buy nothing christmas '03
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Buy Nothing Christmas and Adbusters

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.

Kalle Lasn, through Adbusters magazine and its campaigns, like Cancel Christmas (1991), Buy Nothing Day (1989), and the Zen Santa image, set in motion a whole movement around anti-consumerism at Christmas. And it was in the spirit of that movement, with much respect, gratitude and indebtedness, that a group of us came up with the name and new website for Buy Nothing Christmas.

If you ask me the question, is Kalle Lasn, the editor in chief at Adbusters, the brainchild behind Buy Nothing Christmas, my answer is at least two-fold: yes, in the same way that grandparents birth grandchildren. Buy Nothing Christmas in its present incarnation could not have happened without Kalle, and he deserves credit for inspiring it.

But the answer is also no, in the sense that neither Kalle nor Adbusters coined the name, formed the committee to promote it, paid web costs, or provided staff time for its inauguration. It is fair to say that Buy Nothing Christmas is the offspring of Adbusters' ongoing efforts to curb rampant consumerism.

This website and the name "Buy Nothing Christmas" first became official in 2001, when a small group of us (seven people, actually, all of whom happen to have Mennonite backgrounds), 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 musical in seven different venues.

Adbusters collected donations for a full-page ad in The Guardian newspaper. See their campaign here.
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.

This year, for example, we're delighted to see that Adbusters has launched their own page to promote the initiative.

If you have more questions, you can find some answers at this faq.

Peace and best wishes, Aiden Enns