Finding Balance with Christmas

Hi Friends,

I want to begin this blog by saying that I am not here to tell anyone what to do.

I understand that some people really love Christmas, and I don’t want to take that away from them.

Christmas can be a fun time of year when the whole family gets together, snuggles by the fire, exchanges thoughtful gifts, and makes memories;

and that is a beautiful thing.

I grew up celebrating Christmas and have fond memories of it.

If you love the holiday, I think that is wonderful!

I am writing this blog for the parents who (like me) grew to see Christmas in a different way; and might be looking for alternative ideas to the holiday.

So, if you love Christmas this blog is probably not for you, and that’s OK. If you feel like it’s something you don’t want to read, then with love, I invite you to skip it.

Here it goes…

As a child I loved Christmas. I loved the tree, the lights, the gifts, playing with my cousins, eating mashed potatoes, wearing stockings and a pretty dress, my mother curling my bangs and accidently spraying me in the eyes with hair spray.

Those were the days.

I have happy, fond memories of Christmas.

So when did I start loosing my love for it?


Probably when we ALL started loosing a bit of our love for Christmas…

The moment we realized Santa wasn’t real.

That was a big bummer, huh?

Some of us took it better than others.

Some of us were devastated and asked the big questions like, “Does that mean the Easter bunny isn’t real?”, “What about the tooth fairy?”, “What about Jesus?”

The “magic”, that was falsely created for years; the magic that we believed in so much, was, in an instant, swept away.

It was a sad day for childhood.

We felt dooped by our parents,

we felt upset,

maybe cried,

maybe argued with our parents,

and then,

we moved on with our lives,

minus the “magic.”


as the years went by,

Christmas got a little less exciting.

We got older.

And older.

And, Christmas was like any other day of the year.

Nothing super special about it.


We had kids of our own!

Then, oh boy,

the “magic” came back!

Am I right?


But I have to rewind a bit here and tell you a little more about my story…

For me, in the middle stages between “I’m getting older and Christmas isn’t a big deal”, and “Woo hoo, now I have kids to celebrate with!” –I was taking a path in environmental and animal welfare. I was going down the hippy path, and seeing things a lot differently.

I cleaned up trash on the beaches, volunteered with endangered shore birds, went vegan overnight on Thanksgiving day, became a crazy dedicated recycler (did you know you could recycle your old mail?), eating organic food, buying all sustainable products, and I began studying environmental science at a local college. It became the biggest part of my life.


The first Christmas after I became environmentally conscious was a real struggle for me.

Instead of seeing the “magic”, I could only see the waste that it created.

It actually made me feel depressed,

really depressed.

I found myself wanting to skip the holiday all together.

I remember telling my family that I didn’t want to celebrate Christmas any longer, and it made them sad. I didn’t want to make everyone feel sad, or disappointed, so I went along with the holiday as usual.

As the years went by, it felt like a piece of who I was, was being sacrificed every Christmas that I celebrated.

It felt painful to me.

So, eventually I had to be true to myself and stop celebrating the holiday.

After Kaia was born, my husband and I both decided we didn’t want to do Christmas, or Santa. It simply didn’t feel like something we wanted to do. We knew it would be difficult for our families to understand, but it was what felt true to our hearts.

As we imagined, our families were pretty bummed about it. They wanted to do the usual Christmasy things with Kaia: Picture on Santa’s lap, red dress, family dinner. It was really difficult for us to follow our hearts on this. We felt a lot of pressure to go along with Christmas because other people wanted us to.

Though, over time, everyone understood.

To compromise, we decided to visit our families on Christmas day, dressed in red, and allow them to give Kaia a gift. So, that was what we did for Kaia’s first two Christmas’s, and that worked out fine.

This year was different for us.

For one, I grew, and changed a lot this year.

For two, we moved 5,000 miles away from home.

For three, I wasn’t the only one who grew this year,

Kaia grew a lot this year.

She’s almost 3 years old now.

She has turned into a kid;

a kid who would probably love Christmas.

As we walked the mall these past few weeks, Kaia would stop at all of the Christmas decorations in awe. She would get excited at the sight of a Christmas tree. She loved flipping over the display snow globes, watching the “snow” fall to the bottom. It was all exciting and fun for her.

Then something else happened…

I got excited for her.

She looked so happy, and I wanted to share that with her.

I was starting to see how simply not celebrating Christmas wasn’t the answer for us any longer.

It no longer felt “true” to me to not celebrate Christmas at all.

I could imagine Kaia growing older and feeling deprived of a major holiday. I could see a future where Kaia felt like she grew up with “weird hippy parents” who didn’t let her do any “normal” things.


No matter how “natural” we raise our children they are still going to grow up in (and be released into) THIS world… the world that we live in. So wouldn’t it be beneficial if we raise our children in a balance of the “natural” way, and the way it is now?

That was the thinking that led me to finding balance this Christmas.


I put Christmas back on the drawing board,

and I thought:

“How can I do Christmas, MY way?

How can I give Kaia a Christmas that felt aligned with my heart?

How can I do this in a way that I felt would give our family balance?”


So, HOW are we going to celebrate Christmas?

Great question! And the truth is that I am still figuring that out.

This is what I have for now…


I still don’t feel good about the idea of Santa. No matter how we spin it, I will still have to lie to Kaia, and I don’t like the way that feels.

So, I did some reading on what other parents have done when it came to Santa, and I found one article from HandinHandParenting.Org that was REALLY good, and gave me some perspective. The article is: here, but I will quote the important part below. First, allow me to set it up, a mother’s 5 year old son just asked her if “Santa” was real after believing in Santa for years:
“I was really torn between keeping the fun and “outing” Santa. I had spent a lot of time building a trusting relationship with both boys where “mom will always tell the truth,” and I really did not want to violate it by lying about Santa. Yet it had been so much fun!

Then I had a Hand in Hand-inspired idea! I told both boys that there is no “real” Santa but that there were many, many dads out in the world who loved their children so much that they pretended to be Santa just so that their children could have a good time. And their father was one of them. Then I asked if they could help keep Dad happy by pretending that they did not recognize him so that he could go on thinking that they believed he was Santa. They boys agreed to do this. They giggled between themselves but kept a straight face around Dad during the days before Christmas.

At the Christmas party Dad left again “to buy the paper” and the boys stepped right into character. The whole time Santa was there they played their roles beautifully, while giving the rest of us winks and smiles.”
I thought this was a wonderful idea.

For me, I am not planning on “doing” Santa with Kaia, and when Kaia asks about him, I will tell her something like the above mother did.

For some people, they might feel comfortable “pretending” Santa with their toddlers until the first time they ask if he’s real, and then tell them the “truth”. (I really do like this idea).

Some people want to go full-blown Santa, and that’s cool as well.

For me, I am happy not doing Santa, and I feel Kaia will get enough of the Christmas experience from us.


What about a Christmas Tree?

iphone_dec2015 328I have discovered this amazing new idea of “Driftwood Christmas Trees”. I first saw one at my friend’s house, and then a few around town. I think it’s a great idea! Not only do I not have to cut down a perfectly good tree, or buy a plastic one; but I get to have a beach day looking for FREE drift wood! What a win-win!

  • I posted a fun video (on YouTube) of us building our tree: HERE
  • Here is a “HOW-TO build your own tree” tutorial: HERE
  • If you don’t live near the beach, you might be able to order one: HERE

Another great idea that my husband had is if you have a fire place you can burn the driftwood (and brown paper bag wrapping paper), creating a cozy Christmas day fire! How cool.

Or, like us, you can bring the driftwood back to the beach when you’re finished with it OR save it for next year!


What about wrapping paper?

iphone_dec2015 345I left my re-useable shopping bags at home for a few trips to the local market, and collected 5 brown paper bags. I re-used those bags as wrapping paper. I added some twine, and red ribbon (to add a little fun) and then marked the gifts with colored pencil.

You can even reuse the ribbon each year, and burn the wrapping paper in your Christmas day fire (like mentioned above).


What about gifts?

For me, I bought Kaia 3 things (+ 4 books) that I knew she would absolutely LOVE.

I didn’t put any “rules” on the gifts (like “locally-made only”, or only made out of recyclable plastics, etc) because I feel it is SO important to show Kaia that I respect her interests and sometimes her interests are outside those “rules”.

Kaia’s Grandma, Nana, and Aunt also sent her presents that I wrapped and put under the tree for her to open Christmas morning.

(We don’t do gifts for each other out of personal preference. Some people like doing adult gifts and that is great!)


What about dinner?

For me, I am keeping it simple. Mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, and mushroom gravy. Easy, peasy and yummy!

What about dinner over someone else’s home? When we lived closer to home we would bring our own dinner and heat it up when we got there (since we are vegan). It was weird at first, but like anything else, the more you do it, the more normal it becomes.


What about “Giving?”

Christmas is about giving, and that is my favorite part about it!

I plan on doing a few charity-like things through out December. Like, visiting/donating to the local animal sanctuary, donating to the homeless here on Maui, and having Kaia choose a couple old toys to donate to kids in need.


What about other December holidays?

We aren’t religious, so celebrating Christmas is more of a cultural thing than a religious thing for us. I think it’s that way for many people, isn’t it? I plan on getting a holiday book explaining each tradition for each holiday in December and reading them to Kaia. I also plan on making an ornament celebrating each holiday to hang on the driftwood tree.

We are all one love- and the holidays are a great time to practice that.

(We also celebrate the Winter Solstice with a candle lighting and intention setting.)


What about family?

My family is 5,000 miles away and I miss them so much. Try to give your family all your presence, and love. No matter the differences you have.


Well, I think that’s it.

I hope you all were able to take something positive away from this blog.

That was my intention.

I also hope that any parents who were looking for new ways to celebrate Christmas more eco-consciously (or “natural”) that this blog gave you some ideas and perspective.

I am still growing, and learning, and may even add to this next year. Please feel free to comment your ideas.

Let’s grow together, and expand on old traditions!


Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!





Other recommendations:

Listen to: “Navigating the Holidays” Podcast by Rich Roll at RichRoll.Com

Watch: “The Story of Stuff” on YouTube


  1. Jessica (The Vegan Recluse or Type1 Vegan Mama on Youtube)
    • December 26, 2015
    • 8:47 am
    • Reply

    Hi! I’ve been watching your youtube videos for a while and saw the awesome driftwood Christmas tree video and the link to this blog! The whole Christmas issue has been a debate in my house for years, like you, there are a lot of things I don’t like about Christmas. My husband really wants this time of year to be special, even though we are not religious. We celebrated and did gift giving on the solstice, Dec 22 this year. I’ve tried to get my husband to go along with no adult gifts, but he’s like a big child himself. He bought me one even though I told him I didn’t want to do gift giving, then he literally threw a fit when I told him I didn’t have anything for him to unwrap. I ended up buying him a small, last minute gift so he could unwrap something that morning.

    We also decided not to do Santa (our son just turned 2 on Dec 15th, so we aren’t really there yet anyway). It’s been difficult trying to decide what to do. We like the idea of a “yule” like celebration on the solstice, with decorations, some kind of living tree that we can plant, or decorating an already planted tree. My family did some of the German traditions when we were kids, we would put our shoes by the fireplace on the night of Dec 5th for St. Nicolas to put candy in our shoes. Then there is Krampus (he’s called something else in Germany though I think), the shadow of St. Nicolas who takes away naughty kids to teach them to be grateful. We may share some of these stories and traditions, while making it clear that these are “just stories.” One tradition is to hang a stocking outside for Krampus. Then you have your child pick an old toy to give to him as an offering to put in the stocking. I guess the idea is that if you were “bad” during the year, you needed to come up with a really good toy offering to persuade him not to take you away to teach you a lesson. We would then donate the toy to charity. I’m not really sure how I feel about that… my husband thinks it’s a wonderful idea and gets the child to pick something of their own that they must give up. I would probably only do this “for fun” and not make it a serious thing where the child is afraid they will be abducted. My husband though… I think he’d rather it be more serious. He said he would even go so far as to dress up as krampus (a demon basically) and sneak into the house to scare the kid if he was bad… which just seems horrible to me!

    I guess the point I’m trying to make is that I totally get where you’re coming from. Christmas time is magical when you’re a child, and I don’t want my kid to miss out on the fun. But I don’t want to lie to him and give him false expectations only to dash his dreams when he’s older. Then, the traditions themselves can be difficult to reconcile when trying to live a more “crunchy”, healthy, vegan lifestyle, and when you have a husband who may be less then cooperative. Good luck figuring it all out! Maybe wish me some luck too!

  2. Kim
    • December 27, 2015
    • 3:55 am
    • Reply

    Thank you for your videos and this very blog post! I loved getting inspiration from your vids on healthy and simple living and so happy you are in Hawaii! One day I hope to be there too.
    We are religious but not overly religious. We go to church every Sunday and our kids attend Sunday school. However 7 years ago when my firstborn was 2 months old we decided “Santa” wasn’t for us. I remember feeling exactly the same way as you described as a kid. Also we felt that the “Santa” fable has morphed into a huge excuse for consumerism in our county. I grew up in Asia for a good part of childhood and “Santa” isn’t nearly as glorified as here in the US. Every year I struggle with family who tries to plant the seeds of Santa Claus and makes statements like “you better be good or else Santa won’t come.” Oh how that makes my stomach churn!! Why would you motivate a small child like this with a fictional character and the promise of toys that you just end up giving them any way.
    It’s like saying ice cream is your special treat if you finish you broccoli- and Yes I am still working on this too ha ha!
    We decided to focus on who Saint Nicholas really was. Yes he was a real person who helped many children in his time. He is alive in you during the holidays as a way to celebrate the true meaning of whatever it is you should be thankful for. So far we still struggle with random people asking my three year old if Santa is coming tonight but I just say we are excited to see Grandpa tonight And my little ones can understand this tangible treat! We continue to celebrate some traditions mainly for family obligations but we don’t make a big deal out of the commercial things around us during this time. I don’t think my kids will miss out being forced to take a picture with a stranger in a crowded mall surrounded by annoyed parents. Happy holidays and thanks for sharing your Christmas celebrations!

  3. Jen Rivera Bell
    • January 13, 2016
    • 9:14 pm
    • Reply

    Absolutely beautiful. Your family is so full of love that it truly radiated out. Thank you so much for sharing.

  4. Rosee
    • March 17, 2016
    • 10:35 am
    • Reply

    Hello Sara
    I watched your videos so randomly,you and your family so healthy,smart and great.Your lovely angel kaia is amazing!
    Your videos make my day better like meditation,you re the most beautiful,fresh,strong and so smart lady,hawaii is best place so fresh,and visuals so beautiful.
    Have you ever watch on youtube pinksofoxy ? Search her on youtube,she is vegan living maui hawaii with her husband,her videos so great like yours,I am sure you will like them.
    Another girl on youtube xoxoBree she is making crafts,if you need inspirations.Do more vlogs please,
    Stay strong and stay happy.

  5. Rosee
    • April 18, 2016
    • 9:55 am
    • Reply

    Hello Sara again,you remind me of little bit cameron diaz 🙂
    I cant without your youtube videos,watching again again and again,cause of your videos and your lifestyle make my day getting better believe me,youre living in heaven,hawaii is one of my best place like a dream for me,cause of super fresh,beautiful flower trees,beaches,sunset,like every beautiful things just got in hawaii.And your house,your cute garden,super pretty.Please kiss your amazing beautiful girl kaia for me,you re the best mom I think,cause its just feeling when I watch your videos;
    You are such an amazing person with BEST REAL heart!!!!
    Cant wait your new vlogs,Stay happy and strong!

  6. Melody
    • July 1, 2016
    • 1:23 am
    • Reply

    HI! I respect your views and feelings. I am one who loves Christmas. I think being honest about Santa is a good thing though. There may not be a Santa really anymore, but there once was a Santa long long ago. A man who made gifts and gave them to people. He is passed away now, but we carry on the tradition he started. Here is some information on that and how St. Nick started. … The stories have changed a lot through the years. My family is one who gifts adults as well. My son and I both have tried to stop the gifts for adults but my mom is old fashioned and will continue to buy for everyone. lol…I love your you tube video’s. Thank you for all you share! You and your family are amazing.

  7. Courtney Messina
    • August 2, 2016
    • 7:14 pm
    • Reply

    I love this explanation of Christmas! I agree with you in that Christmas has become much too materialized and seems to have lost its meaning altogether. Worrying about what I’m going to buy for people stresses me out so much so that I buy presents throughout the year just so I have things once that time comes. You are truly my inspiration, I feel the same way you do on many topics. I’m from the East Coast (and as you know we are not very environmentally conscious or concerned much about health which drives me nuts here) and seeing the way you live your life is so inspiring to me – I can totally see myself doing that one day when I’m ready to have kids. I love that you admit you are not perfect, but still explain your reasoning. I can see myself having a blog just like yours one day. Keep up the good work!

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