Redeeming Christmas: Fairtrade, Union and Handmade!
In my initial Redeeming Christmas post, I made my case against linking our modern gift-giving customs to Christmas, but noted that this is not an idea whose time has come, and I and my family continue to participate. Here I want to blog about the great things that increasing numbers of people are doing to redeem the Christmas gift-giving ritual by shopping fair trade or making their own gifts.
The growth of the fair trade movement, which promotes minimum social and environmental standards and the payment of a fair price to producers, is one of the most important and encouraging reactions to globalization. Global sales of fair trade goods has soared over the last decade — €1.6 billion ($2.32 US) in 2006, a 42% increase from 2005 and a 600% increase since 2000. Participating in the growth of this moral economy (an economy in which market forces are harnessed to support important social values) helps build a just and sustainable world, and so it is especially fitting to make our Christmas shopping fair trade.
If you are still shopping for Christmas (and bless you if you have avoided the pressure to shop till this point!), there are many online fair trade vendors to choose from. Ten Thousand Villages is a nice place to start, with a huge variety of gift ideas. There is still time for online orders to be delivered before Christmas, and you can use their website to look for a store near you. Another alternative to the big box/sweatshop cycle is No Sweat!, where you can find a wide range of stylish, high-quality, apparel — everything to cover you and anyone on your gift list from head to toe with 100% union-made goods. I buy most of my clothes at second-hand shops, but three years ago I bought from them a very comfortable jacket that is still holding up well, a great pair of jeans, and the most comfortable and durable socks I’ve ever owned.
There is also seems to be a tremendous revival in making Christmas gifts. Early in the season, Katerina Ivanova of Civilization of Love wrote about some great resources that have emerged for keeping Christmas handmade. Etsy allows anyone to buy and sell handmade goods; there are some truly unique and beautiful things here. BuyHandmade.org provides resources, ideas and and inspiration aimed at fashioning a world-changing social movement. Go there and take the pledge to buy handmade this Christmas.
Of course, the real deal is making gifts yourself. As my nom de blogue implies, I’m not likely to be an exemplar here — though I am in the process of making enormous quantities of cookies this season that, to the extent I and my children can avoid eating them, will find their way into gift tins for our extended family. My spouse, the redoubtable Annie Wim, is a real inspiration here, having made wonderful gifts for the family gift exchange over the past five years or so, and is working away on gifts even as I write this.
Making these gifts is not easy, I can testify. This is a busy time of year at work for both of us, and it is difficult to find the time. But forcing ourselves to step out of the grind of worklife is an important part of getting ready for Christmas, the real Christmas. So for all of you who are working hard to redeem this holiday by shopping for change rather than bargains, or fashioning change with your own hands in the form of a precious gift to your loved ones, I say thanks for the inspiration, and Merry Christmas!