Cultivating Community: Curing the Black Friday Blues

November 19, 2009


Thanksgiving has a relatively simple premise. It’s a holiday known for family time, rest, and warm, hearty (and largely sad-shopperlocal) food. It’s also refreshingly unmarketable. Although you can now send Thanksgiving cards and place giant inflatable turkeys on your front lawn, nothing about Thanksgiving rivals the outrageous commercialization of Christmas. Turkeys don’t have a lot of advertising appeal. And brown and orange twinkle lights? We still have enough sense to hold off on those.

However. The day after Thanksgiving is when we seem to sacrifice all our sense to the gods of materialism. All the heartwarming, soporific effects of the Thanksgiving holiday evaporate in an instant, and we’re driven into the cold air to wait for hours in serpentine lines with hundreds of other disgruntled holiday shoppers, all in pursuit of elusive Black Friday sales.

But a coalition of Black Friday resisters is emerging, and its efforts are galvanizing folks to savor the un-buyable joys of the holiday season by creating gifts, purchasing gifts that support good work and ministry throughout the world, buying fairly made products, or buying nothing at all.

While a traditional Christmas gift—like many of those we purchase on Black Friday—can begin with good intentions and end up

Nov. 27: Buy Nothing Day

Nov. 27: Buy Nothing Day

as a pile of plastic on its way to the landfill, gifts that come out of creativity and compassion give continually to creation and God’s people. Clean water, a handmade scarf, time well spent, items made from natural materials and by craftsmen receiving fair wages—all of these are gifts we can give to neighbors near and far this season. And by giving gifts of the heart, we give the gift of good stewardship and abundance to the earth.

Of course, it’s always easier to join in an effort like this with others. So this year, gather your church, small group, or another cohort, and resist the temptation to materialism together. Here are some ideas and resources to support and inspire your commitment to giving quality gifts of the heart:

  • An initiative that encourages the church to “Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All,” the Advent Conspiracy asks, “What if Christmas became a world-changing event again?” Watch the Advent Conspiracy’s video to the right.
  • Put your heads together and create a gift from the heart on Make Something Day. There are plenty of creative suggestions on the Make Something Day website, but we’ll be also dedicating this space to creative gift-giving and celebrating from now until Christmas.
  • Floresta Christmas Cards plant trees

    Floresta Christmas Cards plant trees

    Make your Christmas cards work for justice and compassion by reviving landscapes in poor countries. Floresta, one of Flourish’s partner ministries, offers lovely eco-friendly greeting cards that represent your gift of trees planted on the mission field. You can choose how many trees per card, at a cost of $1 per tree, and Floresta sends you the Christmas card to mail out.

  • Instead of buying gifts that will only stack up in relatives’ already-crowded closets and play rooms, participate in a kind of gift-giving that will provide resources to families and communities in need of some help to reach sustainability. Some reputable organizations that you can donate to, often in the name of a loved one: Heifer International (“Just one goat can change the world!”), ECHO (Give a fruit tree or a whole community garden!), Compassion International’s Christmas Gift Program (Suggested donation: Just $20), World Vision (Give anything from 5 ducks to hope for sexually exploited girls), and Samaritan’s Purse (Operation Christmas Child going on right now!).
  • Buy Fair Trade, local, or organic items if you’re going to give store-bought gifts. It’s sometimes more expensive to buy goods in these categories, but that’s for a good reason: it means the artisans and farmers who have created those products are being paid decent wages and working in fair labor conditions. The money you pay will not only compensate producers, but also contribute to the flourishing of their communities and local environments. But check to make sure the Fair Trade items you purchase are approved by TransFair USA or the Fair Trade Federation, and your organics are really organic. A good place to start with these kinds of gifts is Ten Thousand Villages.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen November 22, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Great article. This year we’ve introduced Advent Conspiracy in our church as a concerted effort. In the past a few individuals joined on their own.
We will be bringing ideas before the church each week to encourage participation. Thanks for the information in this article. We will be putting it to good use.

kendra November 24, 2009 at 11:21 am

Karen, that’s so encouraging to hear! Do folks give the money they save to Living Water International or another ministry?

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