Saturday, January 3, 2009

the affleunza report

Since the book club read Affluenza as our November pick, I entered into the holiday season thinking about consumption of stuff stuff stuff. In the lead-up to Christmas, I also came across a great website - Advent Conspiracy - which is pragmatic in its approach to giving less over the holidays. Realizing that most people like to give gifts, it doesn't advocate the "buy nothing Christmas," but instead encourages people to give one less gift and to focus on gifts that bring people together.

We headed into the season making our own attempts to kick the bug in the butt - we drew names with PJ's mom and sisters, so that we each only bought one gift; we managed to make a fair number of gifts; including our usual canning for friends (which we completed in the fall when there was still stuff to can); I passed on some books that I had read, rather than buying new copies; I resisted the urge to buy one more thing for my parents (who have everything they need and more) just because I felt like I wanted to give them gifts; and when I was dry on ideas to give PJ, I decided to give him coupons for 5 dates to do some of his favourite things.

What was cool to see, through the holiday season, is how other people in our lives are thinking in the same vein, and so I want to share some of the amazing consume-less gifts we received:

- Rather than buy them new, my grandma, who has spent years of her life collecting antiques, gave us two dishes out of her collection
- PJ's stepmother made us an amazing blanket with Swedish embroidery
-some of our friends made a donation in the name of our group of friends to a charity that helps send girls to school in Tanzania, and my sister and her husband gave PJ an Oxfam goat (i.e. the goat has been given to a family in need on his behalf)
-several of our friends gave us home-made baking, and another couple also did canning
- a couple of our friends have, for the second year, given some bottles of their favourite environmentally friendly cleaning products

I like giving gifts and I like receiving gifts (unless, to be honest, they are things that have no function and will just sit around my house). It is an ingrained part of our culture at this time of year, and I like the generosity of a season in which everyone shares. It is exciting to see more and more people in my life finding creative ways to participate in this tradition without going into debt or adding to the mass of consumer goods in our homes and landfills.

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