Sunday, November 28, 2010

Postal Holidays & Other Forsaken Traditions

Once upon a time, I used to send holiday cards to everyone I knew. That averaged 80 to 90 cards a year and could take me days to address, stamp and pop into the mail. Then, one year, there were some family issues draining my energy and it occurred to me that sending holiday cards was a waste of time, money and trees. So I went cold turkey and stopped sending them altogether.

Several friends were genuinely offended. Some drifted away never to be heard from again. Within two years I received only one or two cards, proving that the ones I received previously were only mailed in an unspoken agreement that "I'll send you one if you send me one." So I had the satisfaction of not only saving myself time and effort, but also helping others pair down their seasonal tasks.

Today, with the advent of Facebook and e-Cards, choosing not to do a mass mailing in December doesn't seem nearly as radical. The Green movement also tends to smile upon such a gesture. However, my desire to scale down at the holidays did not stop there. Several years ago, after our youngest child reached her teens, we decided we would no longer go to the trouble of putting up a Christmas tree. Why bother when every department store in the area had them up from late August through February? We still put out stockings, because that is part of our gift-giving tradition. Other than that, there are few decorations in our house.

Then last year, we told our siblings that we would buy gifts for all the children in the family, but not for adults. Anyone 18 years or older was on their own. Holidays are for children and the gifts that we grown siblings were giving each other just ended up in the attic anyway. Well, that was met with a lack of enthusiasm. Obviously, there was something terribly wrong with us. Too bad. We are not changing our minds and our budget is much healthier for it.

Don't get me wrong. We are not the bah-humbug types. What we have done, little by little over the years, is simplify the holidays and remove as many stresses as possible. As a result, the end of the year is a very pleasant time that focuses on getting together with family rather than gift-buying and decorating. That may horrify some holiday enthusiasts, but it works just fine for us.

If you want to decorate your yard with every blow-up Santa, reindeer and snowman known to man and put on a laser light show for the neighborhood, that's cool. We'll line up to watch. If you want to sing carols, decks your halls or mount a giant menorah on top of your car (one of our neighbors does this), then more power to you. We admire your energy and will enjoy it from the warmth of our generic living room. If you want to keep your outdoor holiday lights glowing 365 days a year, as many people do, we think that sucks, but it's your yard, not ours.

Everyone has their own approach/avoidance to the holidays and whatever works for you is fine. If you are looking to really enjoy yourself, however, let me encourage you to kick back, relax and do as little as possible. Forsaking tradition is a great way to celebrate the season!

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