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:
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.
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.
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
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