Well, Merry Christmas! Haha, with a title like that you may not be feeling the holiday cheer exuding from this post. However, I challenge you to stay with me on this one and I think you’ll find that I’m full of cheer, just not consumerism.
I wrote an article about enjoying Christmas a minimal consumer. In it, I share some tips on minimizing the consumption and embracing the family time. Maybe questing conventional things is not your shtick but if you’re reading my blog, I suspect it might be. So let’s talk about starting a Christmas revolution…
What do I mean by Christmas revolution? First, let’s define revolution:
- a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system.
Christmas is certainly a social order and/or custom for many of us. I realize that not all people celebrate Christmas but there certainly are a lot of us who do and the marketers sure play it up! I’m putting out the call to those in the financial independence community and, of course, to anyone else reading this who agrees with me.
Let’s overthrow the customs of shopping, spending, excessive decorating, and whatever else you find exhausting about the holiday and get back to the basics.
The Marketing of Christmas
I’m pretty sure most people know that the holiday of Christmas was created to celebrate the birth of Jesus. As the bible goes, three wise men brought gifts to baby Jesus when he was born. Somehow this gift-giving has hijacked the entire holiday season. Additionally, there are all kinds of modern-day customs to go along with it:
- Christmas lights
- Christmas trees
- Peppermint lattes
- Candy canes
- Christmas cookies
- Santa Claus
- Nut roll
I’m fine with many of these traditions, especially the nut roll. 😉 However, I’m not fine with people exhausting themselves to prepare for the holiday. Read this post by the Fioneers for some alarming statistics on holiday stress.
Do you know how many people have said to me in the last month that they are stressed out because of the holidays? Or they don’t have enough time to get it all done? Or they hate shopping?
Well, I didn’t count (I probably should have) but it was a lot of people! I’ve had so many conversations with people who say they prefer Thanksgiving. Why? Because Thanksgiving comes with no obligation to buy gifts. It’s just a holiday where the family gets together to enjoy one another and eat. It’s lovely!
So back to the marketing…we are bombarded this time of year with commercials and advertisements enticing us to spend way more than we should on gifts for our loved ones. I don’t really watch TV but I’m fairly certain there are a plethora of commercials of spouse’s buying each other cars. Whaaat?? I’m not married but I’m pretty sure I’d be pissed if my spouse made such a huge financial decision without my consent. Nonsense!
I’ve seen so many billboards advertising jewelry. They seem to be designed to guilt men into feeling like the best way to show their wife and/or girlfriend they love them is with an expensive piece of jewelry. More nonsense!
The Revolution Starts with You
Yes, you! How does anyone make a change in this world? In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, “be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
If more of us do our own little overthrow of these customs, maybe it’ll catch on. Perhaps we’ll start a movement. Maybe, just maybe someday people will say I love Christmas because there is no gift-giving obligation and we simply enjoy family and food. A girl can dream, right?
It all starts with us and our families. I’ve found that nothing can really be forced on anyone but if we find something we believe in, we get to be an example to those around us. I’m not really stressed about this holiday but I’m surrounded by people who are. I don’t go around telling everyone how little I’m doing to celebrate Christmas, but if others complain it certainly opens the door for me to share this alternate path.
Here are the action steps that I believe we can all take in an effort to create a Christmas Revolution:
- Cut down on the decorating. A simple Christmas tree and lights can be nice but who needs a full house of decorations that only stay up for one month? I mean if you like lugging out boxes from your attic and decking the halls only to pull the same box back out of the attic a month later and take it all down, go for it. Not me! Here is my minimal Christmas tree this year. Simple. Charming. Easy.
- Don’t shop. This may sound sacrilege when it comes to Christmas but I’m serious. If you must…how about doing it a little more creatively? Like budgeting and shopping in the offseason. Hmm, novel idea to avoid the craziness of holiday shopping. Or how about gifting experiences rather than stuff? I imagine my family’s tradition of Christmas gift-giving will not cease upon my request. However, I can control what I give. I like to consider myself a generous person so it’s not that I don’t want to give. It’s rather that I don’t want to stand in stores wondering what I should buy my loved ones. So I don’t. I find creative ways to gift experiences to my family.
- Say no to parties. While I’m sober, I’m not a party pooper. I’m all for having a good time with family and friends; however, it seems there are so many parties & gatherings this time of year that people drain themselves running from one to the next. Why should something fun be an obligation? If you get invited to more than you can or want to attend, say no. People will get over it. In the book Essentialism, Greg McKeown talks about the answer of “no” being an opportunity to trade popularity for respect. Be the type of person whose yes means yes and no means no! Respect is the new black.
- Donate your time & money rather than gifts. There are a lot of people in unfortunate situations in this world. Being that Christmas is associated with giving, how about donating money and/or time to people in need? I actually see this one taking off more than the others. If we go to our families and say next Christmas rather than getting me gifts, please donate to this cause, they might be inspired. Or better yet, perhaps we go to our families and say how about we all donate our time & money to people in need instead of getting each other sweaters and trinkets. Some examples to give to are:
- Local homeless shelter
- Halfway house
- Recovery center
- Students in the inner city
- A people group in a third world country
- Make Christmas day simple. Get together with your families to cook, eat, play board games, talk, laugh, love and be thankful. It doesn’t have to be about opening a flurry of presents under the tree or making everything perfect. Just hang. And if you have little ones who’ve already become accustomed to the gift-giving tradition, how about doing what I do for my niece & nephews? I put them on a scavenger hunt where they are taken all over the house to unwrap clues until they get to the final gift. This year their final gift is a wallet with money and a promise for an adventure day with Auntie Dee. The catch is they have to save that $ until we have our adventure day. I’m teaching them delayed gratification this year. 🙂
Okay, so am I crazy to want a Christmas revolution? I think not. I suspect that many people, either secretly and/or openly, wish the stress and obligations could be skipped. Well, I’m here to say they can be!!
Like any other time we question conventional thought, we need to think creatively and outside of the Christmas box on this one. So who’s with me?