Growing up, I remember the holidays bringing with them a certain magical warmth only found in that special time between Halloween and the New Year. The house always smelled good, the twinkling lights dazzled my pupils, and everything seemed to just gleam and glimmer. But, as I’ve gotten older, found a partner and a home of my own, started decorating and hosting, and begun to think of my own kid, I can’t help but get a little overwhelmed by all of it. Here’s the story of my family’s path to simplifying holiday traditions and why you may want to consider doing the same.
How Our Holiday Traditions Started to Get Simpler
A Later-in-Life Realization
I realize now that, behind all of those magical memories of childhood holidays, there was probably (no, most definitely) someone strung out behind the scenes. Someone making those traditions happen, making that magic possible for those around them. Specifically that person was my amazing mom. And, you know what? She pulled it off flawlessly. We always had an amazing holiday as kids.
That Time When Times Changed
As time went on and we lost a few people who were closest to us. Then COVID hit and, well, we were kind of just over it. Over the hullabaloo, over the stressing, and just looking for a holiday that we could all actually enjoy together. We kind of went the Christmas with the Kranks route and just said, the heck with it, we’re going to do something different. Except, in our story, there isn’t a group villainous neighbors working to ensure it doesn’t happen.
It Wasn’t Just My Family
I started to share the story of my family’s casual mission of simplifying the holidays and was really surprised by the responses. In general, most of the people I encountered were also trying to go merry but minimal and I honestly find it super refreshing. Whether people were taking a trip instead of sitting at home or foregoing gifts and consumer tendencies, a lot of people were tired of their age-old holiday traditions.
We Said “Let’s Switch It Up!”
What, exactly, does my family do? One of the first things we decided on after my sister passed away was to get a change of scenery for Christmas. We started going on a beach vacation during the holidays. The big rule? No gifts for the adults and minimal gifts for the kids. My mom rents the house, we cover the flights and everyone pitches in to cook simple meals. The experience and the time together has become the new gift and it’s so much better than any thing we’ve ever gotten before!
We Didn’t Stop at Christmas
This year, we’re leaving home for Thanksgiving and going out for the first time ever. Cooking a giant meal for 6 people (one of which doesn’t eat Turkey) just makes for a lot of time, effort, clean-up and waste so we said let’s scrap it and make a reservation. Was there a time when my mom hosted 30 relatives and we did the entire wizbang dinner? Sure! Was it a blast? Yeah! But we just aren’t there anymore and that’s okay. Also, we may just save some money by going out to eat!
Now, don’t get me wrong, we aren’t total holiday neigh-sayers. We still put up our tree and Christmas decorations and get together for low key gatherings with friends and neighbors. But we’re kind of okay not participating in that traditional strung out journey to the holidays. It’s definitely a change but I can say that all of us end the holiday season more content and relaxed than ever before and I think that’s the true Christmas miracle. Maybe there will be a time when we bring those traditions back but it’s hard to envision in the foreseeable future.
What I love About Our Simpler Season
One of my absolute favorite things about our new traditions is the space they make. Space to escape from the daily grind, space to connect with each other, and space to get away from it all. We’re in a new wave of returning from the holidays refreshed, renewed, and more connected than ever and it’s a welcomed change. We come back from holidays saying “it was amazing” rather than “it was busy”. There’s no drama and no fuss. In a world where it’s crazy enough to be human, we just get a break. While simplifying holiday traditions might not work for every family or every circumstance, my encouragement to anyone who wants it is to give it a try. Let go of one small and stressful piece of your tradition. Jus tonce. Then you’ll know whether or not a simplified season is the right way for you to spend the holidays.
Photo Credit: Megan Nixon