Buy Nothing Christmas

Today is Thanksgiving, which means tomorrow is Black Friday: an annual practice in economic indulgence where we stampede over one another to buy things we can’t afford and will probably never use.

Every year, a few people die from the violence of Black Friday, from stampedes running to the latest trendy item to people settling disputes over items with a gun. Blame the government for stroking our fears of the economic downturn and making us think that our overspending can save the economy. Blame the media that stands outside stores at obscene hours of the morning and makes us think we should be there too. Blame the mainstream culture which values things more than relationships.

Blame whatever forces you wish. But I think we can all agree that Christmas in general has spun out of control. I’d like to propose that tomorrow, and for this entire holiday season, that you buy absolutely, positively no presents.

Nothing at all.

There’s no better way to counteract the crass materialism of the mainstream culture this holiday season by simply refusing to participate in this madness. Buy Nothing Christmas started out somewhat strangely. Here’s how it happened, according to their About section of their website:

Q: Who started Buy Nothing Christmas, and what is its relationship to Adbusters?

A: 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 Since then, Adbusters has helped with links from their website and more promo, especially recently.

Now, I know many of you will be like, “My family will think I am just being a cheapskate this year if I don’t buy them something.” It’s true, the social pressures to buy are very, very strong this time of year. And some of you just may like giving presents to people you love. If this is the case, consider some alternatives to buying them from some corporate giant who doesn’t care about your traditions or your loved ones. Try making something yourself.

And, if you absolutely must buy something, remember the many talented Steampunk artists and makers who create for a living. If you must buy, keep it in the community.

Think before you buy. Believe in your own purchasing power and don’t forget your ethics this holiday season.

6 comments on “Buy Nothing Christmas

  1. Larry says:

    My wife and I aren’t buying anything for ourselves or family this year. All gifts will be handmade by us.

  2. Jack Horner says:

    A great idea, thanks for sharing. This is similar to what my family is contemplating.

  3. Lawanda says:

    For the we have everything but still expect something from you crowd…I just gifted a goat to a family in Kenya via Heifer International…

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