In Praise of Stay-at-Home Holidays

Ugly Sweater Day - Back

Call me a Grinch but it’s been a few years since I’ve celebrated the holidays and I’m really enjoying my non-Christmas days. It wasn’t necessarily a well-thought-out decision on my part to stop taking part in the family festivities but rather a serious of things that’s led me to skip the tree and the presents and all the running around that had begun to feel a requisite part of Christmas celebrations. Still, I’m happy I did.

Because while the occasion is filed as a top German tradition -– replete with outdoor markets, fruitcakes, gluehwein and a month’s worth of minor celebrations — since moving here I’ve used the three-day vacation as just that: a break. A few years ago, that meant flying to Turkey, where the 25th was just another day. This year, with my health keeping me grounded, I’m using the country’s three federal holidays as a chance to catch up on all the luxuries I neglect while working 60 hour weeks… like sleeping late and taking long, hot baths. Oh, and I might bake a few vegan lebkuchen to indulge the sweet tooth.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s the little things in life. And it keeps my December stress-free … which means my January won’t be the month of depression, as it is for many. Of course, I’m missing out on all the presents. But who needs another ugly sweater anyway? I buy myself whatever I feel like I need whenever I feel like it. And I’d rather see my family when we can actually hang out together without worrying about who will do all the cooking or driving around the mall parking lot looking for a spot. Or driving through a snowstorm to see one of the endless numbers of aunts and uncles that I have scattered throughout the Midwest.

None of that really sounds like I’ve made the holiday more eco friendly. After all, I can’t exactly proclaim innovation when I’m simply doing nothing. But by not celebrating, I’m also not wasting: no cutdown tree, no fake snow sprinkles, no lights racking up my electricity bill, no crinkled up wrapping paper and silly looking bows. All of that seemed pointless to me a few years ago, anyway, when I spent Christmas day working at a homeless shelter. You forget, in all your decorating, just how little some others have. So instead of letting things go to waste each year, I remind myself that this nothing I do is sometimes better than something.

Photo credit: (c) Pesky Library, courtesy of flickr Creative Commons