Navigating the Holidays without Commercialism

Thanksgiving is over, and the winter giving is in full swing. Everywhere you go you see lights and trees, mangers, Santa Clause, and of course, merchandise that stores are hoping you will buy as gifts for someone else.

Commercialism.

Do you feel like it’s ruining the Holidays?

Even with my adoration of Yule, I’m not blind. Commercialism is definitely there, attempting to drown the joy in ribbons and stocking stuffers.

However, it’s possible to give gifts without participating in commercialism. Below I list a handful of ways to “save Christmas” from the demonic Santa machine of Wall Street.

Robot Santa from Futurama! No thanks, I'll take the one from Miracle on 34th Street instead!

Robot Santa from Futurama! No thanks, I’ll take the one from Miracle on 34th Street instead!

Handmade Gifts:
There is very little that is more gratifying to give or more special to receive than handmade gifts. They take time and forethought, but they possess a special magic because you are putting a piece of yourself into the gift energetically.

You don’t have to be a master knitter or whittler in order to make gifts. If you have a hobby or craft that you enjoy, by all means put it to use; however, there are plenty of simple gifts to make that don’t require a ton experience beforehand.

Massage oil, bath salts, room spritzers, and dream pillows are all easy to make with some basic kitchen/household ingredients and a few drops of an essential oil. You’ve got an economical gift basket right there, and the quality of the items will blow that Wal-Mart gift pack out of the atmosphere.

From My Honeys Place. Doesn't this look so indulgent? Make sure to make enough for yourself because you won't want to give it all away.

From My Honeys Place. Doesn’t this look so indulgent? Make sure to make enough for yourself because you won’t want to give it all away.

Other handmade gift ideas include yummy edibles like truffles or cookies, potpourri or incense, candles, mosaic picture frames, fishing lures, calendars, ornaments, and . . . seriously anything that you can think to make yourself. Slap a ribbon on it, Merry Christmas!

Gifts based on need:
It’s kind of an old concept, but I think it’s a good one. Rather than packing the tree with shit that will be played with and appreciated for a month and then forgotten or given away, consider fulfilling someone’s needs. Groceries, gas, car bills, mortgage payments, student loan payments—who wouldn’t appreciate someone whipping out a credit card to take care of those for once?

Gifts based in need carry the special message that you think someone is worth investing in. When people are struggling, that act of faith and the financial boost can be far more meaningful than a bag full of clutter.

Of course, gifts based on need can also be expensive, but I never said a commercialism-free gift would be cheap. If you’ve got a nice cushion right now, splurge a little and make someone else who is struggling have a wonderful holiday by taking on one of their burdens for a while.

Regifting:
I’m not talking about giving away that grotesque figurine that you got at a work party last year . . . okay, I am. Go ahead and give that away at the next work party.

However, if you’re looking for a more meaningful version of regifting, consider passing on more than just junk.

We’ve gotten so used to cheap crap that needs to be replaced every few years that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to have something that can be passed down from person to person. Heirlooms, jewelry, furniture, and collectibles have been time-tested regifts through generations. It’s a great way to pass on memories as well as items!

One of my friends recently suggested having a clothing exchange party, and I actually think that would be an awesome Christmas activity for a group of people interested in keeping the holidays simpler. It provides the togetherness that really makes winter giving special and allows those involved to get “new” things without spending money.

Clean out your closet and make someone else happy at the same time.

Fair Trade, Artisan, and Local:
I saved the retail option for last, but that doesn’t make it unimportant. In fact, to some extent, I think it’s more important than all the others. How does this fit in as a suggestion of how to avoid capitalism? When you buy a gift through a fair trade, local, or artisan dealer, your money isn’t lining the pocket of a CEO who is making money off of underpaid workers halfway across the world and whose employees have to take up donations to eat Thanksgiving dinner. You’re putting money into the hands of people who actually rely on that money to live. It’s not about making huge profits. It’s about livelihood.

Very few people will say that they don’t care about child or slave labor, but if you don’t take the time to make sure that you know where your money goes, you may be participating in it anyway. Society has a kind of selective blindness to the repercussions of our spending habits, and it’s hurting both our own economy as well as those across the globe.

I try to do all my gift-buying at locally owned or fair trade stores—or through direct craftspeople and artists. I like knowing that my winter giving contributes to the welfare of those who crafted and sold me the items.

The Phoenix Goddess (from Carioca Witch) that Kristen gave me a few years ago is one of my all-time favorite gifts; although it's hard to pick my favorites because she's such a good giver.

The Phoenix Goddess (created by Carioca Witch) that Kristen gave me a few years ago is one of my all-time favorite gifts; although it’s hard to pick my favorites because she’s such a good giver.

My friend Kristen over at Vaguely Bohemian compiled a great list of artisans that do gorgeous, unique work (see picture above)–along with valuable tips on how to pick just the right gift. Some other retailers to keep an eye out for include Hope for Women and Ten Thousand Villages. And I encourage you to check out local craft fairs that tend to pop up this time of year. Treasures are waiting to be found!

It might be hard to avoid the commercialism of the season, but with a little effort and thought, you can turn this gift-giving season into something special, both for you and your loved ones. I hope these suggestions have given you some good ideas. Feel free to share any tips that you have found to avoid commercialism in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Navigating the Holidays without Commercialism

  1. L'épicène says:

    Nice advices. But, at first, why give presents at christmas ? Since i’m neither a christian, nore a supporter of capitalism, i don’t. But this doesn’t mean i’m never having special attentions to the people i love. I do. There is no calendar to remind me, but i do gifts, tell nice things, bring some help, at any moment of the year. Isn’t it a way, too ?

    • There’s no reason to give gifts if you don’t want to, but I think that giving gifts during the darkest, hardest time of the year goes beyond capitalism or Christianity. I’m not Christian either, but I love the hope and community expressed in sharing during a time that often feels dead and cold otherwise. 🙂 winter giving is a tradition found throughout many cultures and religions. I think it’s about connection and hope, not money or religion.

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