Graham recently wrote about life choices we have made as ‘unschoolers’. For us, we are viewing unschooling in the sense of not just our kids education, but as our life as a whole picture.
The 3 key areas (for us) we have identified for this are: unschooling, bootstrapping and minimalism. As we find that these 3 philosophies overlap significantly in their thinking and approach whilst addressing different parts of our lives.
The more we have gone down each of these paths the more we have have let go of things that do not add value to our lives. Sounds simple enough, but it’s a slow, slow process.
The latest thing we chose to get rid of is Christmas and I thought it would be worth trying to explain why and how.
Sometimes you feel like you are on a treadmill in life. You continue doing what you are doing because that’s just the way things are.
A ‘9-5 stuck in a rut job’ can be typical example of this. Sure, there’s a need to go out there and earn money. Early on you may have had dreams to move on or do better. But along the way these dreams and reasons got lost along the way. It is only when you begin to re-evaluate your life and job that you realise how far off track things have gotten and that you’ve now signed up to so many things that the consequences of quitting feel too big. This often creates a feeling of being stuck.
I kind of feel like it’s the same with Christmas. Sure as a kid it was fun. As a teenager and young adult, not so much. As an adult with a young family the experience of creating Christmas quickly felt like a chore to us. We had signed up to the festive rituals, no religious stuff for us though as we are not religious in any kind of way. Got the kids to believe in Santa. And now felt stuck in a routine that we didn’t particularly enjoy anymore.
As the years passed with the family, I really began to dread the whole Christmas thing. The mass media advertising. The mass spending of unnecessary money. The mass lying about Santa to kids. The mass focus on so called ‘season of giving’ that feels so unbalanced to society.
The kids didn’t really appreciate, need or value the presents that were given. And a whole years worth of catching up with family was crammed into a few short days.
It wasn’t about punishing our kids or feeling that they had turned into brats. Nor was it about saving money.
We just felt in our hearts that the whole run up to Christmas didn’t add value to our lives. So we decided to get rid of it. We would have probably stopped it years ago if we didn’t have kids.
The first thing we did was speak to our older boys (aged 9 and 11) to explain what we wanted to do.
We said we didn’t want to celebrate Christmas anymore because:
- we are not religious
- we dislike the mass media and advertising around it
- we felt like it didn’t add value to our lives (and our time and money could be better spent elsewhere)
- we could go in search of something else to do in life, something else to celebrate – and we could choose exactly how and what. (We didn’t have to make a decision straight away.)
- we never liked the whole Santa thing. This year was the perfect year to stop as their younger brother (aged 3) is at the age where he starts to understand and believe the stories around Christmas.
We asked them how they felt about it.
There were no tears. No complaints. Our (older) kids were completely on board. I kid you not.
They said it made sense and ‘that’s fine!’
The kids did ask about presents and our response was that if they ever wanted or needed something then they can ask us and we can talk about it. If we have the money and if we believe it adds value to our or their lives then we tend to get it. Sometimes we’ll have to wait a bit for it or we make some kind of agreement around it. We also find a bit of patience makes them think about it more and often they decide against it. However, the key point here is that Christmas doesn’t mean we have to buy stuff and that it often makes sense to wait till after Christmas to get better deals.
Our ‘No Christmas’ happened by:
- us donating our Christmas tree and decorations to the local Montessori Nursery that our youngest goes to
- we didn’t decorate or do anything Christmassy in any kind of way
- our daily thoughts and actions not being over taken by Christmas tasks, we kind of forgot about Christmas
- with our 3 year old we decided to take the approach of not talking about Christmas or Santa, unless he specifically asked stuff. It was slightly awkward at times as he was aware of some things through his nursery. He’ll be more aware next year and we’ll have to figure out the best approach to it.
Interesting things that we noticed:
- it was so nice and relaxing!
- we didn’t really do any work, just took things easy and focused on ourselves – as a result we managed to do some personal stuff/projects that we had wanted to ‘find the time’ to do for ages!
- Graham’s mum who normally comes down for Christmas postponed her trip to a more sensible time (in February after our next baby is born/due)
- we became observers of Christmas – via the likes of Facebook we would see others celebrate and we felt quite content within ourselves that we were not taking part in it.
- no presents were given
- no junk was accumulated
- we had a low key meal and watched a family movie
- a nice time was had
I suspect that our ‘no christmas’ will evolve over time. Being 8 months pregnant I particularly enjoyed the not having to do much and having the opportunity to have a few lazy days to focus on myself and family without work emails coming in.
I don’t feel under pressure to do something instead of Christmas. I am tempted to do some good long term social cause project in the future, but I don’t want this to be something to replace or just happen because of or at Christmas time. Good causes need support throughout the year.
All in good time though! As my current energy levels are loooowww!