Now, on to my post. I’m going to start with a story. On Tuesday, November 30 I decided to take my kids to the mall for their annual photo with Santa. I wore nice clothes, and even some lipstick, because I realized there was a good chance my 2-year-old wouldn’t sit on Santa’s lap without me. I managed to get the children out the door on time, so that we could be there as soon as Santa opened at 11am. It was a weekday morning, I didn’t anticipate a crowd. I was wrong.
By the time we got there, the line was already wrapped around Santa’s workshop. Then, to compound things, Santa was late. In front of us, other parents struggled with their own 2-year-olds and people agonized over photo choices. After about 30 minutes in the line-up with my two kids, and eight families still lined up in front of us, it was fast becoming apparent that we wouldn’t be seeing Santa soon. This would have been OK, except that my 5-year-old Hannah attends afternoon kindergarten, and we had less than an hour to go at that point. We still needed to get home, get changed, eat lunch and get packed for school.
I broke the news to the kids that we would have to come back and see Santa another day. They were very upset. Hannah started crying and begging, “Please! We love Santa! We want to see Santa!” I was able to explain to her what the problem was, and she mostly understood, but she was still very disappointed. I understood, because I was pretty disappointed, too. It’s disappointing when your plans fall through.
In the car, I broke down crying. I started thinking about what a hassle Christmas is. We still had weeks to go, I hadn’t even started shopping, and already it was one huge pain in the rear. I was overwhelmed, especially because all of the holiday hoopla stands in direct opposition to my values. I don’t like participating in mass consumerism. I don’t like the pressure to spend, the hours spent agonizing over gift choices, and the garbage bags stuffed full of gift wrap and and plastic packaging and styrofoam padding. It’s a lot of waste for a lot of presents that nobody even really wants. We’re sapping all of the joy from the holidays, and we’re hurting the planet in the process.
As I sobbed over everything that’s wrong with Christmas, I came to a realization. I am in charge of my own life. I can decide to do things differently. I can simplify, and in the process I can make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone. I’m pretty sure my family prefers to live with a mom who is not on her last nerve for the whole month of December. By scaling back and making things easier on myself, I’m also helping everyone else have more fun, too. When I think back to my own childhood Christmases, it’s the time with my family that stands out, not the picture-perfect-ness of the holiday.
How am I scaling back? Here are a few ways:
- My husband’s family has decided to do a gift exchange for the adults this year. Each one of us buys for one other person, and there’s a price limit. Much less shopping, much less expense, much less agonizing.
- I’ve decided that instead of agonizing over hard-to-buy-for people on my list, I’m donating to charity in their name. There are people who can accomplish much more good with $50 than a Starbucks gift card could ever hope for.
- I’m scaling back on my holiday crafting. Handmade gifts are lovely. I plan to make some. But I don’t plan to be at my sewing machine at 11:15pm on Christmas Eve, like I was last year.
- I’m maintaining the commitment I made a couple of years ago not to buy new gift wrap. I have lots of gift bags that I’ve acquired, and what isn’t covered by that can surely be covered in some way or another without cutting down more trees.
- I’m scaling back on gifts for my kids. They will each receive one reasonably-sized gift from their parents and one gift from Santa. They will also get presents in their stockings, and few small items to share. They have more toys than they could ever play with already, there’s no need to go overboard and add a whole lot more to their collection.
I am working hard to make the holidays this year simple and special. I hope that, in the process, I’ll also reduce my environmental impact and increase my own happiness. Because I deserve to enjoy Christmas, too.
How do you keep the holidays manageable? What have you done to scale back, if anything? And what is the thing you remember most from Christmas as a kid? Please share!
I wrote this post for the December Green Moms Carnival, hosted this month by the fabulous Jenn over at The Green Parent. Head on over there on Monday, December 6 for more ideas on celebrating the holidays without the hoopla.