I don’t know about you, but I find some of the television images of Black Friday shoppers to be rather disturbing. I mean, really – is this what we’ve evolved into as a culture? To be blessed with so very much – particularly in relation to the rest of the world – only to fight and haggle with each other over aquiring more and more “stuff?”
Every year around this shopping-frenzied time of year, I try to pull back a little and remember what the true spirit of Christmas is all about. Whether you take a religious perspective or not, Christmas is a time of year for giving to others. But what are we giving? Is it just about impressing our kids with the latest and greatest toys? I don’t know about your kids, but all the amazing “must-have” toys that we shelled out for last year have been largely forgotten, and I’m trying to figure out how we can fit more toys into the already-crowded playroom.
The truth is, most of us don’t actually need very much. While I’m not advocating for no gift exchanging at all – I think the gesture of gift-giving is rooted in love and generousity – I feel that it’s important to be careful of the attitude behind it and where I put my resources at this time of year.
One very cool alternative to padding the pockets of the big-box retailers is shopping for gift items at Ten Thousand Villages. If you’re not already familiar with this non-profit retailer, you’re in for a treat. The oldest and largest fair trade organization in North America, Ten Thousand Villages sells artisan-crafted personal accessories, home decor and gift items from around the globe.
But the best part is that Ten Thousand Villages creates opportunities for artisans in developing countries – Vietnam, Thailand and Haiti to name just a few – to earn an income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships.
Leading up to Christmas, Ten Thousand Villages stages major retail festivals designed to provide consumers with access to even more of their unique, hand-crafted products. Here in Ottawa, for example, the Christmas Festival is being held at the Ottawa Mennonite Church every weekend in November. If you live elsewhere in Canada, check the Ten Thousand Villages web site for the Christmas Festival nearest you, or go to one of their retail stores located across the country (and in the U.S.).
The North American buying habit is not likely to go away, but we can choose where to direct our attention and our money. It just might help make a positive difference.