Nothing Christmas, an idea which merits some extra thinking or a pipe dream? It is up to all of us to decide for ourselves.