So I’ve made a few bigger decisions this week– based on thoughts I’ve held for a long time. I’ve gone back and forth for a while now about whether I should actually talk about this idea and topic here. I mean, there are a lot of topics I won’t discuss here– or in general. I like to stick to easy, non-confrontational conversations, ya know? Anyway, I guess I should start this by saying that I’m in no way trying to upset or offend people– I’m just spilling my personal life-thoughts here, you know, like I typically do.
I’ve let out a lot of my thoughts on Christmas over the years. I typically struggle with Christmas for a few reasons. Sometimes because of the gift aspect or because of the expectations we all place around the holidays, or often times just because I felt bummed that Alex wasn’t around. In general, I tend to get pretty sad around the holidays/end of year season. This year was the first year where I felt pretty okay around the holidays. Good— or great even. (I wrote about that HERE) But when Christmas eve actually came around, my mind (and mood) changed once again. I woke up, not mad, not happy, just feeling uneasy. We packed up and headed to my brothers in efforts to try to raise my own spirits and bring a bit of light to Marlowe’s day.
But on the way home, turning on the radio, I listened to a story on about a homeless shelter in Miami and the good they were doing for families on Christmas. I cried a bit in the car. First, because I felt bad that I hadn’t given up my very obviously free day to do some good. And second, because I just couldn’t figure out a way to get across to Marlowe what I felt Christmas should be really be about, outside of Santa. Not in a way that would work for me and in a way that she could understand.
I wanted her to understand that this day was about family first, but every effort to explain this to my four-year old, came back to a question about opening presents. I wanted her to understand that sometimes there are no presents, or cookies, or whatever, and that the holiday should still be celebrated, because it is a day of love— not just giving presents. But for her, all she knows Christmas to be is the day where she is, yes, is with her family, but opening presents. Arriving back home I once again sat, struggling with my own emotions, trying to figure out what I wanted out of the day. What I wanted was to be happy, comfortable and for Marlowe to feel Christmas magic and love. But what I felt was uneasy and bummed. Subsequently feeling even more saddened that it would be my fault that Marlowe wouldn’t feel *christmas magic*That night when Alex came home, I told him that I would prefer not to celebrate christmas anymore. He listened to my thoughts and agreed…

We’ve already made our own steps and efforts to create a christmas that would work for our family. Our tree was our first move this year. And it absolutely helped, but it wasn’t enough. Alex and I opted not to gift each other presents this year, which was also nice, but brought about a whole other issue: a question from Marlowe to “why do you and daddy not have presents? just me?” — We obviously didn’t think that one through. We’ve kept our tradition with pizza Christmas, which was great, but again, it didn’t fix the problems that I feel with extra gifts, sales, and just general things that Christmas will indisputably bring.

You know, I don’t think Christmas is a bad thing. I love the idea behind it. But I do feel like the focus from the meaning has shifted and continues to shift. For me, I don’t like the consumerism culture that we’re wrapped in. And maybe, me being here on internet land, it seems even more clear— but the feeling of buy buy buy sell sell sell that exists (always, but especially) around the holidays really bugs me. I find problems in the quantity over quality norm. And you know, it’s not that I think presents are a bad thing, I don’t. But it’s just that— now with black friday, actually starting on thursday, a day we’re supposed to sit with our loved ones and be thankful for what surrounds us, we’re losing more and more of the moments for reflection and family. I don’t know what sales are happening or how long they’ll go on for and I don’t really care. Not for one minute do I want to think or preoccupy my passing family time with the feelings of what thing I need/should buy.

Will there still be gifts around us for the holidays? I’m sure there will be, but for my home, we now plan to opt out. Yes, we made the decision for each other as a couple this year, but I look forward to making that action for Marlowe as well. Do I feel like she will be missing out not unwrapping presents at Christmas in our home? No. Not everyone celebrates Christmas– sure many do, but she won’t be the only child in the world without a Christmas tree or a fat man coming. And more than anything, I feel confident in this decision for her. Because every single night around one or two AM, I make my way into her bedroom, remove the pile of books that have accumulated on top of her, and pull her comforter over her, tucking her bedding in tight. And every single night, without fail, she smiles in her sleep… and I smile too. She’s happy. Really happy. She has a good life and it’s apparent in her mood everyday and her sleepy smile every night. A present under a tree doesn’t give her that smile, our happy home and presence does.

We plan to celebrate outside our home, just like we would for any other holiday with friends. The same way I love celebrating passover with Laura’s family even though I’m not Jewish or the same way I’ll wish my mother a happy Easter, even though I’m not Christian. We’ll gracefully continue celebrating the meaningful moments with others during the holiday season.

It’s just that, if you strip the presents idea away from Christmas, the only real ‘reason for the season’ is Christ. Personally, I don’t hold these beliefs. I grew up with these ideas. And yes, as an angsty teenager I would even say I was against many these ideas, but now I can comfortably say, I understand those beliefs, I’m okay with those beliefs. I can see value in those beliefs, but they are just not for me. If Christ can bring the values of love, kindness, and selfless giving out in others, then I’m a big supporter in Christ and Christmas. But for me, without the real (birth of Christ) meaning of christmas, I’m left with presents that I don’t feel my family needs. And without presents, I’m left with Christ. And so what am I left with? Well, a guess I’m left with an understanding that I’m finally comfortable enough to say: I don’t want to do Christmas in our home anymore, and I feel okay with this. Because if you strip away those things, then I’m left with my family: my real reason to rejoice in the season— any season. And lucky for me, I celebrate my family every single day, no pre-determined marking on a calendar or wrapped up gift will change, waiver, or enhance the way I feel about my family or the people in my life.


  1. This is a great post and I am all for families deciding for themselves how holidays should be celebrated…or not at all. I am not a Christian although was, like you, brought up with those beliefs. We are non religious in our family but as Christmas was initailly a celebration introduced by Roman pagans called Saturnalia and also corresponds with Mid winter festivals, we do celebrate this time of year in a secular sense. In the 4th Century, Christians decided to take this celebration and make it their own hoping to convert pagans to Christianity and gave the 25th as the birth of Christ-this isn't actually a confirmed fact as his exact birthdate is unknown.I suppose I'm writing this to show that it isn't just about Christianity but about mid winter celebration and this is how we choose to celebrate it. A very happy New year to all. xx

  2. I absolutely adore this post. I get a yucky feeling in the pit of my stomach as I shop for gifts every year. I love gifts. I love giving gifts. I love making my family feel special, loved, and appreciated. But what I don't love is the feeling that GIFTS are the reason for Christmas, when that couldn't be further from the truth. I think it is SO important that you are separating yourself from that. What you are showing to Marlow is that you will stand behind your convictions, even if they aren't popular. I respect that so much! We are Christians, and we celebrate the birth of Jesus as the pinnacle of gift giving. But we've never celebrated Santa or lied to our children about Santa bringing them presents. My kids kind of laugh and "play along" when people ask them if they're excited about Santa. All in all, I applaud you for standing up and saying no. Following that feeling in your gut will always lead you to a good place! Merry Christmas!

  3. i love this post. you always have a way of being so honest and forthcoming, yet totally relate-able. i have a feeling that this post is something that i'll come back to when i'm deciding how to navigate the holidays with my future family one day. thank you (as always) for sharing!

    xx nikki

  4. I do loooove the holidays. I love the "feel" of everything. Cheeriness and a chill in the air (every now and then here in Texas). I don't like the consumerism of it all, either. My husband and I do buy each other gifts, but we have a $100 limit and it's kind of a game for us. We go to the mall together the weekend before Christmas with $100 each in hand and buy each other meaningful items that we know the other person will use/ need. That's the extent of it for us.

    We don't have children, so we just wanted to create our own holiday tradition. We don't hold those beliefs, either; we have our own sense of spritiuality. The season is about family togetherness and so we choose to host parties and have people over in lieu of spending exorbitant amounts of money on things for each other.

  5. I've never commented before but I had to this time. I too have been struggling with the present issue surrounding Christmas. Especially now since have a 4.5 and a 2.5 year old. This year we still exchanged presents but only 3 each this time. Next year we may downsize even more. Maybe we'll get to the point where we don't give gifts at all. I don't know. I love Christmas. Adore it. Always have and its been strange to me that I've actually been feeling this way. I never expected that. But I look at my children who are happy to play outside all day long digging in the dirt and riding their bikes (we also live in sunny Florida!) and I realize that they're happy. They don't need more stuff. In fact they probably could do with less. I know I can.

  6. Wow it looks like a lot of people are on the same page as you here! We're not religious at all either and Christmas for us is about our huge family getting together more than anything. We do presents but they're usually handmade or upcycled. I got my daughter 3 presents in total but was horrified to see how many piled up from grandparents. The poor kid isn't even two yet and wanted nothing more than to play with the first toy she opened and yet we had to force her to keep opening more. It actually made me feel sick and the majority of them will go straight to the charity shop. But how do you stop other people from loading all this consumerism bullshit onto your kid? My mother in law already thinks we're weirdos because we won't dress her in synthetic clothes or load her up on junk food. This has been weighing heavily on my mind, I'd love to hear how others deal with it!

  7. I couldn't agree more! I'm not Christian either, and I feel the whole day is just about gifts, and it makes me feel bad. I wish I could convince my family to go the route you have decided is best for you. I will start by sharing this post with them! 🙂

  8. I completely understand where you're coming from. Although my mom always put extra effort into making Christmas special for me, it's not something I've carried with me into adulthood. My dad actually hates Christmas for reasons I won't get into. What I've been grappling with for years now is th expectations of Christmas. We set the bar so high, or others do so for us. We spend astronomical amounts of money to prove our love via gifts. Christmas always stresses me out and that's definitely not what it should be about. Good for you for deciding to ditch Christmas – Marlowe has a couple,of awesome parents.

  9. This is a great post! Thank you for sharing and all your thoughts…well, I feel like your writing is even maturing/growing!
    I completely agree and haven't found our sweet spot, as far as how we'll tone down certain parts of Christmas while still celebrating in some way but FAMILY has always been and will always be most important to us every day as well. I want to keep the spirit of Christmas going all year round and GIVE and show our children that that's what's important:)

  10. America is certainly OTT when it comes to Christmas.

    I am Australian, and we do OTT Christmas in the cities. Thankfully, I live in a sleepy coastal village and I am not so influenced by the bright lights.

    I think giving each other gifts at Christmas is representative of the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus, and the star on the tree represents the star that led the way.

    I spend my Christmas with my brother because he visits for my birthday on Christmas Eve, he doesn't like Christmas at all and was angry because I gave him a gift. We ate out this year because I retired on Christmas Eve and there were people giving their time to bring some cheer on Christmas day, making balloon toys for the children and telling jokes to the adults… such fun. I suggested that we might do something next Christmas such as serve lunch to the homeless. My brother said no … no discussion.

    So I see that Christmas is different for different people and the choices made usually come from an emotional space.

    Whatever you decide, yours will be a Christmas that is perfect for your family.

  11. Es tan triste que todos nos subimos al tren de la sociedad y nos olvidamos de las cosas verdaderamente importantes (me incluyo) no tan fácil uno se baja de ese tren o te lleva la corriente, pero cuando decides hacerlo en verdad es un paso importante y grande. Yo lo quiero hacer, y no precisamente olvidarme de la navidad porque yo amo a Dios sobre todas las cosas y mis creencias me llevar a celebrarlo a él en su día, pero así literal a él y no al marketing tremendo que hay que olvidamos incluso lo esencial. Gracias por el post hermoso. Saludos desde México

  12. i totally get it. i got crap. i spent money on crap. now i feel like crap. not to mention my birthday is on xmas…so even more crap. yeah, i told my bf that i don't want to get gifts next year. i feel so guilty when i don't like something or want something. my friend did a great thing this year: she handmade all her gifts and volunteered on both xmas eve and day. gonna do the handmade thing next year. i like doing that way more than buying something off amazon. i just need to figure out a way to tell my family, to please stop with the crap. seriously, stop.

  13. I've been having a lot of these feelings over the past couple of years as I enter true adulthood. The older I get, the more I want to crawl deeper into a cave (or really somewhere truly wild and rural) and get away from all this consumerism, crazy advertisements, wasteful and gaudy plastics, bright and artificial lights, all the fake volume, etc. etc…… The past two years, I've strived to gift (and be gifted) either very special (handmade by someone if not myself) or completely useable gifts (thoughtful and sustainable food, artful herbs, massages, etc.). I grew up vaguely religious but still feeling the magic of Christmas that had something to do with presents, but also had something to do with seeing extended family and reveling in the season and nature when winter is still new and fresh. But like someone else said, I miss the magic I felt when I was younger, though I still enjoy a thoughtful decoration display. I have a lot of thoughts for my own future family. I do fully plan on making the solstice a big celebration, but I'd also like to focus more on charity. There may be gifts, but certainly nothing like smorgasbord my parents provided, and no wrapping or dead tree to throw out at the end. I do still love classical Christmas music and I don't know how to accompany that with a religious-less holiday for my children, but I'll find a way. In the meantime, thank you for sharing, because you've given me other things to think about until then.

  14. I had that same uneasy feeling this year, and we have started thinking about next year. We are considering pulling back even more… thanks for sharing.

  15. We had a family at our church that would let their kids keep one of their new gifts and donate all the rest to charity. As a kid I thought that would be the worst, but in my old age (ok, 25, haha) I have so much admiration for this and hope to implement this with my family in some way. I also want to thank you for respecting and acknowledging the true reason for this holiday, even as a nonbeliever. You're one classy broad 🙂

  16. beautiful post Drea. I struggle with this too… but we have a lot of extended family that buys for us and we are expected to buy for them and it's always just this terrible non-sentimental process of picking things off a list and it just seems meaningless. But I don't know how to put a stop to it I guess. Will you still buy for extended family and others?

  17. I totally get this. Being raised in a non-religious household, growing up, Christmas was always about presents and family time. My parents always did everything they could to make it special, and my Christmas memories are some of the happiest from my childhood. But now that I'm older (and living across the planet from my entire family), the day leaves me feeling a bit hollow. I swore I was going to do a low key celebration with close friends this year, and then in a Dec 22 flood of grinchy guilt, I ran out to the shops and spend a small fortune on gifts that my family and friends probably didn't need at all. When I have kids someday, I'm not opposed to small gifts and a special family meal, but I don't want to continue the massive spending splurge that has become the norm. Thanks for putting your thoughts out there!! Xx

  18. I'm so happy this is the tone that your post took. I saw your title and thought that I would feel completely alienated from this blog that I've read and loved for years. Luckily, I absolutely agree and commend your opinion. My family is Jewish, and this was my first "real" Christmas with my boyfriend and his parents. Christmas was always a confusing time for me–sometimes we put up a fake tree, sometimes not. I always got cash for Hanukah, sometimes presents for New Year, sometimes not. I know that I lusted after the excitement and happiness that my friends described. I yearned for wreaths, a real tree, the story of Santa, etc., definitely not just presents.

    Cut to this year. I spent the night at my boyfriend's and woke up to Christmas morning with him. He had prepared my very first stocking, complete with a baby picture my mom secretly mailed to him. It was filled with chocolates, candy canes, Redwood leaves stolen from a neighbor tree, and small, thoughtful, useful gifts. It was wonderful to exchange gifts, look at decorations, and feel A PART OF SOMETHING. I think that's what I yearned for as a child, and I agree that Marlowe feels this way due to the wonderful community of friends, family, animals, and nature you surround her with year-round. This was a pleasure to read, and I want to say that I really love these more personal posts.

  19. Beautifully put Drea, and well done you for doing what you believe is right, despite what everyone else is doing. I stick by my guns in several things, such as no computer games and very little tv for the children, and while sometimes it's hard and I feel that EVERYONE else does it differently, I have to do what I believe is right. I hope one day the children will think it was the right thing too. Christmas here in the UK is getting more and more out of control. Black Friday has arrived here this year; there were riots in the shops and the police had to be called to sort out fights over cut price electrical things. It's utterly shameful. So I'm happy to see someone standing up and saying "It's not for me". Well done Drea, you're an inspiration. CJ xx

  20. I think that it's beautiful that you're wrestling with this issue for your family, especially in a culture that seems to have no problem celebrating things completely devoid of their meanings. You're being authentic, and that's refreshing and true.

    I also think that it's entirely possible (even so far as likely) that He, as in Christ, is searching for *you* just as you are searching for your take on the meaning of it all. He reaches out to us in mysterious ways, and He never tires in the search.

  21. What about celebrating the solstice instead? It's so hard to swim against the 'yule tide' and I commend you for that. Wondering if you could celebrate the return of light, gift free, and still have the season feel magical for you and yours.

    • This is such a good idea! Celebratory meal and all about the nature.

      Ps. Yule tide is the best thing I ever heard.

  22. Oh girl, I've kind of been struggling with this for a while now. My last "good" Christmas was when I was like, 10…and even that wasn't a very "good" Christmas. I'm 28 now with 3 kids (9, 4, and 2) and I feel really conflicted about whether or not to keep up the shtick next year. I was completely against it last year, refusing to really be a part of it at all (I even had the tree down and everything put away – aka, thrown in trash bags – by noon). This year I "felt" the season a bit more, but when Christmas Eve actually rolled around I just felt pissed off and unhappy and fed up.

    I was raised in a religious household but am not religious or spiritual as an adult – I don't believe in any of it, and if I don't believe in any of it, then why do I still go along with it? For the kids? What good does that REALLY do? I wish the other side of the parenting equation in my life was up for not celebrating Christmas in the traditional sense. But there's no way that will EVER fly…maybe one day he and I both save enough money for him to finally move out of my basement we can instill our own philosophies in our own households instead of constantly pitting against each other. Because that's not good for the kids, either.

    Go you. REALLY. I love this.

  23. It's good to look at why we do what we do and decide things for our own family. We take a bike ride at the beach every Christmas-the focus is off the presents.

  24. Hey Drea, I totally understand what you mean here. Without Christ, all the extras that go into Christmas just feel so flat. Santa…I don't even like him. My daughter is 2 and this week I was so aware that programming her to expect presents at Christmas is a slippery slope. I'm a Christian and it always bums me out that this sacred observation of Christ's birth, which means so much to me personally, has been repackaged as a consumerist heyday.

    I think a lot of families struggle with this dynamic in one way or another. If I don't want my daughter to believe in Santa, are my friends/neighbors/family going to give me grief for that? Is my daughter going to be able to fit in with her friends and cousins if we do this differently? Anyway, I just wanted to say that I get it, even from the flip-side of where you find yourself.

  25. I really appreciate your thoughts on Christmas as I've been having similar feelings as well. I can't deny that I really enjoy buying presents for other people, especially my kids, but I hated seeing my toddler rip open presents just to cast them aside and ask for more… all I could think was "Where did we go wrong?" Plus now we have way more toys then the kids could ever need, and I feel like we're only celebrating Christmas for the presents… we're not religious, so what else is there? We spend time with family, but it always comes back around to the presents. I honestly would have just been happy with dinner with the family and games… probably because we never celebrated the holidays when I was younger and more than anything I miss the gatherings with my family when we'd just play games. We didn't need presents. I think my husband and family would have a hard time cutting out presents all together, but next year I think we need to rethink things. Maybe stick with stockings and one gift per kiddo. I really want it to be about family and happy times spent together, though. Sorry for rambling… :p

  26. I had a change of heart this Christmas. Its strange! I've always given charitable gifts (along side regulars ones). I usually give money to a local dog shelter (a certain amount per family member) and let them know that a dog will be having a christmas meal from them each year. I love to do that. But this year I felt like I should have done more/given more to those who need it and less to my family/friends who know I care.

    Next year, I've decided the only gifts I'll give are home made ones (I'm going to knit and stitch a lot), so they get something that actually means something. And everything else is going to charity.

    I mean, I got so much stuff that i just DONT need.

    AND, Pizza christmas sounds so so much better than a regular chriatmas meal


  27. thanks for writing this. i do consider myself a christian – though maybe not the typical christian that comes to mind for most people – and i enjoy that aspect of the holidays…but i totally agree about gifts. to me, it's unnecessary and more stressful than enjoyable. my husband and i also opted out of gift buying this year, and it felt like a huge weight off my shoulders. i'm sure it's a tougher call with young children in the house, but i commend you! thanks for the honesty. 🙂

  28. It's funny, even though our personal beliefs differ and I am a Christian, this post resonated with me as well. Or maybe it is because I want Christ to be the center of Christmas as He's the center of my life that it struck a chord. Either way, I applaud your choice to say no to what our society has now set out as the standard for celebrating the birth of the one who gives life himself. I often frustrated by the consumerism that abounds during the holidays especially and also seek ways to simplify the Season to it's true meaning while keeping the magic alive for my little girl. Thanks for sharing how you plan to do that in your family!

  29. I'm so grateful that you wrote this post as it is something that my partner and I have spoken about this Christmas. I am completely struggling with the consumerism surrounding Christmas and feel that it has lost it's true meaning. The stress we felt this Christmas due to my illness and the rush and panic to buy presents and get everything ready completely took over. Personally, I would be happy to skip presents completely, go to church in the morning and have a family dinner. My partner and I did not buy presents for each other this year and we did not feel as if we'd missed out. Once our children have grown up I don't think we will 'do' Christmas at all and after seeing how overwhelmed our girls were this year (our eldest has ASD), we have decided to figure out a what is best for our family over the next few months. I commend you for making the decision to do what is best for your family. Have a great new year x

  30. So true, Drea, especially after we've done it there comes a thought why and if we'll do it again.
    We had lots of presents this year, one for each day of the advent and I liked the idea, I've written a blog post about this idea but the more I think about recreating it next year, the more I'm shifting away from it. Because I don't need more of anything, what I need is the people I am close to and celebrating this makes me happy.
    So will there be a tree next year, or a present…? I'm so close to finding ourselves happy without it. Enjoy your day, guys. xx

  31. You're totally touching on an issue I'm already feeling and I don't even have children yet. What does it mean Christmas mean for me since I'm not a christian? How will I explain it to my kiddos one day? In some ways it feels disrespectful to the christians around me for me to be celebrating a holiday I don't even believe in, you know? I commend your strength in deciding to shrug off a cultural tradition that isn't working for your family. I'm not sure that that will be the right answer for me, but it is comforting to realize it is a true possibility.


  32. I have been reading your blog for quite some time and I rarely comment but I just had to write and tell you that I loved this post! You are doing what is right for you and your family and what works best for you and I commend you for that!!! Great outlook!