My family doesn’t do Christmas (or Hanukkah, or anything remotely similar). We dropped it about 20 years ago, when some of us began complaining about crowded shopping malls and long to-do lists and holiday stress. None of us have children, so really, we can do whatever we want.
Once we made the decision, a great tradition was born. Every year at Christmas we would go somewhere and eat Chinese food and watch a movie, or sometimes go skiing. One year we spent the holidays in Austin, Texas, where I was living at the time, and went out to see the premier of Pulp Fiction. Another year we went to Portland, Maine where my brother was living and ate sushi and stayed out late.
In more recent years the tradition has faltered because I was teaching skiing in Colorado and always had to work over the holidays. But now I’m back home with the family, so this year we’ll do the dinner-and-a-movie thing again. I’ve been watching my friends frantically buying and wrapping presents and decorating their homes and baking cookies, and while some of them are certainly having fun some of the time, most of them seem to be having no fun most of the time. They look just as harried and over-worked as they were in their offices before they went out for their holiday vacations. They looked forward to a break and then they saddled themselves with even more responsibilities than they had before the vacation.
Meanwhile, I’ve been having a relaxing week, catching up on work projects in the mornings and hiking with my dog in the afternoons. I plan to do the same all through next week. When everyone returns to their offices on January 3rd and pulls their hair out over how much catching up they have to do (and how tired they are from the vacation to-do lists), I’ll be feeling ahead of the game and well-rested.
I’m not saying it could work for everyone. If you have kids, you probably gotta do the holidays. If you’re a devout Christian or Jew you may feel strongly about maintaining some holiday rituals. But sometimes we think we have to celebrate things in traditional ways just because it’s the done thing. What the holidays really mean to me is spending time with my family. That doesn’t have to include the trappings of Christmas commercialism, does it?