This Christmas, I’m breaking tradition.
In the last year, I’ve come to get a better sense of what I truly value. And as much as we all want to play the role of friend, sibling, child, parent, relative, partner, etc. — in my case, wanting to be Wonder Woman for everyone all the time — we still have to create space for our own needs during the holidays. We owe it to ourselves to put that time in for our own well-being and once we do that, we see how we make a positive impact on our loved ones and our community.
So this year, for me, that means staying home over the holidays and treating myself to salami, cheese, wine, books, movies, baths, and meditations. Here are three things I’m not doing this holiday season in order to make room for my version of a Winter Wonderland:
1. BUYING/EXCHANGING GIFTS
Since embarking on my one-year shopping ban, I’ve undergone a “less is more” transformation and replaced my insatiable spending habits with anti-consumerist values. As a result, I’ve rejected consumer-driven holiday gift giving. Spending hundreds of dollars to ensure everyone on your list receives a gift just to keep up with tradition or appearances no longer makes sense to me. I want to decrease physical and mental clutter for myself and my loved ones, not add to it. While the intent is to show our love and thoughtfulness, shopping for and exchanging gifts should not feel like an obligation. I refuse to let the pressures of tradition and consumerist holiday culture dictate when I spend a lump sum of money, time, and energy. That’s why I’m using the holidays as a way to share this life-changing philosophy of spending less and enjoying a more fiscally-peaceful holiday break.
What I’m doing instead: Sharing small, thoughtful gifts throughout the year for my loved ones — even if it’s just a pack of spicy Cheetos or tube of vegan lip balm. I’ve seen that making these smaller gestures all year round has a greater impact than obligatory holiday gift giving, and more accurately communicates how often I think of my loved ones. I also make sure the gifts meet the following criteria:
- Take up minimal space and are environmentally responsible (consumables goods like food or natural skincare, instead of heavy plastic-based knick-knacks like memorabilia or toys)
- Ethical and conscious (cruelty-free or vegan)
- Align with values, not desires
The last one is a way to check myself for when I make an exception. If a gift I want to give is not responsibly manufactured, I have to make sure the recipient will benefit from it over the long-term. For example, if I have a loved one who is an avid home cook and knew they needed a specific small appliance that would help make their life easier in the kitchen and promote healthy eating and saving money, I would gift them that small appliance, even though parts of the appliance might be manufactured with less sustainable materials (for some items, it’s really hard to avoid).
TL;DR: We don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on gifts just because the calendar and society tells us to.
2. SPENDING TIME WITH FAMILY
Yup, you read that right. A friend recently introduced me to the concept of essentialism, which is about saying “no” to things you don’t want do so you have more time to do things you do want to do. I felt that this concept was very much in line with the lessons that come up in my mindfulness meditations or the philosophies that make up my minimalist lifestyle. Just like choosing to not buy gifts in order to fulfill obligations, I am just as precious about my time.
Let’s be real: spending time with family is not what it used to be. Instead of engaging with each other, everyone’s got their head buried in their phones, scrolling on social media. Also, the older we get and the more responsibilities we take on, conversations tend to resort to bonding over the mundane — because when you can’t dive deep into a topic, surface-level updates about your current job, your current commute, and your current sleep schedule are easy, common talking points. When you need to split your time evenly throughout various members of family, there isn’t a lot of room to discuss more stimulating thing like goals, dreams, personal development, books, television, politics, etc. However, I’ve noticed spending time with individual family members/households throughout the year allows for more space to have those deeper conversations and get to know each other on a more authentic level. I value that kind of one-on-one connection more than quick rounds of catch-ups in a crowded house.
What I’m doing instead: Because I don’t take extra time off during Christmas outside the statutory holidays, I’ll be using Christmas and New Year’s as my much-needed personal downtime. I’ve had an insanely busy fall season at work and this will be the only time off I get before my 10-day vacation in spring 2019. So I’m maximizing my days off during the holidays and have massages scheduled on Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve to really feel like I’m taking a relaxing winter retreat. While I’m saying “no” to seeing family over the break, I’m saying “yes” to self-care. And I know I’m looking forward to spending time with my loved ones in the new year when we’re all feeling refreshed after the holiday hustle and bustle.
TL;DR: Make plans to spend quality time with family based on your own schedules and preferred environments that allow for deeper, more meaningful connection.
3. GOING TO CHURCH
I’m about to get real controversial here so feel free to hit the skip button on this one. For most of my life, attending midnight mass with my family on Christmas Eve was one of my favourite traditions. But due to various factors that have influenced me to identify less as religious and more as spiritual, I can no longer support the Roman Catholic Church. Specifically, the overwhelming number of sexual abuse cases that have come to light with no signs of the issue being properly dealt with, has been devastating and incomprehensibly disturbing. While I respect those who hold on to their faith during challenging times like these, I also hope for and believe in positive change. I believe in sending a message to institutions in whatever way makes sense to us as individuals in order to see that change happen.
What I’m doing instead: Thinking of those who have been affected by these horrifying experiences during my deep meditations. These meditations often give me a dose of perspective by focusing energy on loving-kindness, gratitude, and eventually forgiveness, to help shape our feelings, thoughts, and actions around certain issues.
TL;DR: If an institution you once supported is contradicting its message and is operating in harmful, problematic ways, it’s time to boycott.
Are you breaking tradition this holiday season? Have you done so already? Let’s chat in the comments section below.
Warm wishes and the tightest of hugs to all of you, my friends. Thanks for another great year on this Internet thing. I am so grateful for your love and support all year round.
P.S. If anyone is wondering how I pulled off taking these pics without accidentally spilling red wine onto my white faux fur rug, I’d like to keep it real and show you I did not: