There's a movement I've been in love with for many Christmases now (I think their website's been around for nearly ten years) called "Buy Nothing Christmas."
"Buy Nothing Christmas" was started by Canadian Mennonites (they're like Canada's version of the Amish) as a counter-culture, pacifistic protest against over-consumption.
It pretty much means what it sounds like it means: this Christmas, instead of buying stuff...just...don't.
Yes, yes, yes, easier said than done, I know, but that's why their website has a list of alternatives to purchasing over-priced crap. And, okay, you don't have to dump Christmas shopping altogether. The buynothingchristmas.org website has a page called "Alternatives" which I highly recommend to absolutely everybody. It has some great ideas from people like YOU about good gift-giving ideas that are beneficial to the global community and the planet. (And to you, because you'll feel good about spending your money on stuff that wasn't manufactured by thirteen-year-old Chinese girls who'd already been working fifteen hours straight. If we knew the processes that went into the manufacture of all the crap we pay a pittance for at the dollar store, we'd all go home and self-flagellate in shame!)
But before I get preachy about all this (HA!) let me share some great ideas from the Buy Nothing Christmas website:
- Perhaps an alternative to department stores is Ten Thousand Villages which provides vital, fair income to Third World artisans by marketing their handicrafts and telling their stories in North America. This alternative emphasizes the fair distribution of wealth while still in a consumerism context. — Shalom, Carl
- Give something you don't use any more. A sweater that you only wore once; a set of drinking glasses you forgot you owned. Clean them up and give them as gifts. I have found all sorts of things in my apartment that I have no need for, but know someone who would appreciate and enjoy it! — Jessica
- Plant plants, now, to give for Christmas. Herbs, in particular. This is one way to always be present in your loved one's days for a while to come. — jeela
- Babysitting coupons for the new parents. Grow your own veggies, can or freeze them and give them away at Christmas/Solstice. Spend more time with your family and friends...when you're dead you won't be able to. Decide as a family to work less hours, spend less and have more time together. Shovel the sidewalk for your neighbour. Plant trees. — Lee
Those are some kick-ass ideas, don't you think? When I have received plants that the giver planted and grew, I've tried extra-hard not to kill them. (Unsuccessfully, but still...) And it may sound strange, but I LOVE getting recycled gifts, like in Jessica's suggestions up there. Items that belonged to somebody else have a story behind them.
Anyhoo, there are dozens more suggestions at http://www.buynothingchristmas.org/alternatives and I highly recommend checking it out!