What is a tradition actually? Wikipedia says: “As with many other generic terms, there are many definitions of tradition.The concept includes a number of interrelated ideas; the unifying one is that tradition refers to beliefs, objects or customs performed or believed in the past, originating in it, transmitted through time by being taught by one generation to the next, and are performed or believed in the present.”
Take a moment to think about a few questions:
Why do you celebrate Christmas like you do? Is it because you grew up in a christian family? Could it be because you grew up in your country? Is it simply because your parents celebrated Christmas?
What about thanksgiving? Holidays are different from country-to-country depending largely on where you are born. Thanksgiving is a prominent tradition in the US and Canada, but not so much in many European countries, and even then, it has a different meaning and history.
Why do you celebrate a special holiday/tradition? How does a tradition start?
Every family has their own holiday assumptions. Sometimes there are “unspoken” rigid rules that can’t get broken. Why can’t those “rules” be broken?
It says in the definition of tradition, “Transmitted through time,” and: “refers to beliefs.” Therefore, if anything changes in your beliefs (Low-Waste convictions, Veganism, Eco-friendly ideologies, etc.), why cling onto old traditions just “because it has been like this forever?” Why not change traditions too?
We are changing so much by changing our day-to-day behavior, there is no reason we should not change our traditions too.
Not showing up to the big dinner is okay. Not participating in the usual rituals/cooking, or the “usual” food is okay. Not releasing balloons every year to remember your grandma, or loved one (because now you know about the danger of releasing balloons) but finding alternatives to still honor that memory is okay.
It is okay to make your own choices. You may have your own family now. Even if you don’t, if you have made lifestyle changes, you have new convictions, new religious beliefs or other concerns, it is still okay to make your own choices!
It is normal, when you start a new family, for your traditions to change. When you get married, or you commit long-term to a partner, you combine or change traditions because two people step into a relationship bringing their own histories and family experiences.
I just read about a man who told his birthday party guests he did not want any gifts, but they should think about something they would like to change in their lives. The next year at his birthday, they got together again to talk about what they achieved. What an awesome birthday gift idea! He is giving his friends something that couldn’t be bought with money.
If you are adopting a new lifestyle, it is sometimes still hard to let go of old traditions. Who says you actually need to let go totally? Maybe the solution is mixing old traditions with a new flavor.
You don’t have to abandon all of your traditions to start your own new traditions or make some of the things you do more green/eco-friendly.
How about a vegan/vegetarian Christmas breakfast, or dinner?
How about a traditional but vegetarian/vegan Thanksgiving feast?
A birthday with no gifts, but a donation to your favorite organization instead?
Look into the ways other cultures do things and maybe you could even find a solution there!
Example: I grew up in northern Germany where we have a Danish minority and I went to a Danish school. I loved that they sang and danced around the tree on christmas day. If I were to have children, I would adapt something like this to make it into a new family tradition.
How do you successfully achieve your goal of people coming to your events without gifts, or that they bring vegetarian/vegan food?
COMMUNICATION! Be very clear in what you’d like. Write Emails with ideas, recipes, inspirations and explain very simply but clear why you’d like to do a vegan Thanksgiving Dinner. Give them reasons why you care! Because you are thankful for mother earth!? Or, is it because of your health?
Find your inner motivation and explain nicely the why and how. Don’t be mad if somebody is bringing something not exactly the way you wanted it. It is a journey and for some it is easier to adapt than for others. Keep on top of communicating! Communication is number one when it comes to changes.
Ideas for new traditions:
These are only inspirations. Everybody has different favorites, needs, cultures, etc. Even if you like a classic Christmas, you can also make it a little bit more environmentally friendly by just changing a few simple things!
Build a reusable “countdown-to-Christmas” calendar. It can be filled with snacks, new or old gifts, it can also just be some pictures, or small games. It could be filled with activities like going out for a hot cocoa at a Christmas market, baking cookies, Christmas tree lights viewing and more.
Leaving the shoes outside the door for St Nicholas on the eve before the 6th of December, for him to fill the shoes with healthy treats (apples, oranges, self made sweets).
Tree or no tree? If you have a yard or big balcony, maybe buy a smaller tree in a pot that you can either plant in your garden or use next year again. Maybe build a reusable one, using old wood (see picture), or build a tree “skeleton” where you only need to use some fresh tree branches to pin to it every year and not always a whole tree.
Bake cookies instead of buying: maybe trying some vegan recipes too
Making ornaments yourself instead of buying them
Saving money to buy a local/organic turkey, or simply try out a vegetarian/vegan feast if it is your turn to host the thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
Gift tradition: no new gifts/second hand only or only 1 new bought, only handmade gifts, or only experiences, or no gifts at all. Only local products, etc… There are so many alternatives. Find one that suits everybody! There is no need to say, “no gifts at all.” It is nice to get something, and why stop an old tradition totally? Maybe even just try and make it a new tradition to gift useable stuff instead of “dust catcher”.
Collect money you would have spent for new gifts and make a donation instead (you don’t have to do this every year but maybe every other year)
Volunteer at your local homeless shelter or senior living community.
Try and look into other cultures and traditions and maybe adapt something totally new. Be appreciative, not appropriative in your choices!
A tradition to teach kids that Christmas is not only about getting heaps of gifts they want: choose categories like: want, need ,wear, read. and pick out one gift for each category! Or choose other categories like: need, want, eat, donate…. read, need, eat, do… you get the idea. Pick your own!
Enjoy all the holidays ahead and try some new things! Make happy choices that are good for you, and good for Mother Earth! :)
Meet the Staff
Hey, my name is Jule. Born and grown up in Germany. For the past two years I have lived a rather nomadic lifestyle, traveling the world.
In South East Asia I got hit hard with the plastic pollution reality. Since then, I have done whatever I could to avoid all the single use plastic in my life. I started my website thehappychoices.com to inspire people how to make easy plastic free changes in their daily life and to share what I learn on my journey.