The Secret to Holiday Joy

Is anyone else frustrated with the constant marketing strategies that tell you the holidays have to be stressful and overwhelming? I have equal disdain for the messaging that you’re supposed to love the holidays and everything about them. I think Christmas in particular has become so commercialized that we don’t treat it as a celebration – even when we want to. It’s become more like an obligation. And whether you love this time of year or stress over it, nothing should feel like an obligation.

One happy side effect of my focus on green living is that I am slowly letting go of the obligation. I’m simplifying. The result? A Christmas that’s more about what I want, with less guilt, less waste, and more fun. I’m striving to make Christmas an enjoyable time of year again, because I really do love it.

Here are some of my strategies. They might not be exactly what you want or need, but I hope this gives you some ideas to incorporate in your own celebrations.

Reusable Advent Calendar

I can’t take full credit for this because my mom gave it to us when my daughter was younger, but I love our Nutcracker storybook advent calendar. Another example is the My Kindness Calendar that focuses on daily acts of kindness. Having one less thing to buy heading into December is a win in my book! Reusable advent calendars are zero waste, healthier, and create lasting memories.

Can you think of other disposable traditions that you can swap out with a reusable alternative?

Christmas Cards

I like the idea of Christmas cards. But I don’t like it enough to want to send them. So I don’t. But I do love receiving them, and I hope that my friends and family to who send them love sending them.  I figure, if anyone is bothered that I don’t send a card back, they don’t have to send one to me. I’ve released myself from the obligation.

What are you doing purely out of obligation? If it’s something you don’t really like, can you stop doing it?

Quality Over Quantity

There’s a lot of pressure on parents especially to pack as many gifts as possible under the tree. But as I talked about in my Gift Guide, giving for the sake of giving is ultimately wasteful. The long-term effects of this far outweigh the short-term rush of endorphins from ripping open present after present after present. My kids get a special toy from Santa (yes, just one), and from us they get practical stuff or experiences. And you know what? They still love opening presents and they actually use them past Boxing Day. (Have a look at my Gift Guide if you’re still looking for inspiration for Greener gifts.)

Is your gift-giving out of control? What can you do to reign back? Try a secret Santa-style exchange for extended family if you don’t want to cut gifts out completely.

To Bake… or Not to Bake

I am the farthest thing from Martha Stewart, but one of my favourite memories of Christmas as a kid was baking Christmas cookies. And so, this is a tradition I do and actually enjoy. But I don’t cook a Christmas dinner. The thought of spending hours in the kitchen doesn’t appeal to me. So, many years ago we started the tradition of fondu. It can all be prepped ahead of time, it’s low-waste (people just eat as it cooks instead of heaping plates with more than they can handle), and it encourages conversation because it takes a long time to get through!

Are you cooking more than you want to? How can you simplify?


If you’ll notice, a lot of these strategies were focused on making my life (and my family’s) easier. In fact, the inspiration for this post was a conversation facilitated by Lynne Newman, my go-to expert for (among other things) simplifying. (By the way, she has a great little e-book to help you simplify kids’ stuff which might come in handy this time of year!)

It just so happens that the strategies I mentioned above all have green benefits as well.

This goes to show that making green choices isn’t about sacrificing anything. Whether you’re thinking of yourself, or the planet, simplifying is a great step towards more joy over the holidays. This was just my version of simplifying and avoiding the feeling of obligation. Yours might (and probably does) look quite different. And that’s OK. Do what feels right for you and you can’t go wrong.

I wish you all the best for the holidays – no matter how you choose to celebrate (or not).


  1. Judy Langill says

    Thanks for the voice of sanity, Emma! I really think you’re on the right track here … also loved your Gift Guide. Wishing you and all your family the merriest of Christmases and all good things in the New Year!
    Judy & David

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