This initiative started on Canada's
West Coast in 2001 and is now coordinated by a few
individuals on the Great Plains. The key contact
person is Aiden Enns who can be reached by using
the contact form.
How is this campaign funded? This is
a volunteer effort carried out by people who
technically have more time because they won't be
shopping this Christmas. Alas, woodworking and
craft projects take time too… but life is more
fresh and meaningful.
1. What is Buy Nothing Christmas?
1a. Who started it? What's the
relationship with Adbusters?
2. What is a Mennonite?
3. What do I have to do to become
4. Can I be a part of Buy Nothing
Christmas even if I buy a few things?
5. What if I have children and
feel tremendous pressure to buy them stuff?
6. If we all buy nothing this
Christmas, won't a lot of people lose their
7. What do you have against
8. Do you seriously think a Buy
Nothing Christmas will make a difference?
9. Are you against giving gifts at
10. Who is running this campaign?
11. How is it funded?
12. Is this just for Christians,
or can anyone be a part of it?
13. What is the connection
between this Buy Nothing Day, Earth Day and TV
is Buy Nothing Christmas?
Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative
started by Canadian Mennonites who offer a
prophetic "no" to the patterns of
over-consumption of middle-class North
Americans. They are inviting Christians (and
others) all over Canada 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.
1a. A lot of
people ask me who started the Buy Nothing
Christmas movement. The answer is kind of
For example, it started all over. Like in Ellie
Clark's family, back in 1968, when her family
decided to nix the whole Christmas splash. "By a
family vote (unanimous) we decided it was not
for us: no decorations, no wreath, no tree, no
cards, no gifts, no big dinner, nada." Her kids
are now over 50 years old, and seemed to have
turned out fine, she
says. It also started with things like
Resistance website, The Center for a New
American Dream's Simplify
the Holidays and Bill McKibben's booklet,
This website and the name "Buy Nothing Christmas"
first became official in 2001, when I rallied a
small group of friends, who happen to have
Mennonite backgrounds, and extended the momentum
from Buy Nothing Day into the whole shopping
season. Our first act was to launch full page ad
in a national church paper, and then share the
good news with the world through this website.
Since then, we've seen exponential growth of
website traffic, we've gotten kicked out of
shopping malls for carolling, nurtured a network
of organizers, and put on a full-length musicall
in seven different venues.
Fortunately, we have an excellent working
relationship with Adbusters
-- it helps that I worked there for a couple of
years, finishing in 2003 as managing editor. In
2002, Adbusters ran a full page ad - if you can
call it that - for BuyNothingChristmas.org.
Since then, Adbusters has helped with links from
their website and more promo, especially
recently. - AE
2. What is a Mennonite?
A group of Christians who are
community-oriented, counter-culture pacifists
(at least in theory). See 14.
below for more.
do I have to do to become a member?
There's no membership, no fees, no plaques, no
club cards. But, we need encouragement. So, if
you're sympathetic to the Buy Nothing Christmas
campaign, let us know by sending us your
4. Can I
be a part of Buy Nothing Christmas even if I buy
a few things?
Definitely. We are all going to have to buy
some things. When you do buy things, we
encourage you to remember principles like buying
locally, fairly-traded, environmentally friendly
packaging, recycling or re-using, buying things
that last, and so on. The main aim of this
campaign is not to save money (although that can
be a side benefit), it's not to slow down the
pace of Christmas (although that can be a side
benefit), it is to challenge our
over-consumptive lifestyle and how it affects
global disparities and the earth. So, even
though you might buy a few things at Christmas,
it's important to think in these global economic
if I have children and feel tremendous pressure
to buy them stuff?
Our precious children - with their normal
vulnerability to peer pressure, their desire to
fit in, and their disposable income, or ability
to influence their parents' spending - are a
mini-battlefield of the marketers and branding
machinery. They try to get the kids "needing"
gizmos, gadgets, movie-theme toys, and endless
"new" versions of popular toys. Companies like
to advertise right in the schools (on the walls,
books, cafeteria, buses, and computer
equipment). The reality is that many parents
will find it extremely difficult to practice a
Buy Nothing Christmas. But it IS possible. For
example, some otherwise normal people have
decided that television is a bad influence for
their kids. So they just don't have one in the
home. In the same way, we believe there are
parents out there who will want to teach their
kids the richness of a non-commercial Christmas.
Remember, you can still have a special time
without buying stuff. If you are a parent, let us know how
you deal with this.
6. If we
all buy nothing this Christmas, won't a lot of
people lose their jobs?
Yes, and now we're getting close to the core
reasons for why Buy Nothing Christmas is
necessary in the first place: our economy is
based on a consumer driven capitalism. And
because it's the only economy we have right now,
if we stop shopping we stop the economy. (Hence
we had President George W. Bush and Prime
Minister Jean Chrétien telling citizens
to get on with their lives after the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks and shop.) But the pitfalls of
our current economic system (we work too hard to
save money to buy things we don't really need,
and we endorse a standard of living that
reinforces the gap between the rich and poor and
ruins the earth) are simply untenable. Once we
finally see the retail sector shrivel (e.g., the
growth of McDonald's has finally slowed and the
fast food industry is arguably enjoying it's
last hurrah; Wal-Mart has been denied entry to
several communities; town councils have banned
big chain stores; and local communities have
created barter systems, among other things, to keep the
wealth circulating among the people), we can
redirect our efforts to cleaning up our mess and
developing more sustainable activities (how we
build our homes, transport ourselves,
manufacture clothes, and spend our leisure
do you have against capitalism?
In a nutshell, it favours the rich, abandons
the poor, is heartless, and is based upon the
assumption that people buy things out of
self-interest. We're not saying communism is a
better alternative. We are in a crucial time
when economists are working at new models. Some
Christians (e.g. Herman E. Daly and John B.
Cobb, Jr. in For the Common Good: Redirecting
the Economy Toward Community, the Environment,
and a Sustainable Future [Beacon Press, 1994])
and others are proposing new models that assume
people are not only self-interested, but also
interested in the common good.
8. Do you
seriously think a Buy Nothing Christmas will
make a difference?
It already has made a significant difference.
Getting people to recognize problems (North
American over-consumption) and begin to imagine
new, more life-giving solutions is a big deal.
you against giving gifts at Christmas?
Giving gifts at Christmas is a good thing to do
- it's a small re-enactment of the incarnation
of God's love. Gift-giving, as we know from
other occasions (like birthdays, weddings,
housewarmings) serves as a kind of social glue
that keeps us together. It shows affection,
thoughtfulness and love. While gift-giving is a
good thing to do at Christmas, that doesn't mean
we have to go overboard at Christmas.
is running this campaign?
The campaign is a volunteer effort, loosely
coordinated by an ad hoc Buy Nothing Christmas
committee consisting of Aiden Enns, Karen
Schlichting, Krystofer Penner and Anna Weier.
is it funded?
The campaign operates on volunteer efforts and
a few generous gifts. We gratefully recognize
the outstanding and stress-relieving web hosting
prodided by Peaceworks
Computer Consulting If you wish to see Buy
Nothing Christmas reach the "next level" (ideas:
send ads to religious periodicals, blanket
churches with challenges to promote more
sustainable lifestyles) please send
contributions to 264 Home Street, Winnipeg,
Manitoba, R3G 1X3, Canada.
this just for Christians, or can anyone be a
part of it?
It's for everybody.
is the connection between this Buy Nothing Day,
Earth Day and TV Turn-off Week?
There's no official connection, but the spirit
behind them is very similar.
more can you tell me about Mennonites?
As mentioned above, they are Christians who are
community-oriented, counter-culture pacifists
(at least in theory - in reality, they span the
spectrums of class, economic power, political
influence and accommodation to culture). Their
organization is egalitarian and inclusive, with
an emphasis on welcoming strangers and helping
people in need at home and abroad. The life and
teachings of Jesus in the New Testament are
primary. They believe Jesus gave fairly clear
and poetic lessons on how to live (see Matthew,
chs. 5-7) a radical lifestyle which is
profoundly spiritual with a socio-economic
impact. Historically, they constitute the
radical wing of the 16th Century Protestant
Reformation. They were persecuted by both
Lutherans and Catholics for their alternative,
anti-institutional, community lifestyle, their
insistence that the church should remain
separate from the state, that people should be
baptized as adults, and that personal faith
should be evident to others by a communal life
that is peace-loving and concerned about the
alleviating the suffering of others.