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Buy Nothing Christmas

Where did I say you should shop so much?With December just around the corner, it’s as good a time as any to mention Buy Nothing Christmas, for those whose curiosity was pricked by the recent Buy Nothing Day.

Buy Nothing Christmas is a campaign set in motion by a group of Canadian Mennonite Christians, as a ‘prophetic no’ to the consumerism of the silly season. While that may sound like a dour and spoilsport kind of statement, Buy Nothing Christmas is actually a really fun and whimsical project, aiming to reconnect people to what is important, remind them to be thankful for what they already have, and to encourage generosity to the poor.

The campaign invites everyone to “join a movement to de-commercialize Christmas and re-design a Christian lifestyle that is richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth, and greater in giving to people less-privileged.” And it’s open to everyone, Christian or not.

Ideas include subversive carol singing, downloadable posters, and quirky ideas like a Christmas catalogue “with things you really want… and already have!” There’s also an extensive list of alternatives to buying stuff, from vouchers for desserts and massages, to homemade recipe books or personalised calendars.

I really like the whole Buy Nothing Christmas initiative, not least because the same people have a campaign called Make Affluence History . I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s a name so similar to ours (and slightly better) I can’t help but feel a certain affinity.

More importantly though, my family have unintentionally subscribed to the Buy Nothing Christmas attitude for years. We just don’t really participate in Christmas. I think it’s mainly because we used to live in Madagascar when I was younger, and the potential for over-consumption just wasn’t there. Coming back to the UK, the huge Christmas machine just didn’t appeal to us as a family. It hadn’t been part of our tradition, and there was no reason to adopt it.

That doesn’t mean we sit at home and sulk, we still have a good time. We get together and hang out, we play together, and we’re finding Christmas gets simpler every year. Togetherness is what it’s about for me, especially now that the seven of us all live in different places. So instead of buying presents, I always bring something we can do together, like a board game or a jigsaw puzzle, or we’ll go out somewhere. We don’t have Christmas card lists, long lists of presents to buy, and we don’t spend huge amounts on decorations, trees and crackers, and things that are only going to be thrown away anyway. It’s very liberating.

I guess we have it easy, in that we all agree about it, and it comes naturally to us. If you already do the big Christmas thing, it can feel like you’re letting people down if you don’t. I’ve met people who dread Christmas, as it’s so much work and so much money and they just don’t have the energy, but they feel trapped by it. They’ve set a precedent, and now they have to live up to everybody’s expectations. If you’re one of those people, I would urge you to start talking about Christmas as a family. Deal with it together. You might not be able to make a clean break right away, but browse the Buy Nothing Christmas website and think up a couple of symbolic gestures you can do to declare your independence of that Christmas consumer pressure. A real holiday is possible, in the midst of it all, and I’d love for you to find it.

Let’s talk about it here too – how do you find Christmas? How do you deal with the consumer pressure, or do you embrace it and get a January loan? Leave a comment and let’s think about it.


  1. Have you considered what may happen to economy if Buy Nothing Christmas catches on? What about all the underprivileged people who get a nice job to pay some bills this season as they sign on with some business as holiday help.

  2. Yes, and what a crazy economy we’ve built for ourselves that requires us to consume things that we don’t need, at a level that the earth can’t sustain. It’s a whole system that needs to change, and Christmas only highlights it. The same goes for the underprivileged reliant on seasonal jobs (which I’ve done myself in the past). Can we not create opportunities that won’t be rescinded come January?

    Plus, I don’t think there’s any risk of everyone suddenly adopting it. It’s not as if it’ll catch on and there’ll be no Christmas in 2008. I’m hoping for a slow return to sanity, for changes over generations. The economy and the job market will find substitutes and adapt, the way they always do.

  3. Yes. Giving time to others is a skill many of us have lost. The Christmas season gives us a chance to reconnect with others, and that is a great gain. So many people actually loathe the tyranny of Christmas, with its enforced jollity and vapid celebrations. There must be a better way to do it! Why could we not agree with some of our friends that the money we would otherwise spend on cards and gifts we will dedicate instead to people in need? Perhaps I will suggest that to my family this year, and see how they respond.

  4. I’m glad I looked up if this was something other people did! When we had kids, we decided that they weren’t going to celebrate X-mass consumption day. Instead we celebrate giving of ourselves, and spending time with loved ones.

    The arguement that if we stopped consuming the way we do would mean that various people and countries would stop being exploited doesn’t convince me.

  5. I bought two gc’s at the same time – one for Target and one for Amazon. I got the target one in a couple of days, and the amazon one took mor than a week. As it was one of a few gifts I was sending to my granddaughter for her birthday I was getting worried it wouldn’t be in the gift box on time. But my main question was why was I charged $1.95 for handling? I don’t know if the charge was for the target or the amazon card, but sas both were over the 25 dollar cost, I thought they would be free. I’ll know better next time.

  6. Hi, I think it would be great to redirect the habit of giving and buying at christmas towards raising funds to help reduce climate change.
    Surely, it’s more fitting at christmas to act to save our planet and race, than to indulge in present exchange.
    So how about buying vouchers or just donating money towards protecting our future ……

    I’ve decided I’m going to ask anyone who buys me presents, to donate towards climate change projects instead.

    I will still keep some simple level of presents for my child and keep the spirit of a simple christmas.

    I think it’s up to us to take that decision and let people know that is what we want, rather than worry about whether someone will be offended if we do this for them.

    Happy Save the Earth this Christmas ! TIS THE SEASON TO REDUCE CLIMATE CHANGE!

    This creates a Double-Positive Outcome : Reduces consumerism and usary of earth’s resources, energy and pollution AND redirects money towards saving our planet.

    Best ‘we can do it ‘Wishes,


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