Buy Nothing Day challenges global economics
Hundreds of thousands of people throughout Europe and Japan, including members of faith communities, are marking 26 November as International Buy Nothing Day (BND) - which its proponents say is 'the one day a year we turn off the economy and talk about it'.
But not everyone is thrilled. Four people in Delaware, USA, were actually arrested yesterday for peacefully seeking to persuade shoppers to put away their credit cards for once.
Adbusters, an organisation which ërefaces' corporate advertising to highlight values buried in consumerism, instigated the original BND initiative in the late 1980s.
A spokesperson commented: 'On Friday, millions of people across North America did not participate in the doomsday economy, marketing mind-games, and the frantic consumer-binge that's subsumed our culture.'
The response in other parts of the rich world has been equally strong. London, Glasgow and Dublin are among the locations of BND events in Britain and Ireland.
Described as 'a wide-open, informal, semi-organized, cooperative international network', Buy Nothing Day started in the USA and Canada, but has now spread across the globe.
BND proponents say that it is intended 'to provide a period of respite from the rigours of the consumption-based economy, which is the main thing that dominates the media and perhaps a few too many of our daily life choices and aspirations. A pause for reflection - that's it. Each of us who does it, will do it in our own way.'
'Buy Nothing Day is fine example of citizen-based resistance in a world which increasingly knows the price of everything and the value of too little,' said Simon Barrow, co-director of the UK Christian think tank, Ekklesia.
'It's open to all, but people of faith will recognise in it the ancient tradition of ëfasting' - periodically giving up things in order to focus on who and what really matters in life', he added.
Continued Barrow: 'Another step in the Advent season, when we wait for Christ, and Christmas, the time of new birth and giving, would be to decide to buy for others rather than ourselves.'
Ekklesia is promoting ethical presents in the Christmas season. Last year people used its website to contribute over £60,000 to peace and justice causes. This year the target is £100,000.
'We want to be a think-tank and news service based on humanitarian action as well as commentary for change', said Barrow.
Ekklesia has in the past argued that rather than buying into the straightforward advertising culture, churches should use their communications capacity to ësubvertise' - to put across the subversive, upside-down values of the Gospel.
One UK Anglican priest, Maggi Dawn, who is chaplain at Robinson College, Cambridge, has used her personal website to promote a number of practical alternatives for Buy Nothing Day, 'gleaned from memories of a relatively consumerism-free childhood.'
These include cooking a meal using only what you have in the cupboard, recycling old junk, mending the broken things you keep forgetting about, and home-baking rather than buying bread.
Other suggestions are contained on a webpage called eHow, a do-it-yourself counterpoint to the famous eBay marketplace.
However, International Buy Nothing Day is unlikely to persuade the hard-line consumerists on The Business online, which recently attacked respected aid agency Christian Aid as ëanti-capitalist' for daring to suggest that trade monopolised by the wealthy and powerful is neither free nor fair.
Meanwhile state troopers in Delaware, USA, were called in by traders at Christiana Mall to arrest a ëbuy nothing' Santa and three ëwhite sisters' who were handing out samplesÖ of nothing.
'Apparently it is illegal to promote non-shopping in the Land of the Free', an observer told Ekklesia.
Some radical Christians have used the Day to inscribe the word ëliar' over the 'In God We Trust' legend on their dollar bills, and satirist the Reverend Billy of the Church of Stop Shopping has also been rallying support for the cause in super-malls.
Canadian Mennonites are also establishing a movement dedicated to reviving the original meaning of Christmas giving, called Buy Nothing Christmas.
[Also on Ekklesia: US churches may trigger advertising war; Church groups alarmed at Make Poverty History TV advert ban; On Earth as It Is in Advertising: Moving from Commercial Hype to Gospel Hope; Ethical gifts; Send an animal to Africa for Christmas; Fairly traded chocolate; 5 steps for a more ethical Christmas]