As Christmas decorations start appearing everywhere, our thoughts begin to turn to how we will spend our festive holidays – from what to buy and what food to make or bring, to what to wear and which family gatherings to attend. But if you find yourself cursing the holidays, cringing at the forced spending, loathing the obligatory gift-giving or dreading the forced frivolity, here is a revolutionary idea: just opt out.
Christmas is in no danger of extinction. Retail sales and spending will continue to rise, carols will endure and Santa will still be making an appearance at a department store near you. But just because it’s always been done this way doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it.
Those who’ve decided to create their own Christmas traditions say the transformation has made them more sane, more relaxed and less indebted. Imagine the places you could visit and see with the money you would ordinarily spend at this time of year. In fact, travelling at Christmas, whether locally or abroad, has helped many disconnect from consumerism, live conscientiously and redefine their holiday to give them more freedom. Shared experiences and homemade presents replace the store-bought gifts and manufactured memories.
That’s what Irene Levine decided to do. In an online article, the New York psychiatry professor announced she was skipping Christmas to save money and the environment, after buying 60 holiday gifts. “I was losing the joy of shopping and gifting,” she wrote. For her, the change was “liberating” and resulted in a much happier holiday. “It’s less anxiety-producing because it feels like there’s more room for pleasure and less need for perfunctory gifts.”
Opting out only works if everybody buys into the idea, though, and that’s where it can get tricky. Make sure you give everyone ample notice of your plans – and don’t be afraid.
However, if the thought of checking out altogether is too much to bear and you find your merry sentiment kicks in, you could always just downscale your celebrations.
5 Ways to Undeck the Hals
• Treat yourself to a concert or show instead of exchanging gifts.
• Email holiday well-wishes and photos instead of posting cards.
• Hold on to a few extra kids’ birthday gifts to use at Christmas.
• Dine out with friends or organise a potluck at home or outdoors.
• Pick a destination holiday and gift it to yourself and your partner.