If you celebrate Christmas, you likely don't need any reminders that it's just around the corner. You are also probably well aware of how stressed-out, hyped-up, dumbed-down, and just downright expensive the "holidays" have become. Nevertheless, we thought we'd take a moment to remind you that it doesn't really need to be this way.
All it takes is a few simple changes -- less presents, less decorations, shorter "to-do" lists, and a wee bit more good old-fashioned craftiness -- to bring a new rhythm, purpose and spirit to one of the world's chief cultural rituals, now warped beyond recognition. Consider it a long-term cultural project for the those seeking a little consumer sanity, a way to rescue our shared traditions from corporate interests and those who confuse big sales with real cultural meaning.
Of course, re-inventing tradition is not the type of thing that happens overnight. But that doesn't mean we can't start right away. If you need a bit of inspiration, check out our new BNXmas headquarters at www.adbusters.org. We have ideas for holiday actions like "The Jesus Walk," links to extensive web resources, plus downloadable posters, cards, and gift exemption vouchers to give to your friends and family.
Like-minded people worldwide have already posted their plans for a less materialist, more meaningful holiday. Once you've had a chance to see what everyone else is up to, go ahead and share your own thoughts and plans via the web form. And if you have spare second during this busy time of year, be sure to forward this year's press release (below) to your local media and absolutely anyone else that might be interested in what we're trying to accomplish.
Good luck and all the best in the new year.
Cheers, The BNXmas Team
P.S. Email us at with your BNXmas posters and photos, and we'll try our best to feature them on the site.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
HAVE LESS, LIVE MORE: BUY NOTHING CHRISTMAS
RECLAIMING THE SEASON: Those of us who shiver at the thought of hour-long line-ups and $5 gift tags finally have something to rejoice about over the holidays: fed-up citizens and social activists from across the world are inviting everyone to take part in Buy Nothing Christmas.
Inspired by the international successes of Buy Nothing Day, and disgusted with the personal debt, spiritual emptiness, and ecological damage that the holiday season now entails, writers and activists began to heavily promote the idea of a downshifted Christmas in the late nineties. Since then, the idea has been taken up by individuals, community groups, churches, and schools in at least a dozen countries, with strongest support in Canada, the USA, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Despite the name, the Buy Nothing Christmas campaign is not really about refusing to spend a dime over the holiday season. It’s about taking a deep breath and deciding to opt out of the hype, the overcrowded malls, and the stressful to-do lists. It’s about reminding ourselves to really think about what we are buying, why we are buying it, and whether we really need it at all.
“First and foremost, it’s about restoring authenticity to one of the world’s great religious and secular traditions,” said Kalle Lasn, editor-in-chief of Adbusters magazine and long-time advocate of holiday restraint. “Christmas has been warped beyond recognition by commercial forces. It’s about time we took it back.”
Most participants will still exchange gifts, but will opt for recycled, homemade, locally produced, or fair-trade items. Some will excuse themselves from gift-giving altogether, and focus instead on valuable time with family and friends, on charitable works, and on rediscovering older, non-commercial holiday traditions as they also invent a few new ones.
Throughout the month of December, activism-minded participants will be taking two of these new traditions to their local malls and commercial districts. Groups of meditating Santas – dubbed “Zenta Clauses” – are offering stressed-out shoppers free soup, coffee, and a place to rest their aching feet as they take a break from buying. This year, they will be joined for the first time by slow-moving activists in robes and Jesus masks, who will be asking their fellow shoppers one all-important question: “What would Jesus buy?”
For more information and media interviews contact
MEDIA LIAISON: Clara Kuoch TELEPHONE NUMBER: 604-736-9401 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
 For more information on Adbusters, Buy Nothing Day, and Buy Nothing Christmas, and to read comments submitted by hundreds of people on how they are going to reduce their holiday consumption, visit www.adbusters.org.
 For a Christian perspective on the idea, and for tips on how to celebrate a Buy Nothing Christmas, visit www.buynothingchristmas.org
 Shopping and consumption facts:
* Consumer polls from the last several years peg the per capita holiday spending average in the U.S. at around $800 - $1000, with consumer debt growing twice as fast as wages. * Annual per capita consumption in the U.S. has risen 45 per cent in the last 20 years. * Although people today are, on average, four-and-a-half times richer than our great-grandparents were at the turn of the century, Americans report feeling “significantly less well off” than in 1958. * A 2003 article in New Scientist featured research suggesting that the more consumer goods you have the more you think you need to make you happy. Happiness through consumption is always out of reach (New Scientist, 4th October 2003, Vol.180, Issue 2415, p44. Available online after registering at: www.newscientist.co.uk).
Season's greetings from your old friend Santa! My, oh, my, only 12 nights left until Christmas Eve! It's so close now, we can hardly contain ourselves here at the North Pole. And from the looks of it, my young friend, we're not the only ones set to burst! Why, Jolly Old Saint Nick hasn't seen a Yule log this lit in ages!
Now, don't be shy. You know what Santa's talking about. You just couldn't wait to open your present this year, could you? Ho, ho, ho! Dear child, I saw you masturbating!
And it hasn't been just once either! Oh, no! Santa's seen you at least twice splashing away in the bathtub, three times in the attic with one of your mother's old art-history books, and more times than even he can count spread out like a stunned partridge on that beanbag chair of yours!
Why, old Santa might just have a heart attack if he popped out your chimney on that cold winter's night and, instead of milk and cookies, found his dear little pen pal shamefully hunched over the family computer.
Oh, what a naughty, prolific rascal you've been!
You see, dear lad, Santa's been keeping a list. Just like the one you keep in your head of all your favorite classmates. The one you've checked so much more than twice. Except when Santa thinks about his list, he doesn't rub his crotch feverishly against the smooth contours of his writing desk. Ho, ho, ho!
I see you when you're sleeping, child, and I know when you're awake. And, believe it or not, I even know when you're just pretending to sleep, but really have your rosy palms down the front of your britches.
Yes, I suppose you could say old Kris Kringle knows everything there is to know. Well, not everything. You did teach me a thing or two about scented body wash! Ho, ho, ho!
Tell me now, what do you want Santa to bring you this year? A bright red bicycle? Some fun new board games? Or should I just have the elves wrap up a fresh batch of those satin pillows you enjoy straddling so much? Or maybe St. Nick shouldn't bring you anything at all this Christmas. After all, Mrs. Claus knitted you a special pair of socks last year, and just look what became of those!
Oh, what ever happened to that sweet, freckle-faced angel we all loved so much? Such a bright little youngster, so good to your mommy and daddy, and quick to make friends. Now all you seem to want to do is play by yourself for hours on end. It makes everyone here at my workshop very, very sad. Why the reindeer haven't been able to keep down their feed since hearing about how you slap yourself around. And Mrs. Claus, do you know what she did when she found out? She cried. She cried for the first time in almost 700 years.
Where before we enjoyed visions of gumdrops and candy canes, now we see you, once so dear to us all, kneeling against a plastic chair, spitting on two fingers, and putting them lordy knows where.
I must say, the sights you conjure up while you lie in your bed have even Santa Claus scratching his head. I doubt any of the high-school cheerleaders have ever even set foot inside a boiler room before, never mind done anything like that!
And other things—other terrible, frightful things. If your outlandish fantasies didn't make me quake with disgust, I'd say you were the most creative child in the world.
Is it Clara? Is that who you think about when you rub yourself raw? Ho, ho, ho! Why she doesn't even know your name, dear child! You didn't really think you had a chance with her, did you? A pretty girl like that? But your face—it's covered in pockmarks, for goodness sake!
Don't cry now, little one. I'm sure some of the Barbie dolls you steal from your sister's room find you very attractive. I bet they hardly even notice your embarrassing stutter, or that pungent and sickly body odor of yours. Or even how pathetic you really are, my child. What a sad, lonely, feeble little shit you are, and how your life—your wretched little life—will be filled with failure after failure, both personal and professional, until the stench of disappointment and heartbreak grows so strong that you'll barely be able to breathe.
Well, it looks old Santa has to get back to work! Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night—except you, you sick little fuck!
Today`s Christmas is sometimes referred to as a consumerist orgy — an annual festival of unbridled commodity purchases aimed at expressing how much we care for others. But there are fundamental contradictions in the "tradition". Indeed, today`s Christmas (wouldn`t be what it is had it not been for the power of both the Church and, much more recently, corporations to tame and shape another, more traditional, kind of orgy.
The origins of Christmas can be traced back to the 3rd century AD, when the emerging religion Christianity and the Church hierarchy sought to eclipse remaining cultural influences of the Romans and snuff out an annual pagan festival called Saturnalia. Saturnalia took place every year to signify the end of the growing season, a time to enjoy a final taste of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats before they were dried and stored for the winter. It also marked an annual orgy; a week of drinking, over-indulgence and sinful excess; a remarkable surge in childbirths followed nine months later.
The Church hoped to end the debauchery by falsely declaring December 25th as the day of Christ`s birth. Villagers and peasants throughout Europe subsequently were expected to worship the Virgin Birth at the end of the year, instead of celebrating nature`s produce and one another.
Unfortunately for the Church, cultural change tends to be slow, especially when trying to transform those aspects of culture that most enjoy. Centuries later, for a few decades preceding the American Revolution, leaders of various Protestant sects in New England gave up even trying to change public behavior on December 25th and banned Christmas altogether.
However, about 150 years ago, another group of powerful interests sought to change the meaning and celebration of Christmas. Just as the Church tried to reform the cultural norms of the Romans, an emerging corporate elite sought to transform how people behaved at the end of December. Rather than a time of communal debauchery or, subsequently, a period in which all were expected to worship Christ, corporate interests looked for opportunities to change Christmas into a time for individuals to purchase and exchange commodities.
Unlike the Church`s efforts, the corporate transformation proved incredibly successful, probably because it involves a way of celebrating that many, at least to some level, find hard to resist. For thousands of years people found meaning in their lives, a sense of identity and, pleasure through their relations with others; and Saturnalia, was certainly one of most exciting of these communal events.
Alongside industrialization came the fragmentation of communities into individualized contract workers. And with urbanization and its displacement of millions from their villages and traditional extended families came a kind of social-psychological vacuum. Accompanying this growing culture of isolation and emptiness was a broad range of "inventions" primarily developed to serve the interests of corporations, including electricity, the telegraph, and the Department Store. Together, they facilitated further urbanization, more efficiency, and importantly, more potential sales. The Department Store, for example, became a central gathering place in most cities; people were free to browse and, for the first time, were not expected to buy anything. Through the magic of electrical illuminations, potential customers now could see all the goods and potential lifestyles available to those hard-working individuals with money.
For Department Stores and the capitalists behind the production, Christmas soon became an opportunity to sell more goods by associating these commodities with social-psychological needs emerging in people`s lives. As urbanization and industrialization proceeded, corporations successfully associated Christmas with what we now take for granted; December 25th became a time for individuals and families to re-unite and, in the absence of truly intimate relationships, familial bonds were expressed through an exchange of purchased clothes, toys and innumerable other products.
Quite suddenly Christmas had become a family holiday, something quite different from what the Church originally intended when it labeled the day as Christ`s birth. Also, through the mystical re-manufacturing of Christmas by corporations as a day - and now a "season" - for buying and exchanging gifts, the emerging world of atomized relations and fragmented communities could them-selves be exploited as a social-psychological vacuum in which the selling of commodities could be perpetuated.
Today, through the twists, turns and power interests shaping history, Christmas again has become a time of debauchery. From its roots as an agrarian pagan orgy, followed by the attempt to transform it into a religious holiday for the community, it`s now become another kind of orgy, this time a capitalist one.
In our economic system, this faith in Christmas as a celebration of love through consumption has become so deeply entrenched, it exists in the very marrow of our cultural existence. But more significantly, and paradoxically, its ascendancy has paralleled the near collapse of the bases of life and love itself the environment in which we all live.
Over these past 150 years, humanity has consumed more of the earth`s resources and has caused more ecological damage than all the generations, living tens of thousands of years before the mid-19th century, combined. Now, the "developing" world is being told about the wonders of our consumerist religion, and Christmas is being used as a core means of promulgating the faith; a faith being promoted even in non-Christian cultures.
During this annual period of mass manipulation and worship of consumption that is ever-more tenuously disguised as a Christian holiday, I think we might want to peel back the mythologies surrounding this particular celebration. The holiday`s superficial embrace of the family and exploitation of humanity`s search for meaning and identity, in the name of selling, cannot survive if we strip away its veneer and refuse to play the games associated with its mystical, commodities-equals-love` equation.
Instead, let us celebrate Christmas in the spirit of the original Roman festival let`s have a really good time as members of a community rather than just individuals and fragmented families. Even better, give everyone you know (warning: here comes a Madison Ave clich) "the gift that really matters." Refuse to use cash as an expression of your feelings. By not taking part in our religious celebration of commodity exchange, not only will we make a tiny dent in the capitalist machine that eats away at our ecological existence, we`ll also remind ourselves (and others) that time and community need to be embraced more than money and isolation.
Above all else, by taking even a small step in challenging our culture`s latest version of Christmas, we begin the process of collectively realizing that, as human beings, we manufacture our own existence. Indeed, we`ve even manufactured something as seemingly timeless and sacred as Christmas.
Instead of an orgy of consumption, I`d like to think that we can apply our faith and mystical resources towards cultural vibrancy, the nourishment of community, and a belief system based not on happiness through consumption but, instead, on happiness through creativity and environmental sustainability.
On December 25th let`s toast the beginning of yet another re-invention of Christmas, this time with an emphasis on savoring the joys of being part of a community with an emphasis on an emerging ecological peace on earth.
Let the new orgiastic Christmas tradition begin!
Edward Comor is an Associate Professor at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada.
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