Do Not Go Softly into the Holidays (Be Critical)


Tumbling Sparrow Photography

We were driving home to Waco from my family’s farm in the East Texas pines tonight and I said to my husband, “We should just get one of these pines for our Christmas tree this year.”  This was a slight at the size of tree we ended up with last year due to the lack of tree farms in the Waco area. 

 In the same minute, I thought, “Why would I kill one of these perfectly growing trees as a symbol of something I could just read a book about to my children and pray a special prayer at a celebratory meal?”


Have you ever stepped back to critically explore the reasons you do the things you do for each holiday?  Or am I the hypercritical crazy person with the analogous 1,000 browser tabs open in my mind at all times?  For example, why let a good pumpkin rot on my front porch when it could be made into a delicious pie, or soup to feed my family (which is a main point of celebrating Thanksgiving… to celebrate the end of harvest that will feed our families through the winter)? 



 Why dress my child up in a costume to go get a bunch of candy that I discourage normally, and know we will never finish before next Halloween?





I have a friend who told her son at 4 that “Santa Claus is not real, but please respect the decision of other families who want this illusion for their children and don’t tell your friends he’s not real.”. I asked what her reasoning for this was, and she said, “I told myself I would never lie to my child, and that includes not participating in made up lies.”  Reality check!  She had a compelling argument.  She bolstered her reasoning saying she’d prefer not to take away the meaningfulness of Christ during that holiday. 


Who is this crazy cast of characters I’ve introduced to my children as something important?  Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, witches and ghosts… COME ON.  Why do we do these things?

Of course, the traditions, characters, and stories came from somewhere.  Whether of pagan or religious origins, we don’t pass these traditions on with ill intentions.  For the most part, we just want our children not to feel left out, or want to create, or recreate, fond memories.


So, what am I critically analyzing?  For me, the religious things are non-negotiable.  I want to thank God for baby Jesus’ birth every Christmas, and the resurrection every Easter.  However, the non-basics surrounding those holidays, and the other holidays are up for my mental discussion (with myself).  I don’t know that I will change anything other than the way I approach each holiday emotionally.  But, I will be more centered, more present, and more focused on what I’ve decided matters if I intentionally consider each of these days, and each of these traditions.  If I take the time to think intentionally about how I celebrate Thanksgiving with my children, I can frame what we are giving thanks for that day, how and to whom.  I can respect the farmers that still harvest our food by finding a local heritage turkey, and sides from the farmers’ market or locally sourced items in my grocery store.  I can be grateful to gather with friends and family and express the importance of that (as opposed to retail shopping) to my children.


I don’t know how I feel about being an overly practical person on holidays.  Why buy or cut down (or both) a tree to drag into my home to serve as a fire hazard and pay money for things that I put on it, and then take it all off a few weeks later and then store?  I’d love to think, “nope, I’m just not doing that.”  We’ll read about the birth of Jesus and that will be enough.  

But I know myself, and I love doing that with my family and staring at it with the white twinkling lights with a fire in the fireplace (tree properly watered and fireplace properly guarded).  I take that time to talk about the pretty ornaments, make cookies, and remember all the years before this one.  As long as I’m intentional with what I’m celebrating, and not doing things as a compulsion, I’m going to enjoy them for the reasons they’re meant to be special.


So maybe I won’t buy a snowman lawn ornament, or another fake spider web for the mantel, because I’m working on buying less stuff.  But I will intentionally find a beautiful Christmas tree, and ensure I’m making memories that matter to me, and hopefully to my family. 


And if I decide not to put an elf on the shelf, that’s my (well-played) choice to sit on the bench for that one.


How do you approach holidays and traditions with intention?