Holidays are holidays and traditions are traditions.
But traditions are not the holiday. And this is an important distinction.
Traditions help us celebrate and honor recurring events in our lives. Whether we are setting aside a day for gratitude or setting aside an entire season to celebrate faith, family, or both. Traditions should draw our attention to the underlying reason for the season.
Traditions should not detract from the season, they should elevate it.
Maybe Rachel Jonat said it best, “We don’t have to continue holiday traditions that leave us broke, overwhelmed, and tired.”
This is an important truth and paradigm-shifting realization. If a tradition is not serving us and enhancing our family’s enjoyment of a holiday, there is no reason to continue it. Traditions that leave us tired, broke, or stressed should be ended.
This may be only a minor point, except it seems many of our most culturally-accepted traditions have become more of a burden than a blessing.
Nearly 7 in 10 Americans (69%) said they would skip exchanging gifts this holiday season if their friends and family agreed to it.
A majority of those who spend time buying or making gifts (60%) said they would spend more time with friends and family if they didn’t have to worry about gifts.
43% of those who spend money on anything related to the holidays said they feel pressured to spend more than they can afford.
During 2016, 63% of Baby Boomers took on debt to finance the holiday season. Other generations took on debt as well, including 58% of Gen-Xers and 40% of Millennials.
But it gets even worse, an alarming number of shoppers are still paying off debt from last Christmas. 24% of Millennials still haven’t paid off credit card debt incurred during the 2016 shopping season, while 16% of Gen-Xers haven’t.
When asked what they enjoy and/or dislike the most about the holidays, Americans’ top three answers about what they like least involve purchases: commercialism/materialism, financial worry, shopping and crowds.
Also, fascinatingly, during the holiday season, people spend less time eating and socializing with friends. The things we enjoy the most are being pushed aside by the things we enjoy the least.
To top it off, 70% of Americans will rush out shopping on days immediately following an entire holiday dedicated to being thankful for all the things we already have.
When I speak of minimalism, I define it as the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.
This principle should wisely be applied to the holiday traditions and expectations we choose to participate in.
Just because everyone is rushing out to shop on Black Friday, doesn’t mean you need to. You can choose to spend that day differently and create prouder memories with your family.
Just because a percentage of your friends are going into debt to finance their holiday, doesn’t mean you need to. You can choose to celebrate within your means and enter the new year with peace.
Just because your neighbors are stockpiling Christmas presents for their children, doesn’t mean you need to. You can choose a simpler approach to spend more time and money with your kids, rather than on them.
Just because your family has always celebrated Christmas one way, doesn’t mean the expectations can never change. You can be the first to boldly propose something new. And given the fact that 70% of us would gladly skip exchanging gifts if everyone agreed… your family may thank you for bringing up the idea.
I am not anti-holiday. I am pro-holiday.
And I am not anti-tradition. I am pro-tradition.
But traditions should add to our holiday experience, not subtract from it.
Perhaps stately more clearly, I am pro-every tradition that reminds me again of the reason for the season.
We would each be wise to reevaluate the cultural, family, and personal traditions that have become part of our holiday celebration. And choose only those that serve us and add value.