Finding Balance with Christmas
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 argued with our parents,
we moved on with our lives,
minus the “magic.”
as the years went by,
Christmas got a little less exciting.
We got 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,
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?
I 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?
I 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!