Every late November my mom had her children make “want lists”. As the only girl in the family (other than my mom), I always got the most presents. I was spoiled. I expected things.
When I was 15, my mindset changed. It was the first year that I told my mom to not buy me school clothes and that I was okay with what I had the year previous. I was content, and don’t know how I got to that point in general. It was once I became 16 that I went back to my normal materialism.
Here we are 16 years later.
This is the third year that we have not celebrated Christmas (we celebrate Hanukkah tied in with Jesus/Yeshua). Our last Christmas (4 years ago) we did without a tree and the majority of the usual things we had done years before. Being minimalists also gives us a changed perspective on the holidays.
1. Saving money on electricity.
I don’t have to buy lights or worry about replacing lost ones. My electric bill remains normal. “But Victoria, lights are so pretty!” My home looks fine as it is. “But Victoria, what about the joy of your sons looking at the lights on your tree?” They have joy and actually find pleasure in lighting our menorah/hanukkiya for eight nights. They stare into a trance at the candles. I have always preferred light from non-electrical sources in general myself and would definitely love to switch over completely as it is.
2. “I speak for the trees!”
34 billion trees are cut down every year for Christmas in the US alone. “Why not get a fake tree, Victoria?” Regardless, we don’t like the origins to having a tree in our home in general and I like looking at them outside. It does great pleasure to see how trees grant homes for creatures or watch how the snow falls and sits on their branches. Fake trees are strange and miss the whole concept of smell and touch. We would spend $70 on trees some years. Why spend money on something that will not last that long, make a huge mess I am going to have to clean up anyway, and then gets picked up on the curb as part of its ritual (it really is strange how we do that – take pictures of our glorious tree only to ditch it)? It is one thing to use the tree to make something useful like a chair, paper to write on, or a house. It is another to dispose of it.
3. Ornamental Mentality Issues.
We actually gave our ornaments back to our parents to do what they please with them. I used to love looking back each year at the ornaments that we had as we’d put them on the tree. I prefer to keep my memories in my head instead of holding on to material objects to remind me of things. The memories are in my mind. If I lose my mind, so be it, but having an object to remind me of something to me is not necessary. We feel ornaments are glorified trinkets and a form of idolatry, and I know people will say, “WOAH there!” That’s just sincerely how we view them (so we have no trinkets at all). We don’t have to spend money on something that sits in a box in our attic to be taken out for a short period of time before getting packed away again. We had so many ornaments that never even went on our trees. All this goes along with the rest of the decorations normally set up each year as well. I like that the only thing I spend money on for each year now are tiny Hanukkah candles that cost me a dollar or two. That’s it. Sweet. We do still hang up cards that people send to us.
4. NINTENDO 64!!!
Ah, presents. Having to go to stores or worry about costs or discounts. None of that effects us! Spending hundreds of dollars on things that make you go into debt is absurd. Buying things that the kids will either love or hate; things that get played with for a short while and eventually forgotten. Seriously, does that kid still play with his Nintendo 64 today? Highly unlikely. It may be in his attic now collecting dust. If we train kids to be that excited about a material possession, there is a problem. We have created little monsters who expect to have things catered to them. I have seen my own sons go crazy when they don’t get their own way and it is very frustrating to deal with. When we have told them why we don’t buy them things, they totally get it though. Now they know that we really only get them either a present to share with one another for Hanukkah (yes, we only get them one present, though this year we gave them each a present and an extra to share). We will only buy things for them that will be put to good use, or it is pointless to purchase it.
The truth is that the majority of the children in the world are living in menial poverty while children in the US have an overabundance of wasteful items they don’t really need. We want to instill in our sons that it is more important to help people with nothing than expect something they don’t need. Children today get bored too quickly with their toys. They’ll play with it a few times but it gets old fast and they want something else. We want our sons to be able to appreciate what they have and to stick with what they have and put it to use regularly.
We live in an age where it is easy to access things that we want and stuff builds up where you need more room and storage for those things you don’t even need. We believe in giving our children something that can be a tool to train them and build their minds. More and more I am noticing my children are drawing more and playing less with toys. They want to do more creative things. Even the video games we allow them to play have to do with building their brains (such as Minecraft that they haven’t grown bored of since playing it regularly for two years). We want them outside more. We want them to build relationships with others.
Our last Christmas celebrated, we had no money for presents at all and we felt so badly about it. Someone gave some of their child’s presents to our boys. That was so kind of them but now I wish I was okay with our sons getting nothing and that instead we could just have time together and understand that value is not what you own. value is the time you spend with one another period, usually doing tasks and activities as a unit.
5. Celebrate Jesus Daily
We were sent a box this week that had a message on it that said, “Simplify Christmas! Celebrate Jesus!” I was very confused. We aren’t celebrating Jesus? The Shammash/center candle on a Menorah/Hanukkiya IS the “servant light” that lights up the rest. That light is Jesus. We very much celebrate Him this season without celebrating Christmas. The box had some crafts inside for the boys (which were cute actually and they are working on them as I type this) and packets of info explaining why we should celebrate St. Nicholas Day. Didn’t they just say to celebrate Jesus and now we are to celebrate a man who wanted to celebrate Jesus, not himself? It is irritating and hurtful how much trouble we receive each year for not celebrating like the majority of Christians, as if we are “less Christian” because we choose to not celebrate Christmas. It is as if it is required of us, and how dare we not want to. How quickly people forget to see who we (Rob and I) are. We celebrate Christ every day. Why should we think of his birth only on a day that isn’t even his birthday that was originally Caesar’s birthday in which the Catholic church wanted to replace with Christ’s birthday? We think about him all the time and how God cared that much to save us that He sent His only son! How neat!
Jesus said to give everything up to follow him, and we are in that process to think more of His kingdom over ours. We spent a couple years studying about Christmas and Hanukkah before we made this decision. It wasn’t as if we woke up one morning and decided to change how we did things all at once. It was the word of God that has slowly been changing how we live, and for us, the holidays is a big part of this. I think Christmas has been more of a comfort during a cold dead season to people than Jesus has been a comfort to them. The miracle of Jesus giving everything up for us is more important than anything we could ever want, receive, or have the ability to give. We are told to help the poor, the slave, the oppressed, the prisoner, the refugee, the widow, the orphan, etc. Is granting material presents to our sons doing that? No. Giving them the actual word of God and showing them how to live by it is.
My final encouragement to you:
Try to understand why you are celebrating something and what the overall purpose may be. No one told us to stop celebrating Christmas. It was the furthest thing from our mind to do. We might love to discuss things with people, but most of the time people don’t try to understand or ask us questions as to why. They react with anger instead and try to change us. It doesn’t work like that. We believe you should dig in to understand everything and not blindly accept what was told to you about something. We thought we felt a peace in how we once celebrated holidays, but we had a lot of hard times in regards to them. Now we feel an even deeper peace. It is so nice to not have to worry about all those stresses we once had.