Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Christmas

So in an odd paradox, Christmas is in one little holiday, exactly what the Occupy Movement is fighting and exactly what it is fighting for...  I know, I'm a bit confused too.

But in thinking about how to Occupy Christmas, I have been stuck at the part where Christmas actually is the celebration of Jesus coming to occupy us and bring the freedom, life and community that so many of us are craving.

And yet.

And yet. Christmas as it is celebrated in my neck of the woods is actually a celebration of consumption, acquisitiveness and Too Much.  I don't know a person who doesn't at least once in December lament the state of yuletide affairs.  Too Much food, Too Much stuff, Too Much family, Too Much need... it's just All Too Much.

I am not going to write anything new or life-changing about Christmas - we all know the parts where we're supposed to make it simpler, enjoy each other, give goats and chickens instead of trash, blah blah blah. If any of those things have made you like Christmas better, please share what and how in the comments.  Instead, let me revisit the first ten Occupy Me Ideas and see how they can be adapted for nativity purposes. Is this cheating? Oh well...  read on anyway!

IDEA # 1: Shop More Wisely
Well, this was smart huh? The picture that started it all is a good one: choose independent businesses for your holiday purchases.  Local food, local employees, local owners - all of it is better than sending your dollars to anonymous bad guys in a highrise somewhere. If you have a great vendor you'll be using this year, please post a link in the comments.  Personally, I'll be asking for the Seaflora Skin Care stuff made on Vancouver Island and sold at Dream Designs.  Local, local, good for me. Win, win, win.

IDEA #2: Need Less
Again, it's like it was made for Christmas! So obviously, I'll be asking for less and giving less.  Certainly, only giving what we can afford.  Expensive debt that jeopardizes our security and enriches the anonymous bad guys is a terrible gift for our children.  We'll keep paying cash for what we do buy to a) make sure we can afford it and b) make sure no small merchant is subsidizing our decision to lie about how much we have. How will you be needing less this year?

IDEA #3: Real Food
Oh, the food at Christmas.  We are really fortunate because everyone else cooks at Christmastime. And our key cookers in SJ's family are Real Food people.  In my family, we've become a lot more Real Foody since my dad moved to a gluten-free diet, although it's been real food most of my life the way it was for most kids born in the 70s.  That said, I may make up an extra-large batch of Resistance Granola for Christmas morning just as a reminder that that's smart. And maybe we'll work a bit harder at sourcing local-er meats and treats. Any corporate food you'll be giving up this year?

IDEA #4: Support a Living Wage
Yikes, this is going to be tricky.  Christmas is so retail-intensive and the retail sector is so notoriously poor at paying a living wage.  I think choosing independent businesses might help with this since if the business is staffed by family, at you know the profts are being kept at home, you know? I'm finding asking about this really tricky, but I should probably try harder now that we'll be doing so much spending. Anyone have any recommendations for They Pay Better vendors of things we might buy this Christmas?

IDEA #5: Do Work I Would Prefer To Pay For
There are several jobs I would like to outsource over the course of December.  We won't be outsourcing them because we can't afford to mostly.  But it will be nicer to pretend that it's because we're jumping into solidarity with the many who do work I would prefer not to do.  And maybe at some point it will stop being pretending and turn into a real kinship with those who do work that is difficult and boring and that pays poorly... I think that would be a real Christmas miracle.  You?

IDEA #6: Fix It
Two things came out of this for me: One, fix things that are broken obviously.  At Christmas this means maybe replacing burnt out light bulbs instead buying all new strings as I have generally preferred to do.  The other is to buy things that can be fixed as Ryan mentioned in the comments.  This means not buying garbage for people.  Which probably means buying less, because the can't-be-fixed stuff is so much less expensive and so to upgrade to fixable will probably cost more and since we're only buying what we can afford, well, we'll be buying less. Which is kind of a win, right?  Anyone see other ways Fix It ties into Christmas?

IDEA #7: It Is Better To Give And Receive
This one is so awesome for me. Huh. Anyway, so somehow at Christmas, receiving makes me feel terrible (do you even know me?!) and giving makes me feel angry (you don't even need this and I certainly can't afford to give it!!).  Awful, right? I'm a bit scroogey for a Jesusy-type gal.  But I want to live in the part where both the giving and the receiving are reminders of my I've Got Enoughness.  I think on the giving side, paying cash and buying what we can afford is going to go a long way, as is trying to pay closer attention to what is needed, even if what is needed is just something wrapped and given in love.   On the receiving side, I am going to watch for ways the gifts given reflect the giver's own Enoughness and I will also be clearer about our needs so that givers can maybe experience their own flood of affluence that comes when you are able to give what is needed.  I would love to hear other thoughts on this - am I the only scrooge at gift giving?

IDEA #8:  Rock The Vote
So not so Christmassy, but still, another reminder to my BC readers - GO VOTE on SATURDAY!

IDEA #9: Give To People, Not Causes
Oh boy, this is a bit of a tricky one at Christmas because of course, most of us are already giving to people and most of us feel that giving charitably is part of the celebration.  Certainly most charities count on our yule-inspired generosity to gird their efforts for the year.  So maybe this:  as we choose how to give this year, we will talk to our people to find out what causes warm them up and we may give to people by giving to their causes.  But we will also watch for people who need what we have to give, be it the extra seat at our table, an evening of anything-but-Christmas chat, or extra help getting their decorations up. What are your causes people? and what do you have to give that you're hoping someone will need?

IDEA #10:  Be A People Person
It will sure be tempting to avoid people - so often it's faster, and at this time of year, friendlier.  People are stressed and over-worked and over-demanded-of and just straight up unpleasant. Machines are not. But all the more reason to be the pleasant person who does not demand and who says "please" and "thank you" and remembers that I may be the difference between making their work meaningful and making it sh*tty. I will take advantage of having a lot of spending to vote with and will vote for people as often as I can.  What will you be voting for with your Christmas spending?

Oh my, that was a lot.  I should point out that this is clearly written by someone who celebrates Christmas. I am aware that many don't.  This is written unapologetically for those who do.  If you are one who doesn't, I am certain we would benefit from reading how you plan to occupy the month of December and all that it brings to you and your family. 

In the meantime, I am looking forward to entering into the Christmas season with a clearer hope for my family, and all the more aware of how deeply we need the Gift That Was Given to get there.  Advent will indeed be a Sweet Waiting for God With Us, the best occupation I know.

Occupy Me.


  1. This Christmas we are focusing on not being rampant consumers. We're making the kids a puppet theatre out of some wood and fabric we have leftover from something else. I have convinced my mother (who loves bits of crap from the dollar store and ALWAYS overdoes xmas) to get Annabel a dress-up wardrobe from thrift stores with a 2nd hand coat rack cut down to toddler size. The best thing about both these gifts (other than their tiny environmental impact) is that they require me to spend time with my husband and mother in creative ways that are different to our usual interactions. The other great thing is that the kids will come to view home made gifts as special instead of crappy and indicative that daddy's not doing so well at work these days.

    I do recognize that we are relatively creative and handy people who are capable of making gifts and not everyone is. I also see that I have very small children who are open to these kinds of gifts, and not older ones who are already indoctrinated consumers keeping up with the classroom Joneses.

    As for food, we are planning to buy our meat from Sebastian and Co in West Van. I think this is acceptable? Speaking of food, I don't know what you were eating, Child of the 70s, but I was eating Kraft slices, Chef Boyardee and Campbell's soup and just about everything else out of a can you can think of. I'll probably be dead by the time I'm 45. But I'm determined not to do that to my kids (Similac aside).

  2. The best way I've found to enter into the Christmas season is by diving into the Advent season, the season of waiting. We do this with the Advent box. Instead of a crappy chocolate every morning, the girls open an envelope that has a family activity in it. Activities range from toe nail painting (including Jeff), to hot chocolate and a drive to see Christmas lights to shopping for the Food bank to the pre-Christmas toy purge. This is also a time where we limit screen time and focus on family. (Admitedly, this can be harder for me who sometimes needs the TV for a break from those girls!) 3 years in, and I think the girls like Advent more than actual Christmas because it is all about family time. And we've adopted a 3 gift plan, Gold = big gift, frankincense = practical gift and myrrh = spiritual gift. I've blogged about this before as you well know ACJ...but as the girls are getting older, I am encouraged that the girls are internalizing our lessons as evident by their disgust at early Christmas decorating and commercials!

    OK, rambled long enough..sorry!