Shopping locally this Christmas is a gift to the Royal City

Presents around a Christmas tree.
Presents around a Christmas tree.

As the Christmas shopping season arrives with Black Friday in the US, I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than camping outside of a store in order to buy stuff. Except for shooting, trampling or pepper-spraying your fellow shoppers in order to get at said stuff, of which there were many reported instances this year.

In reaction to the frenzy, the Vancouver-based magazine Adbusters has created Occupy Christmas. It builds on the magazine’s long-running campaign, Buy Nothing Day, a day of rest from consumerism, as well as Occupy Wall Street, which the magazine also started.

Despite the recent controversial Occupy camps in various cities, including Vancouver, Occupy Christmas isn’t about setting up tents at the mall or harassing shoppers, or even, as the Retail Council of BC alleges in a recent CBC story, putting elves, er, retail workers out of a job. It’s about using your resources to “make the conscious decision to fuel your own local economy” during the holidays, and to “really become a part of the holiday spirit.”

In other words, supporting and giving back to your community while you celebrate what I like to call “Non-denominational gift-giving holiday!” So this year, I’m Occupying Christmas, here in New Westminster.

My holiday round usually starts with making greeting cards, and luckily, the best little paper shop around is Paper Poet (665 Columbia Street). They’ve got stamps, papercraft supplies, envelopes and loads of ideas for projects.

If you’re enthusiastic about crafts, but like me, suck at it, there are plenty of places to support others who are talented at making and growing things. Such as the Royal City Winter Market on December 3 and the River Market Holiday Show on December 10, 11, 17, and 18. The Van Dop Gallery, always amazing, is especially sparkly at Christmas (local jewellery, hint, hint to my honey).

For other gifts and decor, there’s a whole slew of local gift shops like Cadeaux, Red Brick, and Lofty Living. I wouldn’t turn down something vintage from Mid-Century Modern Home either! And for kids, Pedagogy Toys has lots of toys and books that encourage creativity, not battery use.

Presents don’t have to be stuff either – the older I get, the less stuff I want or need, so experiences make great presents. A class at the Circus School is good for all ages, or a wine club membership at Pacific Breeze for the over-19s. Then there are gift certificates for local restaurants or perhaps a ticket to a Christmas concert at the Massey. And if anyone wants to get me a ReUp BBQ Founders Crew membership to help crowdsource the funding for a New West location, the moaning you hear will be of pure bacon-filled happiness.

Which reminds me of another important part of Occupy Christmas – giving back locally and generously. From donating non-perishables to the local food bank at the Hyack Christmas Parade on December 19 to sponsoring a family in need to making a Christmas gift bag for a homeless person, there are many ways to help someone in the community have a brighter Christmas.

For me, Christmas isn’t about a bunch of obligatory presents. (Actually, it’s about 90% about the food!) You can think about what you’re shopping for and where the dollars go, and still enjoy Christmas with those you love. Doesn’t that sound sane? Then it must be crazy.

Christine Rowlands is a writer and editor in New Westminster. Her articles have appeared in alive and Momentum and she regularly writes reviews for Yelp. Her least favourite place in the world is Metrotown in December. 

Buy local this Christmas: Here’s where to shop in New Westminster

This is a guest post by Sheila Keenan, a local blogger who has committed to shopping only in New Westminster for one year. She is chronicling her experiences on her blog, My Year of Shopping Locally. If you have some local shopping tips for Sheila (and the rest of us!) please share your suggestions in the comments!

Presents around a Christmas tree.
Presents around a Christmas tree.

I like Christmas presents that get used up or used often. My husband just brought up the Christmas decorations from our crawl space and somehow we’ve become the kind of people who have 13 Rubbermaid containers full of them. (13!) Trying to find room for everything made me realize how cluttered our house is getting, so I’m not into giving or receiving gifts that are just going to take up more space.  Since I’ve committed to shopping locally for a year, I’m also interested in finding gifts that are made as locally as possible. Here are some of the places I will be doing my Christmas shopping this year.

Van Dop Gallery 421 Richmond Street

I wasn’t sure how the gallery would fit with my “use it up or use it often” philosophy, but it’s hosting  “Spirit of the Season” open houses every weekend before Christmas, so the gallery is full of lots of extra goodies, like soap and candles. Besides, I think art does get “used” often—if it’s in your home, you get to enjoy it every day.
It was my first time visiting the gallery. I think I have been hesitant to go because I thought art must equal expensive, but I found a wide range of prices.
There’s also a wide range of things to look at, from silver-plated salad servers with a Tsimshian First Nations design to the bright and colourful art of Grant Leier to charming “tinsel” ornaments. I went through each room twice and I’m glad I did because I saw many things I hadn’t spotted on my first go-round. I’m planning to return next Saturday too, when three jewellers, including Joanna Lovett, will be in attendance.

Queen’s Park Florist 619 Carnarvon St.

I was so pleased to find out Queen’s Park Florist is offering workshops this Christmas season. I’d like to do the Christmas garland one. There are also workshops to create a Christmas planter, flower arrangement and wreath centrepiece, which would all make lovely gifts. Cost is $40, which includes materials. Register by Dec. 1.

Black Bond Books at Royal City Centre 610 Sixth St.

Books are always on my Christmas shopping list. Black Bond Books is one of the few remaining independent book stores left in the Lower Mainland. Their New West store has a regional section with some New Westminster titles such as Royal City: A Photographic History of New Westminster, 1858–1960 by Jim Wolf and The Life and Destruction of Saint Mary’s Hospital by New Westminster author and city councillor Jaimie McEvoy. There weren’t any copies of A New Westminster Album: Glimpses of the City as it Was by local historians Gavin Hainsworth and Katherine Freund-Hainsworth in the store when I visited, but it is a title they also usually carry.

Giving an experience is a good way to ensure your gift doesn’t end up collecting dust in a corner.

Pacific Breeze Winery 6-320 Stewardson Way

Pacific Breeze Winery has intriguing sounding “Private Tasting” packages that start at $25 per person for a minimum of four people. Contact Meaghan Spencer at ( 604) 880-0582 or by e-mail at meaghan@pacificbreezewinery.com for information on how to book. The winery also has a wine club and sells gift baskets.

Paddlewheeler Riverboat Tours #139 – 810 Quayside Drive (east side of Fraser River Discovery Centre)

I used to work at an office on the Quay and I loved watching the river from my window. There was always something interesting going on—barges going by, tugboats pulling endlessly long log booms, seals splashing around during fish runs. This year, I’m planning to take my family on a river boat tour so we can get a view of the Fraser while actually on the Fraser. There are several Christmas season cruises available and the 2011 schedule is already posted online if you are interested in purchasing a gift certificate for someone to use later.

There are many unique boutiques in New West, which Tenth to the Fraser has explored before , but here are two more worth visiting.

Essence Home Decor Suite 118 – 960 Quayside Drive (next to Inn at the Quay)

Owner Lorna Stewart has stocked her store with many local and Canadian items, including crackers from Gone Crackers and Edible Gardens oils, vinegars and spreads, along with a good selection of Olde World Fudge products. There’s also funky jewellery by Canadian designers like Anne Marie Chagnon of Montreal and Canadian-made handbags.

Fraser River Discovery Centre 788 Quayside Drive

The Fraser River Discovery Centre has a small, but well curated gift shop that includes many local and Canadian-made items including art, jewellery (cool glass rings!), candles and Bramies soft leather baby and toddler shoes. Celina Strachan, FRDC’s Operations Assistant, said her goal is to eventually have most of the items in the store be from artisans who live along the Fraser River.