Some Radical Holiday Reform Ideas | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Some Radical Holiday Reform Ideas

Ideally, at least in my view, the holidays would be a time for people to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends, without a lot of pressure to perform or please others.  But it seems like the reality, for many people I know, is just the opposite.

For them, the holidays are a time to stress over whether their homes look good enough, whether the gifts they plan to buy will be well-received, the uncomfortable interactions they can look forward to having with people they’re going to see, and so on.

‘Tis The Season To Be Neurotic?

My sense is that, for a lot of people, the source of holiday-induced stress is the long set of “rules” they believe they have to comply with during the season — rules like “you must look like you’re in a happy, festive mood,” “your house must be decorated appropriately,” “you must buy gifts for everyone you know, and they must enjoy getting them,” and so on.

All this leads me to wonder — what if, just for one holiday season, we tried doing away with all the traditions and rules, and just bringing together a bunch of people we care about and want to celebrate having in our lives?  For just one year, what if we experimented with getting rid of holiday-themed gifts, meals, decorations, and so on, and simply invited a group of people over?

To get even more radical, I think it would be fun to play some games with the group of people who came over that encouraged honesty and connection.  For example, what if we played a game where each of us talked about the neurosis that the holiday season tends to inspire in us?

If I were playing this game, I’d probably say something like “I worry that I ‘haven’t done enough’ during the past year.  After all, I didn’t win any Nobel Prizes or become a bestselling author or something like that.”  After I admitted that, I’d probably find myself laughing in wonder at my mind’s ability to play tricks on me.

The “Plain Get-Together” Proposal

If my own family tried this out (at least the “plain get-together” part), I suspect I’d be a lot more enthusiastic about the holidays than I usually am.  Not that I try particularly hard to keep up appearances or follow traditions as it is (I don’t think I’ve ever owned a Christmas tree, for instance), but I think people around me would be a lot more relaxed and fun to be with if they stopped trying to do that as well.

That being said, I can respect the fact that, for some people, preparing for the holidays gives them a sense of purpose.  Some people may see decorating the house, choosing gifts, and so on as a worthwhile challenge that it’s satisfying to overcome.

What’s your take?  Would it be worthwhile to try a holiday season with nothing but “plain get-togethers”?

22 thoughts on
Some Radical Holiday Reform Ideas

  1. Patricia

    We have kept fun food but switched to experiences and time together. This year is cross country skiing and celebrating one daughter’s first home purchase…Much more fun

    When I was growing up Christmas was the children’s holiday to teach about faith and love. Now it is a bling event about shopping and perfection – rules as you say. New Years was about cleaning the house and adult hopes and plans. Lots of dancing and music at both events. They still feel like the good old days to me!

  2. Kelvin Kao

    Well, for my birthdays (which I don’t always celebrate), I would invite people over or plan an outing, and I always say “no presents, if you want to bring me something, bring me a joke to share, the cornier the better”.

    I do enjoy seeing all the decorations, though.

    Unfortunately I can’t join your party, considering that I both won the Nobel Prizes or became a bestselling author last week.

  3. Debra Eve

    Hi Steve, my husband and I have a bi-continental family, partly in the U.S. (but far away in the desert) and partly in England. Our holiday celebrations have become increasingly simple, since family accepts we can’t always undertake the expense of traveling and it’s often cheaper to visit in the “off-season.”

    For Christmas, we’ll join a very small gathering of friends. We’ll see his family in spring (when it’s cheaper to fly to London and the countryside is gorgeous) and mine in early fall (when the desert communities are beautiful). I feel very lucky it has worked out this way, because for me, the season has always been about, well, the season. Nature and its wonders.

  4. Coleen Patrick

    I love the plain get togethers. I agree it’s not always easy to make them happen, everyone has so many different ideas and expectations. But it’s pretty awesome when you just get to hang with those you love. Hope you and yours have a happy, peaceful holiday season!

  5. Chris - Post author

    Hi Kelvin — that’s too bad — we only have room for mediocre people at my gatherings — but I know you live in L.A. and there are certainly plenty of perfect people out there to hang out with. :)

  6. Chris - Post author

    Hi Debra — I’m glad to hear your family outings give you the opportunity for interesting travel. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit London during the summer myself, and it’s great to get the chance to do some sightseeing out there in a somewhat more favorable climate than I think London is usually associated with.

  7. Chris - Post author

    Hi Coleen — I like that way of putting it — the opportunity to hang out with those I love, without any need for formality or other trappings, is definitely a special gift from my point of view, and I’m glad you get opportunities for that in your life.

  8. Sara Healy

    “Plain get-togethers” sound like fun to me!

    I giggled at Kelvin’s reply:~) as well as your comment back to him. See, the thing I love about the holidays is finding opportunities to laugh, share love with others and cut through the crap by remembering to be polite and smile often:~)

    I wish you a very happy holiday time, Chris.

  9. Evan

    There is a thing called The Ungame, which is about that kind of thing.

    Some years my partner and I hosted a day the day after Christmas where people got togehter to just hang out (we had a lot of friends who found Christmas Day stressful – either because they felt they had to participate or because they were excluded).

  10. Chris - Post author

    Hi Evan — ah, I just looked up the Ungame — that does sound like fun, albeit the kind of edgy fun that I don’t always succeed in enrolling people into.

  11. Angie Mizzell

    Yes! I can see my neighbors doing this… we’re having an oyster roast on the cul de sac next weekend, and there’s talk of a progressive happy hour(s). I love the idea of getting together, just to be festive. Just to celebrate the season and each other.

  12. Alarna Rose Gray

    Along these lines, I’ve stopped buying my nephews and niece a whole lot of stuff they’ll forget about in two days time. I opt now to take them on an outing during the Christmas break. They love it, and it gives them memories to cherish. One of these days, I’m going to make a family camping Christmas happen. After all, those are my best memories of years gone by.

  13. L. Marie

    I wish our family did the plain get-together. None of us real needs the gifts. And I’ve been to enough funerals to know that time spent with each other is more precious than anything that comes from a store.

  14. Chris - Post author

    Hi Linda — yes, I think it would be great if we could all at least acknowledge, during the holiday season, that we don’t really need the gifts we’re giving each other — at least that requires us to be clear that we’re giving the gifts to show our affection for each other (assuming we are, which is hopefully true).

  15. Jannie Funster

    i do like the glow
    of the tree with fake snow
    the stockings hung up
    and some nog in my cup.

    but stress makes a mess
    so i hereby confess
    i take it as it goes,
    gifting good pre-owned clothes.

    i’m on the page with you
    about the plain-together do
    where we’ll all sing along
    to those time-honored songs

    for what is Christmas but
    a feeling in the heart
    let over-doing be done
    and peace on Earth start!


  16. Chris - Post author

    Hi Jannie — heh, the reference to pre-owned clothes is definitely an instant classic — instant classic production, of course, being what I’ve come to expect from the Janster. Hope you’re enjoying this time and getting some relaxation in.

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