The holidays can bring both magic and madness. The past few years as a couple we have decided to do things a little bit differently around the holidays. For us, this also means breaking traditions on both sides of the family.
Often, what happens around the holidays are unquestioned events, purchases, and habits that have been passed down through the years with family. They can be expensive, tiresome, unsustainable, stressful, and pull from the holiday ‘feels’.
When we were children the holidays were the best time of year! Full of bustle, love and warmth. Family was together and we were unaware of any family drama bubbling under the surface. We stuffed our faces and opened presents without a consideration of their impact or where they came from. Now, I care about that stuff- all of it and so does Charles. This does not mean we can’t enjoy the holidays like we once did.
When I say breaking traditions, I will also say that we are replacing those things with new experiences. As a couple who have strayed from the traditional in terms of the nuclear family order of operations, it makes sense for use to also go a different route for the holidays. (Plus we are millennials- so why not ruin some more traditions set down by…. Haha!)
Here are some traditions to consider breaking and what you could do instead.
1. Christmas Cards
Sending a Christmas Card costs money and trees. While there are levels of Christmas Card depth- from getting family photos to making the cards by hand- it can be a hassle for some. For me, I felt the need to send cards to everyone and write a little message. I was stressed out about designing the card, finding the addresses, sending them out on time… and I just thought- No.
Most people (other than my Grandma) will throw the card out after the holiday and it is just not worth it.
- Send an E-Card
- -Use the app 1 Sec a Day to Record your Holiday activities everyday and share the video online tagging family and friends
- -Call your friends and family- check in- no need for a card
- -Take family photos and use the money normally spent on postage and cards to frame a photo for your home or your parents
2. Cutting Down a Tree
Our earth is literally dying. The trees need to stay in the ground. But if for some reason this is not of concern for you- buying a tree every year costs you money. I have not bought a live tree since I have moved out of my parents home.
- Buy a fake tree (Once and re-use otherwise it is worse for the environment)
- Skip the tree and put lights on your house plant (what we did this year)
- Buy a tree that is ALIVE in a pot and plant it after the holidays
3. There are Many Places Like Home for Christmas
While for some it is true that going home or staying home is essential for the holidays- for us it is not. During Thanksgiving we headed out to the coast with my brother and sister in law. Traveling to a new place during the holidays is incredibly fun and can be a bonding experience if family comes along. Even if travel is not an option for you- returning to the childhood home-space does not have to be your only option if this causes your stress.
- Offer to host the holiday at your place (I know do a Christmas Eve brunch annually)
- Find a cheap Air BnB for the family within driving distance for a “vacation” feel
- Head out and hike a trail or go to the nearby Mountain and play in the snow- don’t get bogged down and stuck in the house
- Set time limits- if not going to Grandma and Grandpas is off the table- set a time limit for yourself and your partner- if it is a stressful time, you do not need to squeeze into the twin bed to wake up on Christmas morning.
4. Commune with Santa or Make a List
I know. I am such a humbug. Really I am not! I just feel it is strange that Santa often lives at the mall or a retail establishment. So we drag the children to a huge store that is marketing to them and have them tell someone what they want- so they can get it. It creates an expectation and is a tradition that is founded in capitalism. (Yes, Santa is a capitalist).
Sending letters is the same- would it be so bad for kids to think that their Grandma really did buy that scarf for them? Magic exists- but maybe we should find it with humanity and connections- not things and purchases.
- Focus on giving and donating- for example instead of the mall bring your cans to the local shelter in person
- Read about the original story of St Nick
- Talk about the rad women who were also Saints and gave to others (This includes all moms)
- Drop the list of wants and instead create a list of things to change or improve- a list of books to put on hold at the library- a list of experiences for the year etc.
5. Buy Gifts for Literally Everyone
Just no. Your co-workers may be rockstars, but they probably do not need a Christmas mug filled with candies. For the longest time I thought that giving gifts to everyone in your circle was what you did if you have “true Christmas spirit”. Well it is also what you do if you have no true budget.
- Host a white elephant party for friends
- Start a Secret Santa exchange at work
- Homemade gifts – bake an extra batch of cookies to put on the break room table
- Save your money and reach your financial goals (or buy something for a loved one)
6. Decorating the Whole House
Oh man. This is how you know I have totally changed in my mindset. I currently have 4 large rubbermaid tubs in the garage filled with Christmas Decor. In fact, I was one of those people who did the Themed Tree. Mine was golden rustic and then a fabulous peacock tree. Don’t get me wrong, I love a themed tree in the local shops or restaurants, but I do not need to put one up every year. (I will just help my Aunt with hers)
We have a puppy and are minimizing so this year -no tree- we turned our house plant into one by wrapping some lights on it. Not to mention covering the outside of your home in lights can be costly on the electric bill.
- Go to a lighted event like Zoo Lights or Peacock Lane (Those are our local ones here in Portland area)
- Light a few candles that smell like pine
- Relax because you do not need to put up and take down 4 bins of decor and try to keep the animals from eating it
7. Layers of Meat
On the holidays it seems that traditions around us always called for the chicken and the turkey (even though we just had one a few weeks ago). Let’s not forget about prime rib and duck and maybe your Uncle shot a deer so throw some venison in the mix too.
- Offer courses of foods that will nourish your body
- Opt to have your breakfast and lunch be meat free if dinner will be full of it
- Try not to stuff yourself like you are starting a diet on January 2nd (even if you are)
- Convert to veganism (haha-jk…or message me to chat about it)
There is no such thing as a perfect holiday plan. There just isn’t. I would cling to Better Homes magazine and look at the perfectly decorated homes, and set tables and matching family outfits. I attempted to make this happen – dysfunctional family and all- but it was not going to happen. So I gave away my Santa PJ’s, but saved the one ugly sweater and said no more to perfection.
- Laugh at the insanity of it all
- Keep your money invested
- Have your children eat a candy cane or doggos eat a bone and cuddle by the fire.
I have more Christmas Spirit now than I have in the past when I tried to keep all these traditions. I enjoy giving in a way that does not clutter- in a meaningful way. I enjoy the smells and warmth of the holidays. I love the lights and the merry attitude. This is what I want to foster- and that can be done in many ways. Keep the traditions that bring you joy. The others can go- and they will always be there to pick up again if you decide.