Friday, December 02, 2005

'Tis the Season

I don’t know about y’all, but over the past few years, I’ve become really turned off by the whole materialistic spirit of Christmas. People go crazy buying crap for each other just so they can feel good about themselves for being so generous. Most gifts are just stuff - stuff that nobody really needs. Meanwhile, the consumers go broke and the companies get rich. I’m sick of it. Besides, what do all those gifts really have to do with the birth of Jesus?

Last year I tried to convince my family to opt out of the whole gift giving thing. My idea was that we all chose a charity and donate the money we would have spent to that organization. They liked the idea, but gifts had already been purchased and some people weren’t ready to give up on the whole gift giving thing, so we agreed to give it a try next year.

Then it dawned on me that maybe there were other ways I could give gifts and still avoid participating in the commercialization frenzy. First I decided to get my parents a blue recycling bin for Christmas. After much nagging from me, they were doing their best to recycle, but it is a pain in the butt if you’re not properly equipped and like most people in town, they weren’t anxious to drop eighty bucks just so they could recycle their trash rather than throw it away for free. Plus, you know how hard it is to figure out what to get your parents. They pretty much have everything they need (as we all do.) The recycling bin turned out to be a great idea. My parents loved it. They were amazed at how little garbage they create once they started recycling. I told them I would continue to pay for the bin every year if they wanted me to, but my mom said that they would pay for it themselves from now on.

The next thing I did was decide to purchase all my gifts from The Hunger Site store and the other stores affiliated with it. A portion of the money spent on all the items in these stores goes to help those in need. My favorite last year was a necklace that I bought for my nephew made by women in a small village South America. It came with a little certificate explaining how the money will be sent back to the women who made the jewelry to help them continue to support their family. My nephew thought that was really cool. I bought all my friends a recycled silk scarf handmade in Nepal, and lots of other things for my family and friends. All of them seemed to really like the gifts.

This year I started looking for other ways I could give alternative Christmas gifts. One of my favorites I’ve found so far is the gift I’ve decided to get for my dad. I’m going to get him two goats. Well, actually, I’m going to buy two goats for a family in Rwanda, and donate them in his name. Then I thought I’d buy a book about Rwanda and give that to him along with the papers for the goats. I think he’ll really like it.

I was talking to my friend DD about other ideas for gifts. We both like the idea of buying gift certificates from local businesses, like Dagny’s or Mama Roomba’s, or Russo’s, or any locally owned establishment. We also talked about buying memberships to organizations like the Kern County Museum, or the Bakersfield Museum of Art. We’ve decided to come up with a list, actually, more of an information packet, for people who are interested in alternative Christmas gift ideas. We’ve been working on it all day.

We’d really love it if any of you have ideas you would like to share so we could include it in our little project. If not, here are a few websites that might help give you some ideas. I’m going to be adding links to some alternative Christmas sites to my sidebar that hopefully will help y’all come up with some new gift ideas this year.



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