the gift of peace on earth

The silly way my mind works is that if I learn something, I think everyone has learned the same thing. Not surprisingly with this crazy thought process, I am often shocked when people act contrary to what I have learned and put into action. This is the case with sodas. Every time I see someone drinking a soda I think, “People still drink sodas?” This is also the case for simplifying my life. It continues to surprise me when I hear so much discussion about the holidays being hectic, people stressing about getting all the light put on their house, and experiencing angry shoppers. People are still getting stressed about the holidays? Hasn’t everyone watched every Netflix movie, read every book and listened to every podcast about minimalism and simplifying our lives… at least twice?! Just me? Shocking!

Ok, even if your life mission does not include Marie Kondo, there is an often repeated message that the December holidays are all about bringing light, hope, peace, and joy to the world. Is the buying of more and more stuff or the doing of more and more stuff bringing peace and joy to the world?

In all the things we do for the holidays, which things are bringing you joy, true joy, while you are doing them? Are there any traditions that bring stress? If you were sick and broke, which traditions would you drop and which would you keep because they brought pure healing peace and joy?

The following are traditions I’ve dropped:

holiday cards
By foregoing holiday cards, I am saving time, money, energy, trees, and fossil fuel. Saving these are in line with my values and opens up time for me to connect more directly with family and friends. I might send out a short “happy new year” email with a couple of pictures to the people I care about, but don’t get to connect with directly.

christmas tree
Last year we decorated our Norfolk Pinetree house plant because we didn’t want our new stick-eating obsessed dog to think the tree was for her. This year I wrote a post about eco-friendly tree options and decided our usual Whole Food’s tree sprayed with pesticides was not what I wanted to bring into our house. For a moment I was wishing that I hadn’t donated our three little fake trees during that time when I was in a “let’s stop storing stuff we only use once a year” mission. Without a Christmas tree, I used child-made paper decorations, strings of cranberries, wood snowflakes and wool ornaments, and tiny LED lights to decorate our many house plants, fireplace mantle, and china cabinet. It wasn’t as easy because I had to think outside the box and experiment but in the end I love it! Simple, money-saving, beautiful, and eco-friendly.

exterior decor
Although we enjoy looking at other people’s holiday decor, I decided not to spend the time or money on lights, wreaths, or super cute pine bough gnomes. Nothing to put up means nothing to take down, nothing to store, nothing to waste.

gifts for everyone
Some people have FOMO (fear of missing out) but I have the fear of leaving people out. I don’t want anyone to feel left out and in the past have given gifts to soooo many people. Luckily, this year when we visit with my brother and his girlfriend we will have a $10 gift exchange, based on names drawn at Thanksgiving. I still went overboard buying gifts for teachers and staff at my child’s school. Baby steps.

The few gifts I purchased were from my favorite eco-friendly online shops that were offering steep discounts for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Easy breezy!

Instead of saying yes to all the events, we are saying yes to a few events that work best for our schedule and will bring us the most joy. Walk to the ice cream shop to listen to a cello quartet, socialize, dinner, and a brisk walk home? Yes, please! Experiencing beautiful singing in the glow of candlelight but too close to bedtime and a long commute? No thanks. Before we say yes to all the wonderful opportunities to connect, let’s remember that saying no to some might be saying yes to greater peace for ourselves, our family, and ultimately the world.

Lighting advent and menorah candles are lovely traditions to include in December celebrations that can bring a sense of connection, spirit, and peace. I, however, cannot keep track of lighting the candles and what to do or say around the lighting of the candles. Instead of it being a beautiful addition to the holiday season it was creating more stress for me. This year the candles and holders remained in my holiday box.

In the name of love and light in December and throughout the year, let’s look deeply at which holiday traditions we continue out of obligation or a perceived idea that they bring joy to others (while creating more work and stress for ourselves) versus those we actively enjoy participating in and creating. What brings true peace and joy is personal and unique for each of us.

May you find the courage to keep only those traditions that create peace on earth and joy for the world because they first bring peace and joy for you.