Why I Quit Christmas

Everywhere I go this week, I’ve faced the usual holiday small talk: What did you buy on Black Friday? Are you done with your Christmas shopping yet? Did you get a real or fake Christmas tree? Are you hosting a Christmas party? Are you putting up lights outside this year? Do you want some Christmas cookies? 

It seems like all everyone wants to talk about is Christmas shopping, decorating, eating, and over-indulging.

I’ve learned to smile politely and say simply but firmly: “I quit Christmas.”

Usually, the conversation shifts immediately to something else, but every once in a while, someone wants to know “why did you quit Christmas?”. I’m happy to share my why and thought I would also write about it in case anyone else is considering quitting Christmas this year.

It Started With The Christmas Math

Twelve years ago, my husband and I decided to do some Christmas math. We calculated how much we had spent the year before on Christmas. Then we asked ourselves the 3 transformative questions from Your Money or Your Life about what we spent:

  1. Did we receive fulfillment, satisfaction, and value in proportion to life energy spent?
  2. Was this expenditure of life energy in alignment with my values and life purpose?
  3. How might this expenditure change if I didn’t have to work for a living?

Answering these three questions lead to several compelling insights. While it was important to both of us to observe Christmas as a religious holiday, we also realize that:

  • We didn’t receive fulfillment, satisfaction or value from what we spent doing Christmas.
  • We were spending, decorating, consuming, and socializing to meet other people’s expectations of us.
  • Every January, we were left bloated, cranky and resentful.
  • If we didn’t have to work for a living, we would unplug from the Christmas machine and flee the country for the entire month of December!

And just like that, we quit Christmas.

It may sound dramatic, but it was a simple decision: no more Christmas shopping, Christmas gifts, Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, Christmas parties, Christmas party clothes, Christmas family pictures, and/or Christmas cooking. We will continue to observe Christmas as a religious holiday,  but we quit everything else.

What Happened When We Quit Christmas

Instead of buying stuff and doing Christmas like we had every year before, we put the same amount of money into traveling for as long as possible during the month of December. And during that time we created a new family ritual we call our “annual retreat“. During this time we reflect on the past year, celebrate all of the unexpected blessings that came into our lives, envision our future, and plan our goals for the upcoming year. We also intentionally eat healthy food, exercise daily, and unplug from technology.

Concretely that meant we rented a small condo, used airline miles to buy tickets, and headed to Mexico (where it seemed so much easier to celebrate Christmas as a non-consumer religious holiday). We spent two weeks slowly working through our annual retreat process. We prayed on Christmas morning and then spent the rest of the day on the beach. Christmas supper was fish tacos and beer.

BeachChristmas

As enjoyable as it was to slow down, re-connect with each other, and disconnect from the Christmas-machine, it also felt powerful to consciously and intentionally choose how we spent our time and resources. Doing so in a way that was aligned with our highest value (freedom) meant we not only enjoyed our annual retreat, but felt refreshed, renewed, and ready to go when it was all said and done. In other words, it was a true holiday.

Every year since, we revisit this decision using the same 3 steps: 1) what did we spend the previous year, 2) answering the 3 big YMOYL questions, and 3) letting new insights drive our decision about how to spend the holiday. Over the years we’ve continued to choose our “annual retreat” in Mexico over Christmas at home and we’ve evolved our annual retreat process so that the time spent away launches us powerfully into the next year (I’ll describe that more fully in a future blog post).

Have You Ever Wanted to Unplug From The Christmas Machine?

You may love Christmas and your answers to the big three questions may be “yes”, “yes”, and “I would do exactly what I’m doing now!”. If so, that’s great! Keep on doing what you love!

But I wrote this for people who don’t enjoy the ever-escalating consumerism of the Christmas holiday season, who find that meeting social demands doesn’t bring fulfillment relative to the cost, and who end up feeling exhausted and resentful over their spending in January.

If that’s you, I hope this provides a concrete example that it is possible to quit Christmas and create your own holiday rituals. Your choices may be different than mine, but it’s worth considering what changes you can make that will create a meaningful holiday for you.

Happy Holidays!

6 Replies to “Why I Quit Christmas”

  1. This is fascinating. I love how going to different cultures can alter your perceptions of the holidays! I find it easier to be away from family and the hullabaloo in China, where it’s not an event and we have to work that week anyway, than it was in Kuwait, where we had the two weeks off. On the other hand, it was weirdly intriguing in Kuwait to work Sundays through Thursdays.

    My point is that I love how you consciously go somewhere to celebrate the part you value and to reorient yourself in other ways. It’s inspiring!

  2. I l really like the independent thought in this – but I could never do it. I love the planning for gifts, the wrapping, the get-together of the big family dinner.
    Then again, I don’t have a religious bone in my body, so Christmas is pure family time for me. Sounds like you’ve got the ‘family time’ running through the whole of Decemebr – sounds fantastic.

    1. It’s really about answering those three questions and it sounds like yours would be yes, yes and yes!!! To me, the most important thing is knowing what brings YOU joy and you sound clear about that 🙂

  3. I I quit Christmas when I first through my fake tree into the garbage can after spending an hour looking for the one burned out bulb to replace while my son was trying to get my attention and what he needed which was nothing to do with Christmas. I left the country for a while with my family after that Christmas and when we got back I donated all of our Christmas decor, all of it. The pictures, the small handprints because they were all made by my son when I was working and attending college; he was in daycare while he made those handprints so I when I look at them it makes me sad that I wasn’t able to make the handprints with him because I was too busy trying to better myself. The handprints are institutionalized prints. This year is our first year of no Christmas and I love it. I’m relaxing with my family during the holiday break and it’s amazing. My son hasn’t been phased by skipping out on Christmas. He has received a few sporadic gifts that he has chosen while we are at Wal-Mart for groceries and then he sees what he wants. Its not about Christ or Peganism it’s about money circulating during the winter months when people really just want to be relaxing. Not in a store! BTW college didn’t result in making a living wage as it doesn’t for many people so I would suggest people stop pursuading thier children to attend college for a pointless 4 year degree. Trade school is better.

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