Advent Conspiracy

Every year you think, “I’m not going to get stressed out about Christmas and buying gifts,” but then the 20th of December hits, and suddenly it’s panic city.

Your coworker got you a gift and you didn’t get her anything. Now you feel horrible, but you can’t get just her one and not everyone else in the office. Then your mom calls to say she’s decided the family’s doing a secret Santa at the last minute, and now you have to get something under $50 that won’t look like you only had a few days to think about it. Before you know it, your blood pressure and budget are out of control. You think to yourself, “Okay, next year will be different.”

Regardless of whether or not you celebrate Christmas, it bombards you from every angle, or at least all the must-haves that go along with it do. If you didn’t feel like you needed to get to the closest mall already, you will after that umpteenth commercial showing how everyone else is, or when those unbeatable prices pop up on the side of your screen and promise they’ll never be back. It starts with Black Friday, and then it’s downhill from there.

What if you went into the season with none of that? No expectations, no one to disappoint and no anxiety over credit card limits. You’d have more time, for one thing, more energy, and I’d hazard to say more fun. What if we conspired to make Christmas more about what it’s really supposed to be? Love, hope, joy and peace.

Well, someone beat us to it. There’s already a growing movement of Christmas infidels. In two words, it’s an Advent Conspiracy. A group of church pastors got together a few years ago to see about “restoring the scandal of Christmas by substituting compassion for consumption.” Religious or not, this is a line most of us can pause, sigh and nod our heads to. It just sounds right. It’s also a reminder that indeed, Christmas has become a scandal. The simple story of a stable and shepherds is a far cry from the bling and more bling of this most expensive season. Last year, Americans spent $400 billion just during the month of December. The average household shelled out $750. Recession, what?

The goal of Advent Conspiracy is to change that. To take all that consuming, turn it on its head and “spend less, give more, love all.”

Spend less: Some of my favorite times during the holidays are spent at do-it-yourself fairs and craft get-togethers I have with friends. We spend an evening together where we bring our crafts and make our friends and family gifts—gifts that mean the world to them. Not a crafty person? Neither am I. That’s why Pinterest has become my little friend. There are a plethora of ideas for DIY projects that will help you knock people’s socks off with your Martha Stewart self. Okay, maybe she’s not the best example. But you get the picture.

Give more: But not things. I love the idea that “the most powerful, memorable gift you can give to someone else is yourself.” It’s about time. Take your nieces and nephews out for a play date on the weekend, walk your elderly neighbor’s dog or go for a hike with your best friend instead of shopping, where you might only get a word in edgewise through the dressing room door. Giving ourselves away is about quality, not quantity.

Love all: By spending less on things no one really needs, we can give our resources in ways that will literally change people’s lives. Advent Conspiracy started with three churches, but today thousands have joined in and are raising millions of dollars toward, for example, drilling wells in countries where there is no access to clean drinking water. What better way to say merry Christmas than to offer someone the gift of health and a future for their children?

The cool thing is that we can all do this, no matter our beliefs. Spending less, giving more and loving all is the way we change the world, and not just during the holiday season.

It’s a conspiracy we can all truly believe in.