Buy Nothing Christmas

I’m not up at 4 a.m., even though this post is coming online then. Why did I pick that time? Because some stores open at 4 a.m. for early shoppers. At the hour of 4 a.m., crazy crowds of shoppers will jostle and queue to buy stuff that no one really needs, much of it in the name a holiday that stands in direct contrast to shopping malls and expensive gifts.

There is another way. Go visit the website of Buy Nothing Christmas. They encourage us to celebrate without racking up more credit card debt, filling our landfills, and experiencing joyless shopping. You can even exchange gifts — but they might not come from the mall.

To be sure, I’m not saying that every trip to a mall is evil. I may be there myself once or twice. Some gift-giving is good. But we’ve gotten so far out of whack with all this that we’ve lost sight of the reason we do all this in the first place. Check out the Buy Nothing Christmas site. Maybe try a few ideas from the site.

Oh, and maybe get a subscription to Adbusters. It’s a great way to deprogram from all the messages of our culture.

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6 Responses

  1. Jessica G. says:

    Scott, this is great. We are having a very scaled back “deprogrammed” Christmas this year. I am trying to focus on experience over craptastic plastic.

    We stopped using credit cards entirely – cut all of them up a while back. A cash based life is not nearly as fun but we are certainly aware of what we spend and where it is spent.

    I am actually budgeting for meaningful smaller-scaled gifts for the immediate family and my greater circle of friends and extended family have all agreed to exchange cards, if we get to it!

    I can’t believe people were out at 4 am today. NUTS. I have never been a Black Friday type of gal, but I know lots of folks who do the ritual.

  2. Scott Gunn says:


    I wonder how you feel about Damian’s article? I gather if you wholly disagreed with it, you wouldn’t have posted it? Or maybe you just put it there as a thought piece?

    Here’s my tuppence: I disagree with the notion that it is my obligation to keep retailers (or any other business) afloat. Sure, I try to visit local retailers when I can — rather than chain stores. And I have no desire to put particular retailers out of business. My first responsibility, however, is to my Christian duties, not to others who might profit from ethically problematic practices (in this case: excessive consumption).

    I also disagree with Damian’s idea that Christmas without mall-based gifts would be no fun. I think the commenter has it right, having connecting his opinion to his newspaper’s need to have advertising to stay in business.

    By the logic of this piece (taken to its conclusion), I should be urging Christ Church parishioners to stop spending time at home with their families and to start spending money at Twin Rivers casino, which is in financial peril. No thanks.

    So now that I said what I think, what do you think, John?


  3. BillyD says:

    It seems to me that an economic system that depends on people celebrating one holiday in a specific way is not healthy at all, and needs to be overhauled.

  4. I believe C.S. Lewis addressed this question nicely in a wonderful essay he entitled “What Christmas means to me.” He said that if the Christmas commercial rush (which he hated) was really necessary to keep merchants in business, then just taking up a collection for the merchants would be an acceptable price to pay for not having to endure the ordeal of Christmas shopping. Or words to that effect.

    Actually, I think that the value in Damian Thompson’s piece is to call attention to the law of unintended consequences. It’s all very well to call for reduced spending and consumption — which I’m all for on a host of other grounds, not least ecological ones — but people making such pious pronouncements ought to demonstrate that they’re at least aware of the social and economic dislocations their prescriptions could cause if anyone bothered to take them seriously.

    Having said that, let me say for the record that I loathe, detest, and abhor the Christmas shopping season. Thank God the secular culture still leaves us some major feasts, such as Ascension and Pentecost, to celebrate on our own.


  5. Phil Snyder says:

    I have never felt an obligation to keep retailers afloat by spending beyond my means. Doing that is simply financial suicide and is a large part of the cause of our economic turmoil today – people, companies, and governments spending more than they receive.

    One of the traps of consumerism (and that is the modern American Heresy – “I am because I consume.”) is that it gets us to spend money on stuff hoping that the stuff will make us happy and then we waste time on the stuff trying to get it to make us happy.

    I believe we would all be happier if we had less stuff and more time.

    Phil Snyder

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