7 Ways to Have a Commercialism-Free Holiday Season

Commercialism is simply a side-effect of capitalism, but it’s especially atrocious during the holidays. Not even during the holidays, but leading to the holidays. No longer do we see candy stocking the shelves on October 1 — it starts in September. Christmas decorations are put on the shelves before Halloween ends. Chocolate Easter bunnies are sold on Valentine’s Day, and chocolate hearts are sold the day Welch’s sparkling cider goes on sale (January 2).

No holiday is safe, or technically even sacred, if someone can make a buck off of it. Throughout the year most people turn a blind eye to commercialism, but most take offense when it distracts from the substance of what they’re celebrating. And maybe you do, too. Or maybe you just want to stick it to the man. This year, instead of giving into the economy, here are some ways you can celebrate without the effects of commercialism.

1. Volunteer

Volunteering is a great way to overcome capitalism and really mess with “the man.” Free labor, helping others and a greater cause than your own really shows those capitalist pigs. No, but really, volunteering is a great way of spending less time shopping and more time with others. Whether it’s at a soup kitchen or an animal shelter, there are more disenfranchised beings than we realize. We can find hope and joy in supporting others over buying things for ourselves no matter what holiday it is.

2. Shop at local businesses for holiday goods

Maybe you just love decorating for Christmas, but you can’t stand seeing your money go toward growing an evil monopoly of chain stores. No worries, all you need to do is browse around town or the internet and find a small business that sells holiday décor. Most small businesses are individually owned and sell niche products. You might find an entire new line of bird-themed Christmas tree ornaments you didn’t know you needed and ultimately help a mother buy presents for her kids.

3. Go thrifting or antiquing for gifts

If you want to get your friends meaningful gifts — but you aren't too keen on spending a ton of money — take a secondhand route and try thrifting or antiquing. Many antique shops have multiple vendors within one store. And thrift shops always have unique finds that can old or new. Instead of increasing the demand for new things try up-cycling something slightly used!

4. Make your own gifts

The best gifts come from the heart and are made by hand. And if that doesn’t work, it’s the thought that counts, right? Hand-making gifts for friends and family adds a sentimental touch that no gift card could ever replace. Hold an arts-and-crafts day with your friends and use some of the old glitter and stamp kits your mom has been keeping forever to make something special for your loved ones. Hand-made gifts show the people receiving them that you took the extra time and effort to craft them something they can cherish for a lifetime. Plus, it elevates any extra spending.

5. Set price limits

Okay, maybe you’re not artistic, you don’t like other people’s stuff and you don’t need any more bird-themed Christmas tree ornaments. So, set price limits. Before deciding what to get everyone, have your family and friends decide on a price that no one can go over when purchasing presents. This limits your contribution to commercialism to maybe $30 to $50, and it will set perimeters to keep you from stressing about what to get your fam.

6. Exchange or donate your gifts

You’ve probably heard your parents call it a “white elephant” party, which technically originates from a legend of the King of Siam. But, also think of the phrase, “the elephant in the room.” The elephant in the room is that one awful present you usually get from an out-of-touch grandparent. You really don’t want to keep it, but you really don’t know what to do with it. Have a white elephant party! Gather your friends and give each other the worst gifts you received this year. Or even better, donate the gifts you aren’t fond of to people who can’t afford to buy any. Maybe your niece really didn’t like the doll you gave her, but another less fortunate child might. Gift exchanges eliminate the need to make more purchases, and donations are a way to make purchases for those who don’t have enough to buy for their own families.

7. Grow your own food (or buy local food)

Now, you’re probably done shopping and ready to sit down at the table. But, you still have to prep for that, too. So when you’re shopping for the turkey, ham, green beans, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, pumpkin pie or vegan alternatives, think of where your food is coming from. Is it being mass produced by a factory farm? Is it from a large corporation selling genetically modified food at an unreasonably fair price that robs the middle class and farmers from making their livings? Then maybe head to the local market. You could even try growing your holiday meal’s herbs and spices yourself. By buying locally you’re helping a family put food on their table as well as yours, and by growing your own food you’re alleviating the need for corporate farming and businesses all together.

So, this holiday season look around and take note of how outrageous commercialism has become. When you realize it, take a stand and make a change. Don’t let monopolies and big businesses rob you or anyone else from enjoying the festivities. Instead, check out the places you shop. Maybe do a little research on their business and advertising practices. See if they’re a store that stocks stockings way before season. Though the phrase “vote with your dollar” is only something hippies, communists and conspiracy theorists use, realize that every purchase you make really does make a difference. And most importantly, don’t get blinded by running around and buying things. There’s a bigger meaning behind every holiday, and most of the time it’s spending time with the ones you love.