My wife and I come from religious homes. We have typical, traditional homes. Five or ten years down the road, we both know what our families will be doing on each holiday or birthday.
Five or ten years down the road, we also have a general idea of what my wife and I will be doing in our times together during certain holidays and birthdays, breaking from traditions that our families do, or how we did things by ourselves before we met each other.
My wife is an activist. Her blog is actually named, A Life Beyond Money, and it gives ideas and pointers on how to get by on what you have, do what you’re skilled with, and embolden yourself to break from the consumerist lifestyle.
This ideology extends into our Christmas season. We simply don’t do it. We don’t exchange gifts. The talk with both of our families was tough, with us trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings, but we felt it had to be given. Why take money to buy something for someone else only to have something given in return. Half the time it’s something you wanted or needed, and half the time it’s something cute or funny but hardly practical. Our tiredness of accumulation is important enough to say, No more gifts please.
We aren’t religious [anymore], so our holidays are definitely different in a religious sense. We don’t celebrate Easter or Christmas, as we don’t believe that the historical events actually took place that we are celebrating. Although with my seventeen year old daughter finally back in my life, we might make gift exceptions for her.
So, since we don’t go to either family’s house on Christmas, my wife and I started a varied tradition, one that apparently many others do, as well. We go out to a Chinese buffet. Unless converted to Christianity, Asians don’t celebrate Christian holidays. Their stores and restaurants aren’t closed.
So, we do this as a date, to share in the non-religious dining experience with other people at the restaurant who don’t celebrate either, or have nowhere to go on Christmas afternoon. One time, we even formed a Facebook event page inviting others who didn’t celebrate Christmas (or had nowhere else to eat) to join us.
What about our families? Well, they have their verse readings, prayers, and gift exchanges to do. We are both strong enough in our non-mythology and anti-consumerism convictions not to partake, but are courteous enough not to make them feel awkward with us watching and not including ourselves.
We do however, every year, make it to her grandfather’s house for Thanksgiving. As with most families, this is a mixed bag. There are people you look forward to—people you see often anyway—and there are the few that you try to avoid during the whole visit. But it’s good to do an annual gathering, reconnecting with people you are related to either by blood or marriage.
For New Year’s Eve, my wife and I don’t do anything besides relax with a film, some popcorn, and maybe a bottle of wine. If one of us is working the next morning, we usually dread Midnight, the gun nut hour, when modern day cowboys shoot their bullets into the sky, assuming they aren’t waking anyone up, and that what goes up doesn’t come down in a city of people and glass objects.
Halloween, we don’t pass out candy. We don’t decorate the house up. We don’t go to costume parties. Pretty much, we are kind of darklings at heart, but we are also frugal. We don’t waste money on giving candy to strangers, decorating with month-long ornaments, or an outfit you wear once. Our lifestyle extends beyond the “one night use.” Instead, we do pretty much what we do on NYE: we make popcorn, turn off the lights, and watch scary movies.
Birthdays and anniversaries, we don’t go over the top either, though many loved ones we know do. We both like girls, so we used to go to the club, and then have a shut-in night at the house after hitting a Lion’s Den, but that got pricey and pointless. We do go out though, usually to a cheap $1.50/ticket second-run theater, maybe hit Half Price Books’ clearance section, and go to a locally-owned dive bar or restaurant. We find the weirdest or shadiest hole in the wall, and have our birthday or anniversary dinner there. Half of the time, we get an awesome laugh out of it, and half the time we find a new favorite place that we call “our own secret place.”
Traditions can be on point or they can be pointless. It depends on the person, couple or family. Life is short, so we find it important to be surrounded by loved ones. But we also know that life is too short to be exposed to negative or abusive people, so we pick our battles. We do what is fun, and abandon the useless going-ons.
My wife and I have a ball together. We do what we like. We visit those we love. And though we might do things a little differently, we live each event with purpose, intention and expectation.
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