For the seventh consecutive year, I made an effort to again observe Buy Nothing Christmas. This Canadian initiative aims 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. The effort is run by volunteers and is intended to help participants find meaningful ways of marking the holiday.
Now, I love almost everything I have come to associate with the holiday season: long car rides across the prairie, quiet time with family and friends, glowing lights at Christmas mass, and—yes—exchanging gifts. The only thing I don’t like about the holidays is feeling socially obligated to buy expensive things in order to give the season a sense of meaning. Buy Nothing Christmas is a call to action for people like me. Those who choose to take part are still encouraged to give, and even buy, gifts; they are simply asked to buy fewer of them, or to make them, or to consider giving gifts of time and charity. It’s not a rejection of Christmas traditions, but an attempt to embrace them.
I began celebrating Buy Nothing Christmas out of economic necessity as a college freshman. This was the year in which I first learned to knit, which means that a lot of my family members received garter stitch scarves and stocking caps as well as slapdash scrapbooks (I’m really not being modest; it’s not my forte) and hemp bracelets. I still make quite a few gifts in addition to scouring holiday art and library book sales. And yes, I admit, that I re-purpose unused items from my home. Although I have a little more money now than I did when I started this experiment, my desire to buy more things hasn’t increased much. I’ve found a way to lend more meaning to my holiday gift giving while feeling useful and socially responsible. It may not be for everyone, but it sure works for me.
This year I was even able to get my husband involved. In years past, he worked at a big box book store and had a hard time turning down his employee discount during the month of December. He was able to get excited about a homemade gift-giving experiment this time around, though, and he’s pretty pleased with the results. Peter made infused vodka for the first time last month, and I think it’s safe to say it’s a tradition he’ll continue.
I suppose that’s what it’s all about in the end: traditions. As a young married couple, we’re still trying to figure out how we will choose to celebrate the holidays. We’re still deciding when we want to open gifts and whether or not we’ll put up a tree, but we are sure about a few things. For us, the holidays mean celebrating with the people we love and being thankful for the things we have. We even enjoy putting presents under the tree—we are just proud of the fact that most of them were made by hand.