Quick tips for the holiday shopping season

Pointers on shopping sustainably and saving money

Quick tips for the holiday shopping season

With the holiday season fast approaching, two contributors give pointers on how to approach gift giving.

Embrace the holiday spirit with more sustainable gifting

While people may feel at their most charitable during the holiday season, the spirit of giving usually ends up hurting the environment. Heightened consumerism around the holidays results in more solid waste being generated, polluting the planet and exacerbating the labour and environmental practices of many multinational corporations that stand to profit.

According to Zero Waste Canada, household waste can increase more than 25 per cent during the holiday season, yielding 545,000 tons of waste from gift wrapping and shopping bags alone. Exchanging homemade or secondhand gifts are other meaningful ways to circumvent unnecessary holiday consumption this season.

Furthermore, ethical consumers may be interested in supporting fair trade businesses in the spirit of the holidays. For example, products with the FAIRTRADE Mark are made according to the internationally established Fairtrade standards, which aim to ensure “decent working conditions and fair terms of trade and to support local sustainability for farmers and workers in the Global South.”

As of 2017, there are over 200 companies in Canada selling or trading Fairtrade products, ranging from cosmetic companies to chocolate companies. These companies produce about 7,000 Fairtrade-certified products to the Canadian market.

While the business of Christmas is not always sustainable, there are convenient options for consumers looking for more ethical alternatives. Perhaps we can learn from the story of the Grinch and realize that the holiday spirit is embodied by gratitude and faith in goodness and togetherness, rather than by accumulating excessive material possessions.

—Madeleine Kelly

A four-step guide to saving

It’s the season of giving but don’t let debts ruin your holiday spirit. Homemade gifts can be creative and affordable, but if you’re the type of gift-giver who lacks the time for creativity or would prefer to shop around, planning ahead and allotting the appropriate amount of time for spending are surefire ways to help you save money.

Here are some helpful tips that I use to alleviate the stress of holiday shopping:

  1. Set a budget. This sounds simple and obvious, but retailers know that consumers buy into their deals. As consumers, it’s important to set a budget to avoid overspending on unnecessary items.
  2. Shop online. Many stores offer the same savings on their websites, making online shopping more convenient and easier for you to compare similar items from different retailers. Many sites will also offer a welcome discount if you join their email list, as well as extra savings and free shipping codes once you’re subscribed, so bear with the overflow of marketing emails just for this season to get some extra discounts.
  3. Spend intentionally. It’s important to consider who you would like to spend money on, so compiling a list of people and assigning an amount of money for each person will help your bank statement stay within budget.
  4. Budget your time as you would budget your money. Time is money, so scheduling and setting deadlines for your holiday shopping will keep your budget on target.

—Tiffany Lieu

This one’s for you, Mr. Grinch

Bah! Humbug! An alternative movie list for those not overly fond of the holiday season

This one’s for you, Mr. Grinch

Look, I get it, you don’t want to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas or It’s a Wonderful Life again. You’re too alternative for Christmas now that you’re in university and learning big words like ‘hegemony’ and ‘postmodernism.’

Join the club. Be a ‘not-Christmas’ Christmas movie watcher. Sip that eggnog and feel smug. Make a comment on your Instagram and Twitter that you, too, are resisting the commodification of Christmas.

So what is a ‘not-Christmas’ Christmas movie? It’s a movie set during Christmas which goes against normative assumptions of Christmas. While a movie like It’s a Wonderful Life might not have anything to do explicitly with Christmas lore, it still captures the spirit of Christmas.

The following movies are the antitheses to our preconceived notions of what a Christmas movie should be. Here are the candidates for ‘not-Christmas’ Christmas movies for this holiday season:

1. Instead of thinking about world peace, get your dose of unnecessary violence and action with Die Hard, 1988.

This one is the original ‘not-Christmas’ Christmas movie. There’s something so cheeky about watching Bruce Willis blow things up when your neighbours are singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” around the Christmas tree.

2. Instead of holding hands around the Christmas tree and singing songs, explore the deepest trenches of alienation and loneliness in Dekalog: Three, 1989.

Poland has never been so lonely in the third episode of Krzysztof Kieslowski’s masterpiece Dekalog. Driving around the streets at night in a taxi, Dekalog: Three places us in the world outside of the brightly lit homes of the suburbs. Here, the inability to connect with other human beings runs rampant. Holiday depression is real, and Dekalog: Three sleigh rides deep in its depths.

3. Instead of enforcing heteronormativity, delve into the psychological tensions of a boy learning about his sexuality in The Long Day Closes, 1992.

Showcasing the pure poetry of subdued queer cinema, 11-year-old Bud (Leigh McCormack) sits alone on the stairs as his entire family eats a meal around the Christmas tree. His two brothers have recently gotten married, but Bud knows he does not fit in. He is becoming increasingly intertwined in a world of ambivalence and ambiguity as he discovers his sexuality in 1950s Liverpool.

4. Instead of romanticizing idyllic Christmas childhoods, dive deep into childhood trauma with Fanny and Alexander, 1982.

In lieu of the Toronto International Film Festival’s celebration of the Ingmar Bergman Centennial, I present to you Fanny and Alexander. This five-hour film — the theatrical cut is only three — is about the life of two siblings as they grow up in 1900s Sweden. Its colourful proclivity to red might appear in line with the Christmas spirit, but the way the film ruthlessly explores the inner traumas so often tucked away when representing childhood is what makes it so ‘not-Christmas.’ Seeing mommy kiss Santa Claus is the least of these kids’ troubles.

5. Instead of wholesome family fun, enjoy sex cults and spooky conspiracies with Eyes Wide Shut, 1999.

Stanley Kubrick’s last feature is so drenched in paranoia and weird sex things that it will make any family have a case of the fantods. But the film isn’t just purely decadent: deep down, it’s an authentic meditation on marriage that dares to go into the obsessional and unsettling elements of love.

6. Instead of going to your church’s yearly rendition of the nativity story, explore the most controversial telling of that story in Jean-Luc Godard’s Hail Mary, 1985.

This film is set in 1980s France and was criticized after its release for telling such an untraditional narrative of Mary’s life. In fact, it was condemned by Pope John Paul II and banned in Argentina and Brazil. Hail Mary dares to offend. It features several nude shots of the virgin Mary — albeit stripped of sexual content — and forces us to rethink discourses of the holy by integrating the divine into everyday life. Hail Mary presents such radical claims of the body, virtue, miracles, and God that it transcends any simple understanding of the ‘Christ’ category of Christmas.

7. Instead of engaging in sprees of consumerism, embrace an ironic attitude to the dystopia of modern culture in Brazil, 1985.

You didn’t know Terry Gilliam’s Brazil was set during Christmas? Surprise! It even features a scene of a drunk Santa in a wheelchair. This masterwork in satirizing office life, authoritarianism, and late-stage consumerism is a hilarious political dystopia that becomes more relevant every day.

8. Instead of resting at home, venture into the cold, outside world of rural Québec in Mon Oncle Antoine, 1971.

Claude Jutra sets this revered film in the Canadian canon on December 24. While you’re snug at home with hot chocolate and all, watch as 15-year-old Benoît (Jacques Gagnon) and his uncle Antoine (Jean Duceppe) wander around in the snow on a dead-body delivery. The movie is chilly and methodical. It’s a slow — or perhaps ‘snow’ — burner that gives you a picture of the delights and challenges of a world outside the comfy, heated city life that Torontonians associate with Christmas.

9. Instead of going on a holiday and taking time off work, climb the corporate ladder and achieve a state of late-capitalist loneliness in The Apartment, 1960.

Closing our ‘not-Christmas’ Christmas list is Billy Wilder’s romantic comedy The Apartment. Taking place during the holiday season, Jack Lemmon plays CC Baxter, a lonely office worker who loans out his apartment to his superiors so they can have adulterous affairs. Baxter is determined to get to the top of the corporate ladder, but that all changes when he meets Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine).

Wilder understands that love shatters our expected course in life. He crafts a film where every line of witty dialogue is perfect in its place. The way Wilder plays with the corporate wishlist of success and the world-shattering gift of love perhaps, more than anything, captures the contradictory nature of Christmas. The Apartment is both one of the greatest ‘not-Christmas’ movies and also one the greatest Christmas movies.