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              nothing christmas '03
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About Us

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.

FAQ

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 a member?
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 jobs?
7. What do you have against capitalism?
8. Do you seriously think a Buy Nothing Christmas will make a difference?
9. Are you against giving gifts at Christmas?
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 Turn-off Week?


1. What 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 complicated.

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 the Christmas Resistance website, The Center for a New American Dream's Simplify the Holidays and Bill McKibben's booklet, 100 Dollar Holiday.

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.


3. What 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 feedback.


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 terms.


5. What 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 time).


7. What 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.


9. Are 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.


10. Who 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.


11. How 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.


12. Is this just for Christians, or can anyone be a part of it?

It's for everybody.


13. What 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.


14. What 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.