Continue America’s tradition to combat useless giving

Christmas tree in Madison Square Park, NYC. Original publisher: Bain News Service. Photo by the Library of Congress

Maybe I just run in the frugal/hippie/earthy circles of people, but all I’ve been hearing about is frugal gift-giving or non-gifting for the holidays. I already had a friend of mine tell me she is giving “experiences” for Christmas: a kid-friendly train ride for her brother and his girlfriend’s two kids; tickets to a play for her mom; shopping with her sisters.

This is the exact opposite from what I see in advertisements: 10 gifts under $10; 20 under $20; etc. I am even guilty of creating such lists. It is catchy and easy.

This all might seem like a new idea, to not give gifts for the holidays and to buck the trend of consumerism.

We really are just taking a clue from our ancestors — in 1911 a philanthropist by the name of August Belmont announced the formation of a new women’s club, the Society for the Prevention of Useless Giving. (See the New York Times’ description from 1912.)

About a year later, the society was so popular that it had enough money from the 10-cent dues to fund America’s first community Christmas Tree ceremony in New York’s Madison Square Park. The group even formed a men’s division.

SPUG went on until the 1940s, when World War II rationing took over. Once the war was over in the 1950s, the group never regained momentum … until maybe now.

Whereas the official SPUG is not revived, the Internet tells a different, informal story. In light of the economic challenges we still face, maybe it is time to give SPUG some thought this holiday season.

More:
Use the three Rs for holiday gift buying
Create DIY gifts

Bethany Fehlinger

Bethany Fehlinger is a journalist in the Design Center at the York Daily Record. She is a graduate of Penn State University, is a York City dweller and has been vegetarian and geek for more than five years. Twitter: @Wonder_veggie

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1 Response

  1. December 27, 2012

    […] ¬†Give non-gifting a try, or combat useless giving. […]

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