Now that Halloween is over, the holiday season has officially begun. Actually, Christmas time consumerism began sneaking into stores right alongside Halloween costumes and decor many weeks ago. As the big box stores stock their shelves in preparation for Black Friday, many will also choose to ignore the hype altogether in favor of a saner approach to the season. For many years now, the Adbusters group has been promoting the day after Thanksgiving as Buy Nothing Day. This movement has since gained enough traction that there are now various International Buy Nothing Day protests and activities, in which people all around the world are opting out of the status quo of capitalism on their respective shopping holy days.
Despite the push that many have been making to rethink capitalism in recent years, Americans still go out in droves on Black Friday, or even shop the Thanksgiving Day sales that many retailers have been promoting more recently. But perhaps, this trend toward kicking off the holiday overspending madness earlier each year is having a detrimental effect on corporations. For one thing, there seems to be an ever-increasing amount of advertising for earlier and earlier sale specials. And even though retailers keep opening earlier each year to begin their Black Friday sales, the growth in sales revenue seems to be quite sluggish. The advertising costs have to cut into the overall gains that can be made by opening early to promote greed and selfishness on the holiday of thankfulness. There there’s the growing public perception that all workers deserve a day off to spend with families, and these companies who seek only to pad their bottom lines are asking for (and just simply taking) too much.
Now, along with the many who claim Black Friday as Buy Nothing Day, there are finally some American companies who would rather give their employees a break than maximize profits for the holidays. Outdoor supply retailer REI has decided to sit out on the overly commercialized madness by closing stores across the nation for that all hallowed day after Thanksgiving spending spree that so many look forward to each year. It’s a bit unconventional for any major retailer to take a stance such as this, in regard to what is considered the biggest shopping day of the year. However, examining the overall business philosophy of REI reveals that this move really is consistent with the ethic of this company that has a co-operative employment structure, and provides a higher baseline rate of pay than most companies their size, to give employees a fair, living wage. Not only will their stores be closed, but all 12,000 of its employee members will be paid for a day off to get outside.
This year’s Buy Nothing Day festivities will be a concerted North American effort on November 28th, and Internationally on the 29th. Adbusters is also promoting their usual Buy Nothing X-mas campaign, which might seem quite radical for some, but when it comes down to it, really just makes a lot of sense. If we can’t find ways to show others that we love them without buying stuff for them, then we really have lost our creativity. We can always create handmade gifts, make baked goods, give away found items as gifts, or just simply spend some quality time with loved ones during the holidays. There’s also a whole list of alternatives to gift-buying on the buynothingchristmas.org website as well, if you’re in need of some ideas.
When it comes down to it, resisting capitalism and the commercialization of the holiday season isn’t just about not spending money. It’s an entirely different way of living than what many of us are used to. The American dream has been co-opted by corporate interests and marketed as a bunch of sleek, shiny new gadgets, fashionable clothing, and cheap plastic toys. We have so much stuff we don’t need, and we just keep buying more, and it’s unsustainable to say the least. We can’t keep consuming more and more of the world’s resources without finally devouring the entire planet. In the words of Adbusters:
“Until we challenge the entrenched values of capitalism – that the economy must always keep growing, that consumer wants must always be satisfied, that immediate gratification is imperative – we’re not going able to fix the gigantic psycho-financial-eco crisis of our times. That challenge is a deeply personal one: in a world where every inch of the capitalist system is bullying you into submission, can you resist?”
We have bigger issues to worry ourselves with than what the best sales are for this year’s Black Friday, or what the coolest new contraptions, widgets, trinkets and trifles are coming out during the holiday season. Let’s share more time together, make meaningful, useful tools or beautiful handmade wall hangings, and unique, durable, lasting gifts that help inspire us and remind us instead that life itself is quite magical and exquisite.