I know I am stating the bleeding obvious, but when they start bringing out the Christmas decorations in department stores during the month of October, you really know that things have just gone too far. The blatant commercialisation of the holiday season has been getting longer and longer each year. It must be time to join Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping!
Whether you celebrate Christmas or some other religious holiday, things seem way too out of control for me, without any end in sight. Last year we made our own Xmas crackers, which was great fun, but have chosen not to buy all that plastic crap that went inside them this year to just waste in an instant. As you probably know, I am against consumerism for the sake of it, which I have labelled as Affluenza, so here are a few ideas that will help get you off the consumeristic treadmill. Kim and I decided that we want things to last, and gifts that either help others who produced them to get a fair deal, or give to those who really need our generosity.
Firstly, we chose only fair trade products for each other. Yes, I know that there are an incredible amount of transport emissions because mainly these gifts come from overseas, but I wanted to support the fair trade movement and not some giant corporation. We bought some of our gifts at New Internationalist Fair trade shop. Not only do you get a great product that is built to last, you guarantee a fair price for produces which is not a handout, but also helps encourage self reliance. We also bought some gifts at the Oxfam shop which is also sells fair trade goods. So we bought minimal gifts with all proceeds going to people who most need our money.
Secondly, instead of going absolutely crazy with gifts you can give a gift to someone who really needs it. World Vision has a campaign called Smiles, whereby you got to their site and buy a gift for someone else in need! What a fantastic concept. You can buy as little as water purifications tablets for $5 or water and sanitation for an entire community for $89,950! From mozzie nets to chickens, ducks, pigs or goats, the gift ideas are massive. So how does it work? Do they pack a goat in a box and ship it overseas? NO, that would be cruel. Here is an extract from the World Vision Smiles site that explains it all;
How Smiles works
You may be wondering how we deliver your Smiles gifts to children and families in poor communities, particularly the furry and feathery ones!
No, we don’t try and put the gifts into boxes and ship them off overseas. Instead, each Smiles gift you buy represents the kind of activities we will carry out on your behalf.
So, if you buy a duck or a market garden starter pack, for example, your contribution will go towards our agriculture and environment work to help communities grow food for families and restore and improve their environments. Or if you buy a mosquito net or a toilet, you’ll be contributing to our work to help communities gain access to basic healthcare, water and sanitation.
You’ll also find gifts that represent our education and training projects, our work with Indigenous communities, our emergency relief work, and our programs to protect children from exploitation and abuse.
To find out more about which category a particular gift represents, click on the Your Gift Supports tab when looking at a specific gift.
You can watch a video about how Smiles works at this link.
So this year, think outside the box you live in, and consider some of these options to help those who, without your help, will probably go without the simplest of life’s necessities, let alone a present this festive season.
The choice is yours. You can give socks and jocks to someone who has everything, or a present that really means the world to someone. I reckon they are not only suitable for last minute gifts, but for corporate presents as well! What a great Chris Kringle present to give a work colleague.
Seasons greetings to one and all,
Veggie Gnome says
Kiva gift certificates are a hit in this household. We give them gladly and freely. The people we still give pressies to enjoy them.
We also include a little gift for the person – such as a bar of home-made soap, or a jar of home-made jam. You get the drift. And interestingly enough – everybody is happy about it. 🙂
Hi Gavin. I’m totally with you… One of the things that I love about living in Montenegro is that Christmas isn’t rammed down our throats from about October. 90% of the folk in the town we live are Orthodox Christians who celebrate the occasion with simple traditions: throwing wheat into the fire to bring a good harvest, making yule logs from oak, decorated with olive and bay – to signify strength & peace; and with the coming together of friends & family. They don’t give gifts or cards. They don’t mind if you contribute something but there’s no pressure to ‘compete’. We had got off the commercial Christmas train long before we moved here, decorating our home with natural garlands and giving small, homemade pressies – but the rest of the UK continued their craziness around us so we feel so much more at home here. I gave pressies to those most in need through http://www.goodgifts.org. Happy Christmas to you!
Tree Hugging Mama says
Gavin- I really like your thinking, but I don’t agree with supporting overseas charity. I would rather purchase local, handmade goods for gifts that are supporting my local community and charities that help the poor in my community. It might be less expensive to help those in foreign (third world countries) but then again same vaccine same water purification system (so why does it cost three times as much in the US?), but to me its more important to keep my dollars local. Now that being said when I cannot find something made in my community or within the USA in general I do look for fair trade, and my favorite shops are fair trade.
Just wanted to say I here your message loud and clear. Christmas without the consumerism, is a great concept, somewhere along the way we lost our way. Like in the story of the Christmas Gift, where the poor couple want to buy each other a gift but they cannot afford it. So the husband sells his art supplies to purchase a beautiful comb for his wife, and the wife sells her hair to purchase a beautiful journal for her husband. They gave up their most prized posession to give a gift that meant something to the person they love.
Darren (Green Change) says
This year, we’re trying to give friends and family gifts in the theme of sustainability. Things like lemon trees, blueberry bushes, packets of seeds, stainless steel water bottles, etc.
Next year, once we’ve settled into the new house, we’re planning to make batches of jam, marmalade, etc throughout the year from our own produce. Baskets of them should make tasty presents, and all the more special for the personal input and effort involved.
This year my kids are each receiving two second-hand gifts. All from ebay and local, most never used. Their Christmas stockings will contain homemade goodies plus a voucher from the local second-hand bookstore.
Dh is receiving a guitar effects pedal handmade by a small Australian company. I think he’s buying me a bicycle off ebay.
Family will be receiving home-made goodies packed in jars/on plates that I bought from the local church rummage sale.
We’re hoping to discuss “the end of plastic crap” with extended family. Mother-in-law agrees. 🙂
I’m sick of the commercial Christmas. Our “kids” are grown and we told them no gifts this year. We donated the $ we would have spent on gifts to the food bank, children’s hospital, Sally Ann, world food program and made our usual monthly loan through KIVA. Also are making Christmas meals/fruit baskets for several in the neighborhood who have no family and little money. Far less stress and much more satisfaction.
Meagan @ecoMILF says
Great post with amazing idea. I also agree, handmade is a great way to gift at Christmas and you don’t have to be really artsy or crafty to make something just have an idea and a bit of creativity and maybe some glue. I also really believe in Op shopping in your local community. You wouldn’t believe the beautiful and purposeful stuff you can find at somewhere as simple as Vinnie’s. Every gift for my 15 month old son was from Vinnie’s from books to toys to clothes.
I love New Internationalist magazine, just gave up my subscription when it ran out because of my vow to go 365 days of nothing new (see more about that on my blog). If you ever want to look at some of the past issues I can send them your way. xo m.
Mr Parsley Sprigs says
Understanding is the greatest gift.