Just Say No and Thanks by Cylvia Hayes

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For the most part, I like the Holidays.  I like the shift in seasons and the focus on gathering with friends and family.  I like some of the campy movies, especially the old Burl Ives Claymation cartoons.  I even like giving, and certainly receiving, meaningful gifts!

For me, things slow down a bit during the holidays.  Business and busyness slows down and I make more time for friends and family.  I think this is because I don’t much partake in the intense consumerism.  I definitely do not participate in “Black Friday.”   I truly detest what that day represents and what it brings out in us.  
 
The term “Black Friday” has come to mean the day that retail stores have enough sales to put them “in the black”, alluding to the practice of recording losses in red and profits in black.  I see a different meaning in the term.  I see it as a dark shadow on what could be a season of rest, reflection and connection with the things that really matter to us.  
 
“Black Friday” exemplifies the fundamental flaws in our current, consumption-crazed, economic model.  For people, it creates stress and debt.  So many of us spend our most precious non-renewable resource – our time – ravenously pushing through crowds, impatiently standing in lines, trying to ignore buyers’ remorse, buying stuff for people to fill a void we can’t quite name.  
 
Others of us have to work these jobs, spending long hours away from family and friends to keep the stores open and stocked.  My heart goes out to those who have to depend on “shoppers” to make ends meet.  Most of these retail jobs don’t pay much and the workers sacrifice a lot just trying to feed their families during this time that’s supposed to be about feasting and resting together.  Many years ago, I worked as a checker at a major department store during the holiday season.  It was not a joyous experience.  
 
For our planet, it creates waste, pollution and further degradation of our environment.   In the US, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent.  Additional food waste, shopping bags, packaging and wrapping papers, ribbons and bows add up to an additional one million tons per week of crap going into our landfills.  
 
For our health, our planet and our wellbeing it is time to just say no to the God of Consumerism and reclaim the deeper meaning of our holiday season.  One way to take a stand is to participate in Buy Nothing Day, which has been building momentum since the early 1990s and now has actions in 60 countries.  
 
Another important step is, as much as possible, for the shopping you do decide to do, keep it local.  Products made locally usually require far, far less fossil fuel to reach store shelves, which means they produce far less pollution.  This is especially true of locally produced food.  In addition to being gentler on the Earth, buying local creates jobs for people right in our communities and provides opportunities to build community as we get to personally know the farmers growing our food, the sewers making our clothes and the brewers crafting our beer.  
 
Finally, no matter where you decide to shop, be kind and patient, especially with the workers in the stores.  They aren’t machines or a means to an end.  They’re people, trying to feed their families and pay their bills.  
 
I’ll close with a revised rendering of a well-known Christmas carol:
 
To the tune of GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN
 
Slow down ye frantic shoppers for there’s something we must say
If you would spare a moment all the stores would go away
Big business has been telling us what Christmas means today.
 
Now it’s time we decided for ourselves, for ourselves
Yes it’s time we decided for ourselves.
 
To some folks Christmas means a time for gathering with friends
And enemies might take it as a time to make amends
But TV says it’s time for pricey gifts and selfish ends.
 
Now it’s time we decided for ourselves, for ourselves
Yes it’s time we decided for ourselves.
 
Some people feel that Christmas is when Jesus makes a call
For others it’s a time to stress good will and peace to all
But advertisers tell us it means Santa’s at the mall.
 
Now it’s time we decided for ourselves, for ourselves
Yes it’s time we decided for ourselves.

For other anti-consumerist holiday songs click here.


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