It Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas… and Maybe That’s OK

December 24, 2015


I’ve been trying to get into the Christmas spirit for weeks. In mid-November, much to his surprise, I started recording Christmas movies on my dad’s PVR so I could watch them in December. I also made him get his Christmas tree early (on November 28th, to be exact) and strung around the lights, so he could catch a glimmer of it before he left for sea. I’ve listened to all my favourite Christmas albums – including the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, which I’ve listened to multiple times while working. And I’ve gone on a couple drives around the city, to check out some of the best light displays.

Still, despite my best attempts, I have to say… it doesn’t feel like Christmas is here. I don’t know what’s caused it to lose its magic or sparkle on me. Maybe it’s the fact that there are no surprises anymore? Or that we don’t have any young kids in our family to make it more fun? It could simply be that my brother, sister and I are adults now, and we’ve all jumped on the minimalist Christmas bandwagon, which still feels so new to us even though it’s now our second year doing it. Yes, that’s probably it – we are still navigating this “new” holiday, and trying to figure out what it looks like for everyone.

There are some traditions we’ve had for years that we plan to keep: like watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on Christmas Eve (tonight!), making a big breakfast tomorrow, and taking the dogs for a long walk after we put the turkey in the oven. We’ll also have the same family members over for dinner, and keep our open door policy for visitors throughout the day.

But what’s exciting about getting older and changing our thoughts around what this holiday means to us is that it also opens up space for us to create new traditions. Last year, we opted to open our few gifts in the morning and then not touch our stockings until right before dinner; this is something we’ve agreed to do again tomorrow. This year, I purchased a gift for the whole family (a board game) and know that, at the very least, my brother, sister and I will play after dinner. The tradition doesn’t need to include a new game each year – we can just play this one and that will be wonderful.

While trying to figure out what the holidays will look like now, it helps having new friends who already practice the same ideas we have. Many of them only give gifts they’ve made themselves, which inspired a few of my own gifts this year. Then there are my friends Paul and Lisa, who don’t celebrate Christmas at all, but still invited a few of us over for a big home-cooked vegan dinner last weekend. There is truly nothing better than getting people around a table, eating good food, chatting and making new memories – and that’s surely what our Christmas will look like tomorrow, and for all years to come.

So, it still doesn’t feel like Christmas yet and the magic of it seems to be gone… but maybe that’s ok. Maybe every year will feel like this, now that we’re a family of adults who don’t care about gifts. Maybe the sparkle will simply be the food and the good conversations that happen around our dinner table. And maybe that’s enough! …or maybe I’ll turn on Rudolph tonight and it’ll all come back to me. :)

Either way, I’m taking the next few days off to get some space from the online world, laze around with my family, and then maybe squeeze in a short hike or two. I have three posts drafted for next week, so we’ll talk again soon, friends! Until then, I hope the holiday spirit is within you, and that you all have a wonderful few days with your loved ones.



  • Reply Rob December 24, 2015 at 5:32 am

    I know what you mean, Cait. I think too (for me, at least) one reason why it doesn’t feel like the Christmases of past years is the weather (at least here in Toronto). I ditty bopped outside for my early morning coffee run to my nearest Timmies and the weather was unreal – it felt like a warm (but windy) autumn morning, not Dec 24th. Talk about yer Global Warming, eh?

    That said, however, me-thinks (for our family, at least) that the mood will change as we travel over to our daughter’s house to have a Christmas eve early afternoon dinner and open presents with all the family – 6 adults, 5 grand kids and a little white coton de tulear doggie! :-)

    Then, on Christmas day, we travel over to our son’s house and enjoy another dinner there with all of his wife’s family where they open their presents.

    Then after that I crash diet and get ready to get pampered next week by my daughter who’s treating me to a (very) belated b/day present (a pedicure, lunch and a Star Wars movie for the old man)! :-)

    So, yes, everyone has their holiday traditions. Being with friends and family (all of whom are super busy during most of the year) is ours. Enjoy some relaxing days ahead with your family and friends.

    So Cait here’s wishing you a Merry Christmas and a very happy, healthy and profitable New Year.

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 8:21 am

      Yes, Toronto + NYC have both been experiencing some very strange weather this month, eh? I think it’s supposed to be 21C in NYC today! Crazy… Anyway, I think you’ll get into the Christmas spirit very quickly though, especially being surrounded by grandkids. And what a nice day your daughter is treating you to next week! Sounds lovely, Rob. Merry Christmas + I hope you all have a wonderful holiday week! :)

    • Reply Erin December 24, 2015 at 10:00 am

      Same here in KW… It feels like Christmas in Florida!

  • Reply giulia December 24, 2015 at 5:40 am

    I must to say that I undesrtand you, i am on a budget so being a person that loves buy gifts for others I have a rule it must to be a useful gift, I don’t know why but also if I HATE cols I have a truly deeply love for Christmas…however your minimalist Christmas is a good idea, same thing for board game…Spend quality time with family is a true gift…
    Have yourself amerry Christmas and that this new year will be amazing for you and your family, God bless you daily

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 8:36 am

      We are also giving a few useful gifts, and I made a couple for friends… so the magic is still there, on that front. It’s just interesting how growing up changes our mindset around the whole thing. We are extremely fortunate to be in a position where we can still get everyone together and create the traditions we want. I am truly blessed. Merry Christmas, Giulia!

  • Reply Kristen December 24, 2015 at 5:43 am

    I have been feeling the same way. Everyone says it is because of the lack of snow, but I don’t think so. This year, we also cut back on our gift. My brother-in-law and his dog will join my husband and myself and our two dogs around lunch today. We will play games all afternoon, and have the big turkey dinner my husband loves to cook. Tomorrow will be our presents before going to the movies, followed by more games (we love games and have a great collection). While I can’t say I am in the Christmas mood, I am happily in the lazy vacation mood!
    Merry Christmas!

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 8:38 am

      Oh, all of your plans sound lovely, Kristen! Two days spent with family and dogs, eating and playing games… yes, sign me up! I hope you enjoy every (lazy) minute of it. :) Merry Christmas!

  • Reply Brian @DebtDiscipline December 24, 2015 at 5:43 am

    Enjoying good food and time with family can be the best part of a holiday. Enjoy it Cait!

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 8:38 am

      Thanks, Brian! Merry Christmas!

  • Reply Kate @ Cashville Skyline December 24, 2015 at 5:59 am

    I convinced my family to have a gift-free Christmas this year. And I’ve been pretty happy about it for most of December. But when I got home and saw all the Christmas decorations I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake. Would enjoying brunch on Christmas morning feel the same? Does it need to? I’m hoping Christmas transforms into something different going forward. A holiday that focuses on being together over gifts.

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 8:41 am

      Yes, maybe this is just your first “transitional Christmas” – which is sure to come with some feelings of uncertainty, as you swap one tradition (gifts) out for another (more time to do other things). I remember feeling that way last year. This year, it’s not the lack of gifts that’s making me feel this way though… if anything, there might be a few more under the tree. There’s just a general sense that things are different, I guess. But I know it’ll still be a great couple of days – and I know you’ll enjoy your brunch just the same. :) Merry Christmas, my friend!

  • Reply sharon December 24, 2015 at 6:09 am

    Having little kids in the family at xmas time definitely makes the magic come alive again when you see Christmas thru their eyes. We cut back on gift-giving this year, but I still feel some sparkle inside. Another way to feel the glad tidings again is to volunteer at a soup kitchen around the holiday season. I’ve started volunteering and it sure makes one feel warm & grateful. Perhaps next year you could join a gang of carollers, that would be a fun & festive idea. I do miss going to church on xmas eve like when I was little. It was fun singing the hymns together. We’d take in Midnight Mass then come back to a small feast prepared by my mom. Loved it. Too bad I live with an atheist. lol

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 8:46 am

      Yes, I got to volunteer at a soup kitchen in NYC last December and it was a good experience – although they do that work all year, and it’s probably even more important to do it then! I can’t say I’ve ever seen a group of carollers here either, but I do love to sing, so I’d certainly do that. :) Anyway, I’m sure it’ll still be a great day, maybe just with a little less sparkle than before. I hope YOU get to do some singing, Sharon… :) Merry Christmas!

  • Reply Tonya@Budget and the Beach December 24, 2015 at 6:14 am

    I have felt like this for YEARS Cait! A lot of people look at me like “how sad” but it doesn’t bother me at all. It’s just the way it is. You can choose to be OK with it or sad, and I know this time of year many people are very sad when if they looked closely they have a lot to appreciate about life. It doesn’t always have to look like a “very Brady Christmas.” :) I just dated myself. :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 8:50 am

      Yea, I’m not sad about it… and I’m certainly not a Grinch either, you know? I’m still happy it’s Christmas! I’m excited for a day of food and fun. But it just feels… different… and that’s ok. And you didn’t date yourself! Honestly, I haven’t been able to read all the blog posts this week that make it sound like Christmas is this oh so magical experience, because I’m just not feeling it this year. And life isn’t that perfect, so why pretend it is? Anyway, I hope you and Pepe at least get to enjoy a couple treats and have a few lazy days together. :)

  • Reply Jewel December 24, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Merry Christmas Cait! For our family, Christmas has never been about the gifts, so although we have cut back on the gift purchases, the gifts still mean the same thing, we are showing each other love and caring by getting each person something they will enjoy that they would probably not get for themselves.
    Christmas makes me think about the birth of Christ, and what that means to me; I don’t think I can describe it, but it enriches the things about the holidays I love, family, memories, food, and the pleasure I have seeing someone open a gift that makes them happy. Or surprising someone I don’t know with a spontaneous offering – a coffee, donation, even just some encouragement when they look like they could use it.
    I guess I am trying to say (and not in a preachy way) that giving to others is what gives me the Christmas feeling, and I don’t think being a minimalist means you can’t give to others, just that you would do it more thoughtfully, and that can’t be a bad thing.
    Enjoy your holidays!

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 8:54 am

      Oh, I’ve certainly given gifts, Jewel – a few to family, created some very special ones for friends and made more charitable donations all year than ever before. It just doesn’t feel quite the same this year, for whatever reason… but that’s ok. I appreciate the sentiments, and hope you have a wonderful holiday too! Merry Christmas :)

  • Reply Neita December 24, 2015 at 7:20 am

    For the past few years, I’ve been exploring some of the ancient cultural traditions of “Solstice” and integrating them with my traditional Christmas celebrations. But mainly, I read about them and didn’t really do anything with that knowledge. This year, I consciously planned some Solstice observances, and it’s made a huge difference. This has been one of the best “Christmas” holidays in decades.

    If we follow our rhythms and cycles of nature, winter is a time of hibernation. We can use this time for reflection (of the past year) and planning (our goals for the next year). So everyday for about seven days around Christmas, I:
    — found a website with seasonal topics to reflect on and I journaled on those
    — connected with nature in some way (bought a green plant to bring into the house, picked up trash in the neighborhood, took a leisurely walk in the park)
    — and spent time with a friend or family member

    Doing those three things each day has much a huge difference in how happy I feel this holiday season. I didn’t miss the gift-giving at all. I especially did not miss the hustle & bustle (and traffic) of shopping. In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed the introspection and downtime.

    Hopefully, you too will find some new traditions that make this season again special to you!

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 11:45 am

      Those are wonderful ideas, Neita – thank you for sharing them here! I certainly don’t miss the hustle and bustle of shopping, nor do I care about how many gifts are under the tree. I feel like this post might’ve sounded like I only care about the gifts part, but that’s not it at all – I just don’t feel much Christmas spirit or magic or whatever else we can call it, and I can’t quite put my finger on why. Anyway, I definitely need some downtime, so will certainly do that… and I love the idea of journaling. This blog is my public journal, but I could certainly do more writing just for myself. Merry Christmas :)

  • Reply Amanda December 24, 2015 at 7:33 am

    I felt the same way this year and after I finished reading this post I realized that the concept of “magic” has simply changed or matured. I feel this year that I am more into the quality time around the dinner table or firepit than the number of gifts given or received. My older brother is huge into board games so I’m sure we’ll do that! I think as adults and with adult siblings the magic just looks different than it did as kids. Obviously my brothers and I can’t sleep in the same bedroom on Christmas Eve falling asleep listening to Christmas music, but when we get together Christmas Day we have a different kind of fun and magic. Maybe it’s just changing the way you view Christmas Magic. :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 11:48 am

      I think you’re right, Amanda. I’m 8 and 10 years older than my brother and sister, so I think some of the magic I’d been holding onto came from wanting to make sure they had a great day. Now that we’re all adults, Christmas just sort’ve feels like any other day… if that makes sense. But changing the way we view the magic of it is a good idea. Thanks :) and Merry Christmas!

  • Reply Rachel @ Betty LIVIN December 24, 2015 at 7:52 am

    I think most people find the “magic” of Christmas sadly wears off the older the get. I know for me, it doesn’t feel like Christmas until I my whole family is together and singing Christmas carols loudly and off key. Merry Christmas!

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 11:49 am

      Haha, that sounds awesome, Rachel. For us, I’d say it’s when we’re all laughing so hard that my dad’s face turns red and then we start laughing at that! Merry Christmas! :)

  • Reply Erin December 24, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Merry Christmas Cait! I have found myself feeling this way about Christmas too. Before my niece and nephew came along it was just adults and the ‘magic’ was missing. Maybe someday there will be kiddos in the house again and I bet you will feel Christmas-y. In the meantime I think your plans sound fabulous, relaxing and family filled. Enjoy it!

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 11:51 am

      Thanks, Erin! My “niece and nephew” (friends’ kids) are 6 and 2, and certainly bring Christmas spirit wherever they go. I went to the local Santa Claus Parade with them, earlier this month, and they were in absolute heaven. I’ll hold onto that memory for a while, for sure :) Merry Christmas!

      • Reply Erin December 30, 2015 at 11:24 am

        :) :) :)

  • Reply Alyssa @ Generation YRA December 24, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Merry Christmas, Cait! I hope you have fantastic long conversations with you family around the table. As I get older, I feel the same way. In fact, it even furrows my brow a bit sometimes – how can I get that magic of Christmas feeling back to pass on to our future children? I guess right now I drive by the mall jam packed with cars, and hear the stresses that people feel to have to exhaust their savings to buy gifts for everyone, that I just want to put up my hands and ask “What is this all for?” (does this make me a Scrooge…?) But I know once we get together tonight with my fiance’s family & tomorrow with my family – the young nieces and nephews are definitely going to capture some of the spirit back for us.

    P.S. That one holiday flat white got me in the spirit a bit! I am trying to hack it myself at home – I have some mulling spices that I have dipped into my homemade coffee! Not exactly the same, but kind of close. :)

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 11:57 am

      Ok, THANK YOU for this comment, hun, because that’s something I’ve been struggling with all month but just wasn’t sure how to vocalize: the question of “why do we do this?”, which I then compare to our old traditions, our existing ones and the new Christmas we are trying to create. I can’t figure out what this holiday will look like for us, going forward, other than the fact that I know we’ll all have dinner together. But the gifts? I’m glad we only do a few now, but sometimes I wonder if we should do any at all… you know? But then what would a zero gift Christmas look like? Would everyone agree to it, or would some people end up buying gifts? I don’t know. I don’t have any answers right now. But something tells me it’ll keep changing, year-by-year. And to your PS, I love that you’ve been attempting to recreate it! I haven’t even tried yet, but I do add a splash of cardamom to my coffee and that gives it a nice flavour. :)

  • Reply Ashlee Michelle December 24, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I totally understand where you are coming from, Cait. When I moved out of my parents home about 5 years ago, Christmas sort of died for me. I moved in with my, now husband, and his family doesn’t do Christmas as big and loud as my family does. I’m used to decorating after thanksgiving dinner, curling up by the fire place, and watching Christmas Movies every day with my family leading up to December 25th. That’s not how it goes with my husbands family. And now that we are all adults and there are no little children, the youngest being 14, everyone is sort of like “So Dinner at 3pm? Okay see you then”…Adulting Sucks!

    But, my husband knows how christmas obsessed I am so for the last 2 years he has been trying to make it as magical as possible for me. We spent time in the snow last weekend up in the mountains. We stayed in a cabin with my family and it was really nice having it feel like Christmas. I think as we get older we start to realize that Christmas isn’t about “The Magic” and “The Presents”….it’s about hanging out with our loved ones.

    Hope you Enjoy your Christmas, either way.

    • Reply Cait Flanders December 24, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      Oh, I’ll definitely still enjoy Christmas! I’m looking forward to all the food we have to snack on throughout the day, and it’ll be great to have everyone around the table together… but the whole idea of what Christmas is “supposed to look like” just feels different now, if that makes any sense. I think it’s lovely that your husband has been trying to bring back some of the magic for you! A weekend in a cabin sounds perfect :) Merry Christmas, Ashlee!

  • Reply Cassie December 24, 2015 at 2:57 pm

    It took a little while to get into the spirit this year, but I think it finally showed up for me. Putting the Christmas tree up (which my husband suggested unprompted two weeks ago!) involves rearranging the living room furniture, so there is a visible break between day to day life and Christmas life. The visual reminder helped. We also delivered holiday hampers to families in need last weekend, which definitely helped get us into the spirit. The looks on the children’s faces as we brought box upon box of food and gifts to their homes was priceless. Living a life of abundance it’s sometimes difficult to remember there are many out there who struggling. It feels good to give back.

    It will just be the two of us at home this year, so we’re hoping to have a quiet day together (between the phone calls and FaceTiming that is). I’m going to suggest we open our stockings in the morning, and then have breakfast before moving on to gifts. We’ll see how he feels about that. The one thing I do know is that I’ll probably wake up to him jumping on the bed saying “Santa came! Santa came! Santa came!” to both the dog and myself. His dad used to wake them up like that Christmas morning, and I think he’s looking forward to continuing the tradition when our children are old enough as well.

  • Reply Linda Sand December 24, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Christmas for you now is different from how it used to be in the past. It is OK to grieve that loss. That doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the present but loss always calls for grieving. Please, give yourself permission to do that.

  • Reply Audrey Wanders December 24, 2015 at 6:15 pm

    Regardless of your approach to the holidays, I don’t think Christmas feels the same as an adult. I think it takes on a new mind of magic when you are creating memories for your children, but I’m one of the late-20s adults without kids who is having a hard time explaining to my family that I don’t want… things… for Christmas. I’m full on things, short on memories.

    My extended family decided to opt out of the impersonal secret Santa and donate to a local food bank. We donated 294 pounds of food (yes, they weighed it for us) on the first drop off. That, to me, felt more magical. Most of my family commented how wonderful it was just to get together for a potluck dinner last Saturday to spend time with each other rather than have a parade of presents.

    I’m sorry you’re having a hard time this year. I hope you’re able to have a memorable time with family and friends.

  • Reply Heather December 25, 2015 at 9:58 am

    It’s been over 20 years since our family has done a ‘traditional’ Christmas ~ instead of gifts to each other we have opted to sponsor needy children & give to the poor, and this is something that we do 365 days a year, not just on the 25th of December. When we first started doing this, it was very, very strange, but as the years have passed, we are soooo thankful we’re no longer involved in the materialistic rat race that Christmas has become. We have nine children (oldest is 27, youngest 10) and we are a family who reads & believes the Bible. Interestingly we get a lot of negativity from other Christians who accuse us of forsaking a Christian holy day/holiday, when we look further, we see that the wise men gave gifts to the child Jesus, not to each other . . . so that is why we’ve chosen the path we’re on. I believe that you will find that as the years pass for you, the ‘strangeness’ will pass, and creating new traditions will become a great blessing to you.

  • Reply Wren December 25, 2015 at 5:10 pm

    This made me feel better. I have zero Christmas spirit and didn’t put up a tree for the first time ever.

  • Reply Rachel December 25, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    Totally know the feeling. The time is going way too fast, before we know it, it’ll be next Christmas!

  • Reply Linda December 26, 2015 at 4:09 am

    Christmas has changed over the years, from the excitement of a child to the coolness of a teenager, the autonomy of the 20’s (spending Christmas on a beach!), back to pure excitement as the parent of young children….it goes round and round. This year we are 2 adults spending time together in our holiday home and no, it doesn’t have the sparkle of past years but that’s perfectly ok. We’re enjoying the peace and quiet, the scenery, the time to relax and unwind. Gifts were not lavish but useful, and included donations to charity. We’re growing and changing, and Christmas reflects this stage of our lives.

  • Reply Our Next Life December 27, 2015 at 10:26 pm

    We struggled with this, too, since it was our first no-buy Christmas (though we still ended up giving each other a few “experience gifts” — $50 in movie tickets and a pass for early access to skiing one day — and some marzipan). It did snow tons, which made it feel more like Christmas, but when we finally got around to getting a tree, the only ones left were these sad, small trees at Rite Aid (upside: only $15), which was a big womp womp. We didn’t travel this year, which meant there were no kids around, which always makes it feel less like a holiday for some reason. But, like you said, it’s all okay. We’re making conscious choices about our lives, and by cutting out most of the gift-giving, we’re definitely missing out on a big part of what makes the holiday CHRISTMAS for most people, so we’re figuring out how we want to define the day instead. Obviously, family is important, and bonus if we get time with friends, too. As for the rest, we’ll keep you posted! Hope you enjoy your unplug time! Happy new year’s too. :-)

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