Whenever asked my favorite holiday, the response is always the same: “Thanksgiving. It’s like Christmas, but without the baggage.”
What’s not to love about Thanksgiving? It’s a holiday that gives you permission to enjoy glorious food with loved ones while reflecting on just how lucky we are. No crazed shopping or gift giving required.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore giving presents. But the lunacy of the Christmas season has almost turned me into a furry green troglodyte whose heart is two sizes too small.
When our local stores’ Christmas decor went up last October — denying me both a carefree Halloween and Thanksgiving — I went ballistic, practically swearing off the whole thing. But after a moment’s pause, my resolution became even firmer to take back the season of joy.
So we decided to make most of our Christmas gifts and to scale back on decorating the house. Those hours spent not shopping were some of the best of the year, and the house was surprisingly cheerful and cozy with placement of only a few decorations that have special meaning. While the weeks leading up to the holiday were still too hectic for my liking, it was a vast improvement.
This year, we want to do even more. Or should I say, less.
I recently came across a book that puts into words — far more eloquently than I ever could — my feelings on the matter: Bill McKibben’s Hundred Dollar Holiday. Tired of surviving the season rather than enjoying it, his family and several others pledged to reduce their Christmas spending to $100.
Instead of shopping, they bake cookies for friends and neighbors. They use the holiday as a springboard to re-establish a sense of community, to reconnect with nature, and to focus on something greater than themselves.
I’m down with that.
Inspired by the book, I’m already dreaming up fruity concoctions to preserve as gifts for friends. And Brad’s been steadily filing songs since January for this year’s Skeleton at the Feast. (Not to tease, but I’ve heard the short list, and this promises to be the best compilation yet.)
Other ways we plan to save time, stress, and money:
- A few years ago, hubby’s family decided to stop the overwhelming gift giving. Instead, every family member brings four $5 presents, and we play a hilarious game of Dirty Santa for hours.
- My parents are in their eighties and not in the best of health. Now more than ever, I’d rather spend time walking through the botanical garden with them, driving around looking at Christmas lights, or enjoying meals together. So forget wasting time shopping; I’m going to suggest we only exchange stockings this year and focus on shared experiences instead.
- Our neighborhood association started a canned food drive a couple of years ago, and I hope to continue the tradition this December, using our front yard as the drop-off point. It’s an excuse for a good old-fashioned neighborhood social, complete with Christmas music, hot chocolate, candy canes, and gingerbread for everyone who donates.
What are your tips for making the holidays more meaningful?