My mother is an events organizer and often takes the same [dictatorial, no-ifs-ands-or-buts] approach to her family. As a result, we ended up squeezing an abbreviated form of Christmas into Thanksgiving break. No decorations, no stockings, no cookies, just a bare bones gift exchange in which no one really got anything she would have bought on her own. (See this economist’s excellent take on why you should never give another gift.) I wasn’t happy about having so much less time to find and make presents this year, but now that it’s over, I am officially disconnected from everyone else’s mad holiday rush for the first time in my life. I love it.
Winter has two faces for me. There’s the tinsel-laced juggernaut up to December 25, and then the solitary, reflective January. The problem is that by January, I’m already tired of winter. This year, I get to indulge in wintry solitude while still reveling in the delicate powdering of frost outlining leaves in the morning, still relishing the unfurling of warm breath in cold air, still loving the stillness of a [mostly] dormant world. (It is California, after all.) I’m so much less distracted this year. I guess I never realized how much headspace buying and making presents and getting everything ready really takes.
I haven’t truly opted out, but I’m getting a good sense for what it would be like. I’m drifting an inch or two above family squabbles, shopping deadlines, conspicuous overeating, advertisers’ enticements, and the visual discordance of red and green (surely two colors that were never meant to be together). I’m realizing that I participated for all these years, not because I necessarily wanted to, but because I didn’t think I had a choice to sit it out. I do. So do you. The price is seeming ungracious, unsociable, and disrespectful of tradition. The results are not trashing the planet with unnecessary consumerism, making time for yourself and your brain, and enjoying winter without the clutter of the holidays.
Is it worth it? Probably not every year, not wholly, not for everyone. But some years, in part, for some people? Absolutely.