I fell out of love with American holidays while living in other countries. Simpler is the one word I’d use to describe the way I experienced special gatherings outside of the US.
Coincidentally, I became hyper-aware of how over-the-top we were with all of our holidays once I moved back. They seem to always turn into one big and unnecessary stress fest. We parade the aisles for complicated ingredients to our side dishes, multiple desserts, and picture-worthy platters to impress family, friends, and our internet audience.
Every holiday from New Year’s to Easter, Fourth of July to Christmas circles around buying more stuff, mainly junk (sorry!) we don’t need that will be thrown into a steaming, smelly garbage dump somewhere or tucked away in a dark and dingy closet until the following year.
As I perused the aisles of my local co-op this week, I witness the frenzy and feel it whirling about the atmosphere, sucking us all into buying more, more, MORE.
Every interaction this week with the people along my daily routes has included the inevitable question, “So…any plans for Thanksgiving?”
Not to mention the messages ringing out across our landscape and the loudspeaker to bake pies, brine the turkey, and stage the most elegant place settings.
We are beckoned toward the bright floodlights of popular storefronts like buzzing flies. Hobby Lobby, Target, and Amazon compel us into their warehouse of treasures. We traipse in without thinking, on a mission to conquer the upcoming holiday with gusto and spirit and fun, damn it!
We are determined to make memories, laugh with family, carry on sweet traditions, and amaze guests with our vegan pumpkin pie and gooey, homemade mac and cheese.
Every store entrance we walk through entices us to ramp up our celebrations.
Buy the festive Santa-shaped chocolate, and limited edition ice cream, and fill every corner of our home with the latest cheap holiday-themed decor. Of course, this is a continual temptation we face throughout the year, but I feel it the strongest during the holidays.
I swear the holidays feel like one giant marketing scheme.
My rebellious nature rises up, together we try to resist buying the red & green M & Ms, the crunchy, plastic, flocked Christmas tree for my entryway, and the matching candy cane Christmas jammies for the family.
My desire to buy during these certain seasons is so intense, it could be described as a forceful push rather than a subtle pull.
There is no subtlety in America is there? Spending money on stuff is the way to happiness, especially during any holiday.
Any plans for tomorrow? She asks as she rings up my hot cup of tea.
I never know exactly how to answer, so I try to focus on the tone of my voice because it represents the feeling I aim for during any special occasion.
Peaceful yet alive, the full and low hum of people savoring the simple things in life, like the rhythm of a smooth-sounding jazz quartet serenading me as I wander through an art gallery.
I hope you read this more as an anthem than a rant, an invitation to see how easy and simple you can make your holidays and parties and events this year.
And for those of you who need it: you have permission to resist the wearisome pressures of tradition to overspend and outdo yourself and instead transform the mania, stress, and checklists for breath, creativity, and ease.
You don’t have to…
bake the apple crumble
baste a turkey
buy the cute wooden sign or leaf-patterned napkins.
No need to…
mix up the fancy drink
order another toy for your kiddo
find the perfect hostess gift
or go to another Christmas party.
You don’t have to…
do advent calendars
or matching jammies this year.
No need to…
fill the table a mile high with food
fix up the egg nog french toast on Christmas morning
or make sure the stockings are stuffed to overflowing.
You can skip…
Black Friday sales
hanging thousands of lights
driving to the tree farm
sending out holiday cards to friends
or taking the family picture where you’re all in white.
Let yourself off the hook just a little friend. See how simple you can make the holidays. Focus on the feeling you want more than the frenzy to bake and buy and dazzle.
Bask in the soft sounds of the saxophone whisking you away into the greatest celebration of all- this day, this life, these people.
What’s one small way you plan to halt the madness to buy, do, and stress MORE this season?