It wasn’t just me who was cranky about gifts last Friday, aka Black Friday or Buy Nothing Day, depending on your point of view. Washington Post columnist George Will declared Christmas gift spending “a huge, value-destroying hurricane” and quoted Harriet Beecher Stowe, speaking in 1850: “There are worlds of money wasted, at this time of year, in getting things that nobody wants, and nobody cares for after they are got.”
Will’s bottom line: Better to donate to causes and charities (hint: ELCA Good Gifts!), give gift cards, or just spend the money on ourselves, rather than purchase a gift that will have little value to the recipient!
George Will sees misdirected giving when he looks at Christmas gifts through an economic lens. Asking ourselves the perennial question, “How much is enough?” lets us detect and thwart consumer excess (how many sweaters, scarves, or ties can a person possibly need?). To see Christmas giving through an environmental lens, remember these facts from the American Society of Interior Designers: For every one truckload of goods manufactured, 32 truckloads of waste are produced… and 90 percent of everything manufactured in this country ends up landfills within one year.
As a reader of this blog about hunger, you’re probably already looking at Christmas gift-giving through a lens of social and economic justice. As a Christian, you’re probably looking at Christmas through a lens of generosity, a mark of the early Christian community. Of course, you’re also seeing Christmas as the birthday celebration of our beloved Jesus, not a credit-card and calorie bacchanal.
With those lenses in place, how are you living out creative, life-giving alternatives to an economically, environmentally, secular Christmas—without being stingy?
If you need a few ideas, you can find resources on simplifying the holidays here and here, review Sue Edison-Swift’s suggestions for “value-full” gifts here, and of course support ELCA ministries like World Hunger and Global Mission here.
I’m planning to give very small gifts made by local developmentally disabled artists…offer my stuff-sorting, stuff-organizing, and stuff-recycling skills to siblings and parents for projects they want tackled…participate in a multicultural La Posada celebration….write checks to World Hunger and a couple other favorite causes…and be a witness against mindless consumerism by living every single day of this Advent and Christmas season as my oddball, simple self.
Anne Basye, “Sustaining Simplicity”