Downtown Bureau

Scrooged!

Don't let big business control your Christmas gift-giving this year.

By Jason Leach
Published November 10, 2005

Well, it's that time of year again. No, not crisp autumn hikes, playing in the leaves or prepping the garden for winter. It's time to go into debt.

That's right; several months worth of debt, actually. Why? The assault campaign has begun, that's why. Do this small exercise for the next week - note every time you see, hear or read an ad or display informing you that "this is the must-have gift for Christmas" or "we have the best selection for all of your loved ones."

Yep, our corporate-controlled, consumer-driven society is being lassoed in even as we speak and the sad part is most folks don't even realize it. That is, until the January VISA bills start rolling in.

The older I get, the more annoyed I am with each passing holiday - Easter, Halloween, Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, housewarming parties. It never ends. Somehow we've all been led to believe that it is our duty in life to buy overpriced gifts for people that will collect dust on their kitchen counter until they finally toss it in the closet once someone else brings a newer piece along.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not a scrooge or a tightwad. I just hate the fact that once again the big corporations have our wallets wrapped around their fingers. Remember, they really don't care about "your loved ones" or "that special moment". They simply want your money.

None of us wants to be the big loser who ruins Christmas with a big speech about financial responsibility, treasuring friends and family more than their gifts, and ultimately standing there like an idiot reading a "heartfelt poem" while everyone rips open their gifts from the rest of the family.

Fear not. There is a middle ground, one that will leave you feeling a little more satisfied with yourself and will actually be more beneficial to those you are buying gifts for during this next month and a half.

Over the next few issues leading up to Christmas, I am going to give you some small tips on how to spend your money wisely, and how to be more creative with your gift-giving, all without coming across like a scrooge.

For starters, take a little extra time to browse some of Hamilton's locally owned shops and markets. I know it's easier to just whip over to the big box store and grab the DVD player that has been reduced to $79.99.

But stop and think about the origin of that item, and why the company is able to practically give it away. Think about where your hard earned money is ultimately going. Are you supporting Hamilton's economy or simply fattening the pockets on Wall Street?

Hamilton's famous textile district along Ottawa Street North has become much more than just fabric in recent years. Home décor and unique gift items can be found all throughout this great neighbourhood.

Why not head over and spend a Saturday morning browsing the shops before grabbing lunch at one of the local eateries such as Cafe Limoncello. Heck, maybe you'll be inspired to buy some fabric and make a gift for someone. How's that for a personal touch?

For more info, visit http://www.shopottawastreet.com.

Some of the coolest and most unique gift items available in our city can be found at local galleries and art studios. Bill Powell is still pumping out brilliant pieces on Barton Street. Not only is the art good, but so is the conversation. Visit http://www.thestudiogallery.ca.

The art gallery of Hamilton is a perfect way to spend an afternoon. The café is amazing, the art is even better and they have a new and improved gift shop. Again, specialty items and unique gifts are the norm here. And most of the items are made by Canadian artisans and artists. Visit http://www.artgalleryofhamilton.com.

Handmade coffee cups, picture frames, great books and magazines and art supplies galore can be found at Mixed Media on James North at Cannon. This great little shop is in the heart of Hamilton's newest arts district, which stretches along James Street in between the European cafes, bistros and fine dining establishments.

Once again, the owners - Dave and Teresa - are wonderful folks who will take the time to chat with you and answer your questions. Visit http://www.mixedmediahamilton.com.

Perhaps you are concerned with the health and well being of a friend or relative. Instead of the usual gift basket full of chocolate, jellybeans and smarties, why not stop by Global Village Market in Westdale and put together a basket of healthy and tasty items? Fair trade coffee, tea and candy is available along with various spices and other unique condiments.

The Hamilton Farmers Market is a perfect spot to do this as well. Put together your own basket with goods from Ercillia's Fine Foods, Dillys, and Colombian Coffee and Candy. Who knows, maybe you'll turn that certain someone onto organic living, which is far superior to the daily chemical injections we all give ourselves with processed foods and drinks. That truly is the gift that keeps on giving!

On Wednesday, November 16 from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM, the Student Centre Marketplace at McMaster is hosting a fair-trade market featuring coffee, tea, candy and all sorts of jewlery, pottery and many other items made by hard working folks from all over the world. This is a great chance to do some Christmas shopping and pick up a unique item while supporting many skilled men and women from other countries who don’t have many opportunities to sell their goods in a fair marketplace.

This is just a start, but as you can see, it is possible to be smart, creative, healthy, and "socially acceptable" at a time of the year that is anything but.

Join me next time for more local delights and helpful hints as you prepare for Christmas in Hamilton.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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