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.