RSS
Facebook
Facebook
Pinterest
Pinterest
Instagram
Google+
http://alyshalewis.com/2018/01/02/our-little-christmas-2017-how-we-do-holidays-more-mindfully-than-before">
LinkedIn

We tend to be divergent when it comes to holidays. We aren’t exactly fanatics for holidays in general, so we often find ourselves putting our own swing on it so we can celebrate it in a way that we are proud of and more-so suits our moral values. As a child of no religion I never really learned where most holidays were derived from until probably my mid-teens, and more seriously the past 4 years. As we came to understand many of their histories we realized they just didn’t quite hold the same value to us as I’m sure they do to others with different beliefs, so we decided to alter their meanings a bit for us and make them fit our life in a more meaningful and wholesome way. We are reserving our right to alter our approach and traditions as we all grow and evolve as a family too! For now, we are just learning how to live in a more mindful & less materialistic. A way that brings me joy personally. Shedding patterns from our past so we can live what we consider the “spirit of Christmas” every day, with the focus more on love and less on receiving goods.

Today, more than ever, I hold the personal belief that all things in my life really should be done mindfully. If I don’t understand why I’m doing something then it won’t sit right and I find myself resisting. This stands no different when it comes to Christmas. Maxsen is almost 4, and where we used to get away with just skipping through holidays in whatever fashion, since he didn’t quite comprehend what it was, we knew this year we had to decide what approach we would take. I passed a ton of thoughts through my head like usual because I knew that this year was the beginning of setting the foundation for future Christmases and where someone else may think my thought process is silly, this is the manner in how I believe all decisions I make need to be made:

Would we introduce Santa to him this year? What would that teach him ultimately? Will he even believe in Santa, or how might he feel when he finds out we were pretending? Are there ways we could introduce the magic of just pretending in this situation, where he’s involved in the imagination process? Should we change the focus off gifts and put it on activities/cooking for family/quality-time instead? How many gifts should we get him? Should we tell him “Santa” got them for him, and which gifts will we determine will be from Santa? How can we teach Maxsen to be humble when he receives gifts and also just conscious of others? What message are we sending with the type of gifts and also the quantity? At the end of it, what message do we want him to get for what Christmas is all about?

The thoughts didn’t end there but I’ll spare you the rest. I’m sure you’re starting to understand how my mind works though.

If you didn’t already know, I was born and raised Canadian – from Ontario specifically. My husband John is a native of Pennsylvania. I moved to live with him the beginning of 2011 and in December 2014 we opted to just sell our house – moved into an RV full-time – and headed down south to Florida, where we now reside. We recently purchased 16 acres in Central Florida and are currently living in a shipping container house we converted ourselves with non-toxic materials, while also finishing a 1200 sq. ft pole barn into a 900 sq. ft one-bedroom with a garage. Busy is an understatement this Christmas, and also finances running a bit low. So already we knew things weren’t going to be “traditional” regardless.

Living away from our families – who live 7 hours apart from each other in different countries – of course makes celebrating the holidays with family a little tricky, considering the distance and the insane airline pricing that surrounds the holidays. We sort of refuse to pay the inflated plane ticket pricing, and we really don’t want our family to pay that either when you can fly a few weeks before or after for about 1/4 of the cost. We also always find ourselves unsure of what country we should be celebrating in even if we did go, since we are a multi-citizenship family and we simply can’t afford to make both visits at Christmas so the stress we put on ourselves to make everyone happy overwhelms us and kind of just takes away from the holiday and brings up old emotions for me.

Growing up with parents who had separated when I was about 5 – who disliked each other enough that they couldn’t coexist whatsoever – I was one of the many of us who celebrated Christmas morning amongst 2 houses most of my life. As a child it felt like it was a constant dash the entire day, from one parent’s house to another, to grandparents to great grandparents to cousins.. and someone was usually upset in the midst of that. We were either late, or about to be late and frantic – ALL day. Needing to just eat, open gifts fast and go to the next stop – enjoying the day in a relaxed state was just sort of non-existent. And I would soak up the energy of everyone all day operating at that frequency, leaving me exhausted.

In that style of celebrating I think it was easy for us to lose sight of what the holidays really could’ve been about – quality time and giving. We were too busy though with too many people in different places to please, living the day out to keep everyone happy all within just that one day usually because somewhere along the line it seemed like everyone started to believe if you weren’t celebrating Christmas on the actual determined “Christmas day” then it didn’t count. We weren’t given an alternative reality that we could celebrate with different people on different days – like Christmas Eve perhaps or even earlier. We did do this a little when I was a bit older but Christmas day itself still stayed just as scheduled. So for me as a child I really just felt like Christmas was a day that I got presents from everyone, didn’t have many quality interactions because there wasn’t enough time, usually got sick from eating such a vast variety of foods because of my stomach issues at the time and went home exhausted. I wish I could say differently, but my perspective of Christmas left me feeling every year like it was more of a hassle if anything. Trying to determine what parent gets us for the morning, knowing someone would be complaining either way. Trying to determine where my half-brother was going to be and whether we’d actually get to spend it with him that year – rushing the entire time at each house so you can keep on schedule for the next house…for me it just didn’t leave me feeling the “Christmas spirit”. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful, my love language just wasn’t the same as everyone else it felt like. I always wondered “Is there a more enjoyable way this could be done?”. I know my parents did the best they could for their level of awareness at the time, and I’m clearly thankful that we even had Christmas experiences at all. For me it just really became a day that I just associated with materialism and compromising my own values to ensure everyone got what they wanted. I still loved the idea of Christmas, just the way it played out for our family wasn’t exactly my ideal holiday.

Now taking those experiences and flipping them – because what good is it to recognize an area of discomfort but not improve on it – I knew I wanted to reinvent Christmas for my own kids, and myself. In my head I’ve figured out the most important things about Christmas for me and hope to be able to bring them to life in the years to come.

Christmas in Central Florida is definitely much different from what we are used to weather-wise. The feel is a little off from our “norm”, growing up with snow and cold weather. This morning we walked outside and found ourselves whining about the wind being a bit brisk, until we began laughing at how ridiculous we sounded. Growing up in the north has definitely humbled us both with weather that’s for sure. Moving away from family has also changed the holiday entirely where we’ve now recognized that if we want to live out our desires of having a one-spot relaxing family-filled Christmas we absolutely need to gather everyone at a remote location or at our own home.

This year, and the past few now since we moved, we’ve enjoyed our Christmas intimately as a family. Just John, myself and Maxsen first – and then Clary once she was born before last year’s Christmas. I can’t tell you how freeing it was to spend my first Christmases in my life where I had nobody to please but my immediate family members – my husband and son, and then my daughter too. It was a form of detoxing, shedding the energy that I’d previously suppressed from the connotations I had about Christmas. It’s been healing and allows me to recreate Christmas for us.

So this year I am in a fresh place emotionally, but it was also the first time again that we really found ourselves wishing we were celebrating the holiday with others. We are just finishing up our building which will have a normal-sized kitchen for my first time in 3 years basically. (yayyy!! Upgrade from my tiny RV kitchen and then my toaster oven and single electric burner in the container house!) Next year we really hope to do a big family plant-based Christmas on the property, maybe in early or mid-December when flights are still low.

Ultimately, when I imagine my ideal Christmas this is some of what I see:

    • Cooking with friends and family
    • Board games with everyone
    • Kids running and playing everywhere
    • Christmas lights
    • Friends holding other friend’s kids and playing collectively
    • Vegan plant-based foods
    • Conscious gift giving & wrapping choices if people choose
    • Feel-good Christmas movies/music
    • No further expectations, just a place and day to relax and enjoy each other
    • LOVE & LAUGHTER & FAMILY & CONNECTION (family is built, not always blood)

So as the years go by, this is my dream Christmas and I’m making it a goal to strive for it. I’m not sure how many times we will make it up North for Christmas so if I can create the environment for family and loved ones here I would absolutely love it. Keeping it vegan makes things so much easier for our family too, we don’t need to worry about inadvertently offending anyone and we can all eat freely without concern of not knowing if there are animal products within our food. I LOVE to cook for people and it makes me happy to create delicious food, I also love just the vibe of being in a kitchen together. The vibe of watching your loved ones loving your children. Watching people you know be brought together. Seeing everyone chatting and laughing. Christmas is a beautiful tradition to me and I’m excited about the idea of adjusting it to fit within our life and morals a little better. 

So how do we adjust holidays to fit our morals better?

There are a few things that I have started implementing already and have made it my goal to continue to improve on for how we do Christmas within our little family, and if you vibe with it too you may find it useful for your own Christmas.

  1. Being mindful of gift-giving! Be authentic. Don’t purchase a gift just for the sake of feeling the expectation to give a gift (I think most of us have done this). My goal is to learn more about those that I love. See them deeper than ever and know that if they were to receive a gift from me, it would be something that spoke to their heart too and they would know that I understand them on a deeper level. I think that gifts are powerful when they send a message of “I know who you are, I know what you like and I got this because I believe it suits you perfectly.” Give from the heart. If you don’t know what to give someone but want to give something, don’t buy a random silly item that you like, just create a card instead. Maybe write how you feel about them 🙂 and then also take note that if you don’t know anything that that person would personally enjoy or anything they are into, or you have to guess, then you don’t know that person well enough to create or purchase a gift for them. Just grow from it.. it’s a sign that you could be listening to them more and asking them more questions about themselves. Your gift to them would be getting to know them in a deeper way. I know personally I would LOVE to take a handwritten card over a random gift of no real meaning. I think gifts have such an impact on the receiving person but only when they are delivered with a deep love and meaning.
  2. image of Christmas presents hand-decorated and wrapped in recycled paperWrap eco-friendly! Save money & the earth by stashing wrapping paper and gift bags from other items you receive throughout the year so you can reuse them! I don’t really receive “gifts” per say but we order from Amazon a good amount because it saves us traveling to town constantly, but my biggest pet peeve is often the waste of the packaging. Especially since it’s all single use!! We save a good amount to reuse for shipping other items but we received a few packages full of packaging paper a few months ago so I just flattened it and saved it to wrap the kids presents this year! I actually used Tyvek tape from our building supplies since I had no tape (lol improvise y’all) and I used a marker to decorate! No added cost! Nobody cared that it wasn’t scotch tape. Maxsen thought it was cool that I drew on the packages. 
  3. QUALITY not quantity when it comes to gifts! For the kids I try to reduce the load of presents they’re receiving and instead try to pay attention and really pair them with the things they seem most desired for at a certain time. I am being aware of it as time goes too. Last year Maxsen was super happy with the few things he got, one of which was a tool bench that he loved. His first Christmas we got a few gifts, but I recognized he was always trying to push my broom and other things so we got a mini vacuum and this was seriously his favorite toy for about a year and a half! This year he had expectations from somewhere that he was getting a toy excavator. He never brought this up to me, so all I could think was perhaps my in-laws mentioned this to him at some point and he remembered it, since kids remember EVERYTHING like that, so I’m not sure. Because of this, when he opened his first toy from his grandparents he felt disappointment and cried because he wanted a little excavator. This would surely teach me a lesson as I’m trying to figure out a way to give gifts in this quantity (we only got a few but his Gigi sent quite a few) without creating expectations. I want them to feel excited for new gifts to try and the meanings they hold, rather than always feeling a need for certain material items. Not sure how I’m going to approach this next year yet. If you have any ideas on this, please leave me a comment below! our Christmas vegan sushi dinner
  4. Cruelty-free meals. This year we made loads of veggie sushi for our “Christmas dinner” and loved every bit. At large gatherings – this is reality for us – it’s very hard to sit around a table full of food dishes that could easily be made without stealing the milk from cows or murdering an innocent being for your meal. It’s normal for most, but it’s upsetting for us to look at and also to explain to our very empathic child that that’s a dead bird’s cooked body in the center of the table and also explain that all of the foods have cow’s milk within them in some form. He knows these things, but it really sucks putting it right into his face when he understands and doesn’t want to unnecessarily hurt animals when there’s so many other things to eat. We don’t feel upset because we’re judging you and your choice to consume it, but because our perspective causes us sadness to know that animals suffered for the food that surrounds us. For a non-vegan this may not make sense, I know I wasn’t aware of this in the same way before I went vegan in 2014. We just enjoy our meals more when we aren’t staring at foods that make us feel sad for other beings. It is easy to make plant-based dishes of any comfort food that blow you away in taste. Planning the dinner creates a safe space emotionally for all of us. (post coming on how we do dinner when we are amongst non-vegans) and also always making an extra effort to make vegan dishes of large portions to bring to places that we know don’t have options for us – so that we can enjoy our meal personally but also share with others what other options they could have too that are meat and dairy free! All you can do is live your truth and those that gravitate towards you, will. 
  5. Christmas trees I aim to make a conscious effort to choose a tree that can be replanted each year! Doesn’t have to be a pine tree, just something that is potted. I know not everyone would do this but it’s important to still be aware of this: There are approximately 25-30 million Real Christmas Trees sold in the U.S. every year. It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical height (6 – 7 feet) or as little as 4 years, but the average growing time is 7 years. [source] The years it takes to grow a tree, approximately 7 years – when we use them for a month and discard of them. On the flip side, artificial trees seem like a more eco-friendly option since you can reuse them however they are made of PVC and they have done studies to show that trees made of PVC are mostly all containing lead which can be transferred by hand contact but also is found in dust particles that were tested under the trees. The summary states “While the average artificial Christmas tree does not present a significant exposure risk, in the worst-case scenarios a substantial health risk to young children is quite possible.” [source] I think this is a valid concern personally. Artificial trees are made of plastic so thankfully we have the option where we live and we can choose a tropical plant type tree instead. Depending on your area, whether you live in an apartment or not and can or can’t get a full-size real tree into your house you’ll have to choose what’s right for you. I don’t care if people judge me for having a tree that looks different than everyone else’s. At the end of the day the Christmas lights are just as beautiful and I feel good personally about having a beautiful tree/plant I can add to our landscape in January.
  6. Decorations – have you been in a thrift store? We have no shortage of pre-bought holiday decorations! I don’t really need to contribute to more consumerism in this category so my goal next year when our place is done is to source out some really amazing pre-loved decorations to jazz the place up! 🙂

I would consider these 6 things to be the top areas I want to implement and improve on in the coming years. The point of living more eco-consciously is to seriously just do the best we can, to strive for progress over perfection. It’s really difficult to challenge the status quo in society, and also to be conscious of your impact on the earth when society is set where we waste waste waste without thinking – but if it’s something that you value then I absolutely encourage you to try! Family is the most resistant to you usually and we’ve had the most struggles there of course – because it’s their tradition that you are questioning. If you can just speak out of love and conviction, remembering that not everyone is in the same place as you are in life, then you can slowly encourage acceptance. Not everyone will understand right now and that’s okay, push through it yourself and believe in the bigger picture.

If you can relate to this or have any of your own ideas to share on this topic, leave a comment below! I’d love to read them and am also looking for ways to improve in these areas.

We just have to do the best we can with where we’re at. When we know better, we do better.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. xo

 


Did you like this post? Pin it by choosing the image below that speaks to you the most!

Or share it in another way below ↓
do you want to make holidays a more mindful experience? (pinnable image)How we celebrate our eco-conscious vegan Christmas (pinnable image) How we do our Christmas eco-conscious and vegan (pinnable image)

Mother of 2 / plant-based vegan family / healing physically and emotionally + always working to raise my consciousness. Married a professional motorcycle racer and run a holistic-style motorcycle training school while we live on our 16 acres in Florida and travel throughout the year. I write, I design, I research, I create. I never stop learning. Striving for progress not perfection.

My words are in no way coming from a place where I am judging others who think differently than me, my words are to assure those that do think like me that they are not alone.

SHARE THIS ON:

Mother of 2 / plant-based vegan family / healing physically and emotionally + always working to raise my consciousness. Married a professional motorcycle racer and run a holistic-style motorcycle training school while we live on our 16 acres in Florida and travel throughout the year. I write, I design, I research, I create. I never stop learning. Striving for progress not perfection.

My words are in no way coming from a place where I am judging others who think differently than me, my words are to assure those that do think like me that they are not alone.

Join the conversation

Instagram

Follow Me!

Sign up for my email list