It's 3 p.m. here in Clatsop County, Oregon, where I'm staying with my parents for the holiday week. My two older boys are out fishing, and I'm knitting while the beans soak for the turkey chili that will be our dinner. I'm checking in with my friends on email and Twitter: most of us are participating in Buy Nothing Day, and I have to admit I'm a bit astounded that many acquaintances are piping in with comments such as, "isn't that cutting off your nose to spite your face?" and "sacrilege!"

Although the credit crunch has hit, although millions are losing their homes because they bought more (of everything, more home, more furniture, more stuff, more entertainment) than they could afford, we can't let go of the consumer culture that celebrates buying things. We celebrate it so passionately that we excoriate those who don't participate; we consider it part of romance; and, horribly, we actually kill people in the process. Why is shopping worth so much to us? If we don't need it to begin with, why do we need it at the special doorbuster price?

Last night we watched Silent Night, a movie about some American and German soldiers at Christmas 1944 who become lost in the woods and end up at a woman's cabin. The woman demands that they all make a truce for the night, and they pool their food for dinner. One of the most touching moments is when the American private withdraws a small, paper-wrapped package he's been hoarding and gives it, his gift, to his hostess. French soap. The look of gratitude and amazement on her face is beyond anything I've ever seen in my living room on Christmas Day. Less is more.

It's been lovely talking with my family -- my sister Jenny and her husband and baby girl are visiting from Panama -- and diving into the homemade presents I'll be giving my children and family members for Christmas. I am utterly relaxed and happy I can cook a delicious meal from leftovers rather than eating out (expensively) at the mall. Buy Nothing Day has been easy and (here's a shocker) great for my budget.

Am I sad I missed out on the great savings I could have garnered, had I arisen at 4 a.m. to get in line at the local mall? Hardly. We have everything we really need, and I prefer to buy things used in any case; last season's model works for me and it turns out I save way, way more than the Doorbuster price.

Avoiding the malls today, and in the weeks to come, means I don't have to see all the possible gifts I could get for my family members; what I don't see, can't make me want it. I toss the ad circulars from our local paper into the recycling before I even get the newspaper in the door. I avoid TV as much as possible so I can't be tempted by the loud, razzle-dazzle announcements touting the amazing bargains on Garmins and digital picture frames. Buy Nothing Day has made me a happier person, and if that's sacrilege, well, I guess I'm headed straight to Consumerism's version of hell.


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