By Beth Berry
I wrote this piece two years ago during our first Christmas out of the country. This year - our third holiday season in Mexico - I am more convicted than ever that simplicity and togetherness are what it’s all about, and that the joy we long for is actually more confused than complemented by the notion of merry making as kind-hearted consuming.
Deviating from family traditions is not always easy. Never mind factors such as religious preference or family values, even questioning grandma's dessert line-up of pumpkin pie, fruit cake and jello salad can be enough to sour the eggnog and compromise your inheritance.
But what if the Christmas of your dreams doesn't include uncle Billy and his tasteless jokes? What if the canned cranberry mold and instant mashed potatoes aren't in line with your idea of culinary excellence? What if you are ethically opposed to burdening the budget to buy needless gifts for people you barely know and don't feel that shopping really contributes much to peace on earth?
It may be time to evaluate whether the repercussions of breaking free from the old outweigh the advantages of creating unique traditions of your own.
I am fortunate to have fantastic family on both sides, with rich (and entirely different) holiday traditions. The food is always fabulous, the mood merry and the kids in chaotic abundance. What I've found to be difficult is the sheer intensity of commitments throughout the holiday season. While everything in my being tells me we should be doing less than normal and settling in for long days of hot soup and mulled wine, the very opposite happens every year. The parties start in mid-November and continue through the first of January. The shopping, decorating and entertainment are endless and my to-do lists a tangible display of the franticness I feel.
This year is the first time we will spend the holidays without extended family. I don't know what to expect in Mexico during the Christmas season, but I dare say heavy consumerism is not disguised as tradition here near as much as it is stateside. This is our year to make a shift.
For us, that will mean a whole lot less gift giving, a whole lot more making ready at a peaceful pace and blocks of time set aside for nothing more than long walks, cookie-crammed countertops and slow savoring of sweetness and spice.
Want to see how we spent last year's Christmas? Come on over to my blog for Making Christmas Our Way.
photo via Flickr Creative Commons, Mt. Hood Territory
About Beth Berry
Beth Berry is a writer, mother of four daughters and born idealist living the real life. When she's not orchestrating the household, she can be found in one of several precarious yoga poses, wandering indigenous Mayan food markets, or holed up in a sunny southern Mexican cafe with her laptop, a shade grown dark roast and a contemplative look on her face. Having lived against the grain as a baby-slinging, toddler-nursing, secondhand-shopping, wanna-be farmer for 17 years, she and her family decided to ditch the rat race for a taste of life abroad. Now, in addition to challenging conventional wisdom, she writes about her life-changing experiences working among women in extreme poverty and oppression. Keep up with her musings and adventures in imperfection at www.revolutionfromhome.com.