If you’re like many children in the U.S., you probably read a few stories or watched a few movies that follow the same story. The holidays are here and a villain, bad weather, or plain old poverty is gearing up to ruin Christmas for everyone. Thankfully at the last moment the villain will have a change of heart, the storm will pass, or an act of good will changes everything. Christmas always comes for everyone. But this year the jolly, fat man flew right over our house. We didn’t even get coal.
And it wasn’t a tragedy. Perhaps I should explain.
My family is learning to live simply. When we got married we were determined to skip all the traditions that didn’t work for us. We had simple ceremony in the park and hosted our own homemade picnic reception. When we had a baby we were sure we’d handle things in the same way. We skipped the baby registry and asked people to bring used items/hand-me-downs to our co-ed baby shower. We cloth diaper, bed share, and I breastfeed baby.
And then the holidays came.
“What do you want to do?” I asked my husband.
“I don’t know, what do you want to do?” He would counter.
We live in a pretty suburban area, and Christmas came to town in September. It was still shorts and t-shirts weather, but all the shops were already stocking their decor, candies, and specials. Modern covers of Christmas classics were playing in the fall as I picked out my first sweater of the season. I’ll be honest — we were freaked out.
We thought about making homemade gifts or buying second hand, but we didn’t feel crafty and didn’t want to buy new things for our tiny house.
Our extended family is all over the state, and many years we had piled in the car again and again over just a handful of days to see everyone. Our baby seems to be allergic to the car seat and still cries at the sight of it, so we knew this wouldn’t be an option. Instead we decided it was time to build our own traditions as a family.
We thought about making homemade gifts or buying second hand, but we didn’t feel crafty and didn’t want to buy new things for our tiny house. When the Christmas sales came we upgraded our ancient mobile phones and called it a day, but it wasn’t even Christmas.
Finally, my husband asked, “What if we did nothing?”
At first I was kind of scared. Wouldn’t that be sad? Wouldn’t our daughter miss the festivities? I pondered it and then my husband got his work schedule. He was scheduled to work both Christmas Eve and Christmas day. That made our decision pretty easy. We’d skip Christmas.
No one freaked out. And nothing terrible happened. We didn’t hustle trying to think up great gifts for anyone. We didn’t craft late into the night. We didn’t cut down a tree or set up a plastic one or even buy one in a pot and replant it. We didn’t hang lights or tinsel. We didn’t go to church, because we never do anyway. In the end we didn’t even send cards. We just lived our lives. We didn’t stress. We didn’t buy much. We didn’t eat too much.
We hadn’t found anything in Christmas to identify with, and we are not the sort of people to follow tradition for tradition’s sake.
Leading up to the day people who ask, “Are you ready for the holidays?” “Is baby excited about Christmas?”
And we’d reply in a friendly way, “Oh we’re skipping it.”
And people were baffled. “Why would anyone skip Christmas?” they wondered out loud. “Oh, are you Jehovah’s Witnesses or Jewish or something?” I have a friend who even called me a Grinch. But we had our reasons. We hadn’t found anything in Christmas to identify with, and we are not the sort of people to follow tradition for tradition’s sake.
Throughout the season the only thing I longed for was a marathon baking season. So we indulged and made a stack of homemade candy. Christmas came and went without any fuss in our home. We got up and went to bed. We didn’t unwrap or overeat or manage to get everyone we love into one home. We understand why you might have — I have a few friends who really get a kick out of the holiday season and I’m happy for them. I know a lot of people who celebrate in unique ways, but I haven’t met another family who was happy to skip the whole season without any bitterness. But here we are, and I imagine we are not alone.
We are not making any hard and fast rules, but we liked this Christmas-free year so much we’d be unlikely to start celebrating the holiday in the future. We know as our daughter gets older she may have questions about why celebrate holidays differently and skip some all together and sometimes we will struggle for answers to reasonable questions. Essentially, why are we different?
We are different because we tried to stop doing things that didn’t make us happy. We tried to stop doing things we did not understand the value of. Because life can be very short… and life can be very long. We want to live the very best we can, and we want to be happy. Sometimes that looks very odd. And that’s okay.
So this year we skipped Christmas. And it was great.