The Spirit of Giving (in Non-Consumerist Ways)
With Christmas and the New Year around the corner, the holiday season is truly upon us! Inevitably during this time of year, many of us start planning for the presents we wish to offer one another. Since time immemorial we have been conditioned to ‘expect’ gifts from Santa Claus starting from infancy. As adults we continue to accept gifts from our children, friends and relatives and give gifts in return. “Well, it’s just the way it is,” one might argue. “It’s tradition! We always do this,” you may justly say too. Plus, the temptations to shop are simply everywhere this time of year; the attractive Christmas windows gracing storefronts, the complementary holiday gifts guides, the holiday promotions and other methods of marketing wizardry giving us the same message but in different ways: shop now and get these lovely items, because they will bring happiness and holiday cheer – ho, ho, ho!
No doubt the season of warmth, joy and merriment has been heavily associated with materialism in our societies. Some may even argue that it has gotten way out of control. After all, we are often buying things that our friends and family members may not even need or want, but it is done simply for the sake of the gift giving tradition.
Then of course there is all that gift-wrapping paper waste. In fact, “Americans throw away 25% more trash during the Thanksgiving to New Year holiday period than any other time of the year. The extra waste amounts to 25 millions tons of garbage, or about 1 million extra tons per week.” (You can read more about this and ways to prevent holiday waste here).
Let’s say it is due time to change our consumerism habits for good (and the upcoming holiday season is a good time to start). But before you hold back and take the minimalist plunge in holiday shopping, go through this checklist below that has been put together by Green Groundswell.
- I dread Christmas shopping.
- I worry about the environmental consequences of Christmas consumerism.
- I am tired of going into debt to buy Christmas gifts.
- I feel stressed out trying to come up with gift ideas for the people on my list.
- I cringe when a friend or co-worker asks me if I want to exchange Christmas gifts.
- I am concerned that my children are focusing too much on acquiring stuff.
- I cannot relax until I have bought, wrapped, and shipped all the gifts on my list.
- I feel disturbed by the amount of waste generated during the Christmas holiday season.
- I feel obligated to give a gift to everyone who gives me a gift.
- I wish someone in my family would suggest we stop
If you identify with at least one or two of these aforementioned sentiments, we think you may just be ready to change your holiday gift buying habit for good! And please don’t feel bad after you take that decision to cut back on gifts, because there are many meaningful ways to show love for one another that doesn’t come in a wrapped box. The holiday season is also a good time to think of those who are less privileged and to provide them with support. You can start a family ritual of giving to those in need every holiday season (unless you do this already and if so, well done!). Helping others as a family will help instil philanthropic values in children and also help them understand the value of giving back to the community. Here are some ideas below for showing love and spreading happiness to others this holiday season, whilst not resorting to the traditional gift buying habit.
Support Your Friend’s Cause
Instead of the conventional present, why not donate to charity on someone’s behalf? So for example, if your friend loves animals, maybe you can make a donation to BETA Lebanon, or adopt a dog from this animal rescue shelter in his or her name. If you choose the latter option, please kindly consider that a pet is a serious responsibility that does require training, time, care, and love.
Be Part of a Charitable Event
There are plenty of events going on around the holidays supporting a charitable cause. You can buy tickets to attend a gala dinner near you or give someone a pair of tickets to attend one as a gift. One upcoming event for a great cause is the “Share your Festivities, Feed a Family” Gala dinner at the Hilton Habtoor Hotel, which is taking place on Dec 8th. Organized by the Charity Donation Foundation no. 2564, the proceeds from one ticket for this event will feed an entire family living under the poverty line in Lebanon. You can check out the details of this charity dinner, which is happening soon.
If you are more of an outdoor person then go for hiking with a great cause! Lebanon’s seasoned hiking group, Dale Corazon, is putting together a day of trekking and exploring archeological sites in Bentael Nature Reserve (Kfarmasoun, Byblos) on Dec 23rd. All the proceeds from this event will go to the ‘Monks of the Brothers of the Cross and Nuns of the Sisters of Jesus Crucified’. This charity organization takes in and looks after the abandoned babies and newborns from all faiths and nationalities in Lebanon. You can get more details about this hiking event here.
For those of you with children or who are fans of Christmas markets, you may want to experience the Christmas event “Le grand marché de Noël” that will be held on December 12-16 at the premises of the old train station of Mar Mikhael in Beirut. There will be food stations, exhibitions and plenty of activities for all ages, in addition to concerts, plays and shows throughout the five days. The proceeds for this charity Christmas Market go to the Children Cancer Center of Lebanon (CCCL). To know more you can find out about it here.
The Gift of an Experience
Instead of cluttering up the homes of your loved ones with superfluous gadgets and other items, how about offering them a pampering treat? Maybe a manicure and pedicure at their favorite salon, or perhaps a relaxing massage? How about a one-month gym membership if you know they are not subscribed to a health club already? Or present someone the gift of making by offering a painting or pottery class session. Whatever you think your dear ones will appreciate and benefit from the most should be a good place to start planning!
Your Time and Skill as a Gift
Okay don’t be put off by the fact that you are offering something that does not cost you any money. Sharing your time and knowledge is extremely valuable. Maybe you have a special skill that someone dear to you can benefit from? Maybe you can teach a foreign language or show someone how to make your favorite dessert? If you have a green thumb you can offer to do the gardening for a friend? Perhaps you can offer to tutor your friend’s child in a challenging subject (that you happened to ace back in school). Remember, we all have skills that others can benefit from! If not a skill it can be offering to just help out in chores around the house too!
Engage in Charitable Deeds Yourself
How about helping out total strangers and not expecting anything in return? Maybe a smile or another humble gesture of gratitude is all we get back. Spend a few hours, or however much time you can, volunteering at a soup kitchen, a nursing home or a charity of your choice this holiday season. It’s a rewarding experience to know that you have contributed to someone else’s comfort or happiness. Also needing absolutely nothing in return is a great place to be in!
Buy a Gift and Contribute to a Charitable Mission
There are people who really appreciate gifts, especially something that you bought and wrapped. For some people old habits are hard to break! Get them a gift item that has a philanthropic mission behind it. More retailers are now offering gift items whereby a percentage of the profits go to a cause or charity. And don’t be shy to ask the magical question of what percentage of the donation actually goes to the charitable cause versus administrative fees; it’s so very important! Some manufacturers also consciously employ underprivileged and marginalized individuals to encourage economic and social inclusion. Go for a brand that practices corporate social responsibility (CSR), and you will be contributing to a chain of goodness!
Photo credit: https://www.tribdem.com/news/local_news/smiles-on-their-faces-bishop-carroll-students-share-christmas-spirit/article_3afa9f33-6e60-5e10-bd97-615917507b16.html
Well that’s it for now, folks. We hope you got some inspiration to practice more non-consumerist ways this holiday season. Many of us often get so caught up in the festive preparations for the holidays – decorating our homes, buying gifts, preparing the family feast, planning our holiday wardrobe etc., – that we overlook the practice of altruistic deeds. We can still enjoy our holiday traditions, but it’s also important to step back and remember the true meaning of the holiday season. Wishing you joyous blessed festivities from now and remember, the simplest gifts are the best ones!