24 December 2011 by Julienne du Toit

Occupy Christmas

This year, Christmas feels different. Maybe it’s because of the recession. Maybe it’s because Greed is no longer Good. Us 99 percenters have had the 1% up to here. Maybe a certain critical mass has been reached in the overcommercialisation of this time when we should be celebrating peace and goodwill.

Or maybe it’s just me.

But I must say, when I received an email exhorting people to shop local, avoid mass-produced goods and avoid franchise shops, I agreed with it so wholeheartedly that I immediately copied it to my friends and my local newspaper.

An edited extract:

“Everyone—yes EVERYONE gets their hair cut. How about gift certificates from your local hair salon or barber?

Who wouldn’t appreciate getting their car valet’d? Small, South African owned car washes would love to sell you a gift certificate or a book of gift certificates.

Are you one of those extravagant givers who think nothing of plonking down the cash on a new flat-screen? Perhaps that grateful gift receiver would like his driveway fixed, or lawn mowed for the summer, or roof waterproofed and painted.

There are a Gazillion owner-run restaurants—all offering gift certificates. And, if your intended isn’t the fancy eatery sort, what about a half dozen breakfasts at the local breakfast joint. Remember, this isn’t about big national chains - this is about supporting your home town South African with their financial lives on the line to keep their doors open.

How many people couldn’t use an oil change for their car, truck or motorbike, done at a shop run by a South African working guy?

Thinking about a heartfelt gift for mom? Mom would LOVE the services of a local cleaning lady for a day.

OK, you were looking for something more personal. Local crafts people are great. They make jewelery, pottery, knitted stuff, Teddy Bears, paintings and home preserves etc…”

You get the idea. This year, for Christmas, I only bought from shops that are not franchised. The gift I’m most proud of is a collection of photographs I put together for my dad, of his family. I bought locally made goods wherever I could.

I didn’t buy Christmas wrapping paper. I just used what was in the house (tissue paper and brown paper, jazzed up with raffia that I already had). Okay, that was more to do with bad organising than serious forethought, but still…

I wish you peace and goodwill. I wish you compassion and contentment. May you be blessed with the knowledge that you have everything you need. May you love and be loved. Isn’t that the heart of it all?

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