That always irks me a bit. It’s like, really?? Can we not get Halloween over and done with first, please? Can’t we turn the calendar page from October before retailers start bombarding us (with all the stuff that we don’t really need) to prepare for the next major holiday?
Commercialization…you gotta love it. Don’t get me wrong, I love the tradition of exchanging gifts, and as someone who grew up (and is still a part of) the Christian tradition, I love Christmas. But the battle to keep it from disintegrating into frenzied materialism just seems to keep escalating.
That’s why I love doing some of my early Christmas shopping at the Ten Thousand Villages Ottawa Festival Sale, because you can actually buy things that have some meaning to them. Running every weekend through November, this large-scale sale offers hand-crafted, fairly-traded products made by artisans around the world. All proceeds from the sale go to Ten Thousand Villages to support artisans in developing countries and provide their families with food, health care, education and housing.
What I like about their stuff is that everything has a little story behind it. All items are made by hand, usually from some sort of natural material. The country of origin is always printed on the tag, and if you ask the staff they can tell you more about how it’s created.
For example, there are some cute, little owl Christmas-tree ornaments that were made out of gourds (which come from the same plant family as squash and pumpkins). The artisans – who live in Peru – decorate the gourds by etching, a technique which requires them to carve complex designs into the gourd’s surface (to do this, they often craft their own tools, grinding pieces of iron with river stones until they have fashioned fine points and chisels).
Once carved, the gourd is burned using either a pointed wooden stick that has been placed in eucalyptus embers until it turns red-hot or a “pirograbador” – an engraving tool with a hot wire tip; the tool is then painstakingly held against the gourd in order to etch and blacken the designed motifs. In this way, beautiful pieces of art are created featuring deep black areas set against the natural golden orange colour of the gourd.
Aside from the Christmas decorations and nativity scenes, there are tons of other gift options – ranging from jewellery and scarves to kitchen dishes, chess boards and kids’ toys.
Stop by the Ottawa Mennonite Church (1830 Kilborn Ave.) this month on a Friday (from 3 to 8 p.m.) or a Saturday (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and check out the product offerings. You’ll meet some interesting people and you’ll be offered fair-trade coffee (which is very delicious!).
You might even be able to cross some Christmas gifts off your list – and feel good doing it.