Christmas wreaths and greenery hanging in store.

Inside: A hopefully gentle reminder that there are Christmas traditions that might not be so great for your sanity or the planet, and permission to skip whatever you don’t want to – or simply can’t – do this year.

I rarely go on Tiktok these days. There’s the anxiety about the state of, well, pretty much everything, and then there’s the fact that my For You page right now looks eerily like the Home Shopping Network.

But for the brief five minutes I happened to stay on the app yesterday, I stumbled across a controversial Christmas decorating video. 

I dove down the comments rabbit hole, and landed on an apparently massively popular Tiktok account with millions of followers.

And million follower’s latest video? Shopping at Target for new Christmas decorations. 

Her bill? Over $400. FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS.

My jaw dropped at that total. We’re spending close to $500 on Christmas decor these days? Every single year?!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year….”

When Christmas traditions like buying new decor every single year are breaking our Christmas budgets before we buy a single gift.

Christmas ornament sets in store marked $15 next to a decorated Christmas tree.

7 Christmas Traditions You Might Want to Skip This Year

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While there’s nothing wrong with adding something to your Christmas decoration collection every so often, buying a whole new set of decorations for your tree and your home every year seems…excessive.

Lately, it seems like there are so many holiday traditions that require us to buy more, more, more. 

The Christmas pressure on parents used to be only about buying gifts. Now it’s things like….

  • Holiday cards with the perfect family photo, and 
  • Advent calendars, and
  • That horrid Elf on the Shelf, and…. 

You get the point: every year there’s something being added to the list of things we need to buy and do to make Christmas even MORE special. 

I’m certain all of these added traditions also means more holiday debt to pay off come January, and it definitely comes with added stress during the holidays.

And when traditions are hurting you far more than they are serving you, it’s time to seriously consider giving them up – for the sake of our bank accounts, our sanity, our homes and the planet.

Here are a few traditions that might need to go…

1. New Christmas Decorations Every Year 

I understand replacing broken Christmas lights and adding the occasional ornament to your collection, but buying shopping cart loads of new decor every year can’t possibly be good for the planet. 

Do you really need to come up with a new Christmas tree decor theme every year? Or new sideboard display? Or add to our lawn ornament collection? 

Could you mix and match the decor you already have to create a new-to-you look?

Can you bring in natural elements like holly or garland or make popcorn cranberry garlands instead?

These are just a few ideas to help you wrap your head around stopping this tradition if it’s been a holiday staple for years. 

Alternative Tradition Idea: Start an annual holiday decorations exchange with your friends, where you can only take home the same number of items you bring (ideally less!). OR, shop thrift stores exclusively for new Christmas decor.

Related: 3 Simple Steps to Decorate for a Minimalist Christmas

2. Holiday Cards

This one might hit hard. I, too, have loved being on the receiving end of Christmas cards over the years.

But it turns out that Christmas cards can have a sizable environmental impact.

“The U.S. mails around 1.3 billion holiday cards a year—the same amount of CO2 emissions as charging 22 billion smartphones or 22,000 homes’ energy use for one year” (source). Christmas cards are also notoriously difficult to recycle.

So do we really need to send holiday cards every year to people we haven’t talked to in over a year? Or years? Isn’t seeing the annual family photo kind of what social media is for?

Alternative Tradition Idea: If you still love the idea of keeping people updated on your family once a year, ask for the email addresses of anyone who wants to get your annual emails and send a mass email with your holiday letter once a year around the holidays. 

3. Christmas Pajamas for the Whole Family

Every year I see holiday photos of matching Christmas pajamas, and I just think to myself: that’s a WHOLE lotta holiday pajamas!

Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of matching pajamas, or pajamas at all. Even when Marie Kondo told me that everyone deserves a pair of nice pajamas, I said, “Nope, I’m not doing it.” 

I’ll stick with my comfy sweats, t-shirts and sweatshirts in cold weather and pajama shorts and t-shirts in the summer.

Unless this tradition is genuinely adding needed pajamas to your family’s wardrobes, maybe we don’t need $100 worth of new pajamas every year just for a fun holiday photo? 

Alternative Tradition Idea: Can we all go back to taking a nice family photo in front of the Christmas tree? Anyone?

4. Non-Consumable Advent Calendars 

Non-consumable advent calendars seem to be soaring in popularity today!

From LEGO’s advent calendar that sells out before December each year, to new ones like the Bluey advent calendar, these sets come with 24 new little trinkets ON TOP of stocking stuffers and gifts.

My non-minimalist husband insisted on doing an advent calendar last year. I told him I’d give it a try. 

While half of the days were filled with candy, the other half contained things that either broke in a day or weren’t touched all year long.

In my mind, it wasn’t worth it. I’m hoping to talk him into primarily a consumable advent calendar this year. We really don’t need more cheap stuff.

Alternative Tradition Idea: Try going back to consumable advent calendars – candy or other treats. These are easy to DIY! I’ve also seen an acts of kindness advent calendar floating around on Facebook somewhere. Maybe google it? 

Mo Willem's "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!" in bookstore with other books.

5. Buying Books for Christmas Eve (Emphasis on: Buying)

Jolabokaflod, Iceland’s Christmas Eve tradition of exchanging new books and reading together really took off in the US over the past couple years. 

While I’m all for reading, it is definitely possible to promote a love of reading in your home without filling your home with more books. 

Unless you’re a devoted rereader or just adore colorful, jam-packed bookshelves, most of us don’t read half the books we buy or even reread the ones we love.

There are so many wonderful ways to read without adding more clutter to your home!

If you really, really really want to buy those books, especially if they’re new releases that the library doesn’t own yet, consider donating them to your local library after Christmas.

Alternative Tradition Idea: Instead of buying books for Christmas Eve, you could borrow them from the library in advance so that everyone has their book ready to go. You can even wrap them if you like. OR, you could have everyone pick out a new Kindle book, instead of a physical book (although personally, I just can’t get into Kindle, no matter how hard I try). Thrift book stores could be great, too. 

6. Elf on a Shelf

I see SO SO many videos on social media of parents complaining about Elf on a Shelf. 

Beyond the initial purchase, parents feel so obligated to continue this madness that they purchase additional materials, like cards telling you exactly what set-up to do every night up until Christmas.

This might seem like crazy talk, but if you absolutely hate this tradition, you can just stop doing it one year. Really, truly. 

And if you need to tell your kids that the elf went off to be with Santa, so be it. No judgment here.

Alternative Tradition Idea: …just about anything else that’s an experience-oriented tradition like driving around to look at Christmas lights, baking Christmas cookies, or watching Christmas movies together. 

7. Dozens of Gifts Per Child

Our kids usually get 2-3 gifts each, plus a few joint gifts like THIS sensory swing we bought a few years ago. We have five kids and budget around $1000 for all the Christmas things.

Kids don’t need dozens of gifts to have a great Christmas! And they really don’t need tons of stuff. 

Research continues to show over and over again that when children have fewer toys, they play better. 

Alternative Tradition Idea: If you want a compromise, the “want, need, wear, read” gift poem is a great place to start. If it’s your first year not doing a lot of gifts, make sure to have other activities for Christmas day.

Related: How to Transition to a Minimalist Christmas with Kids – Without Feeling Like The Grinch

colorful ornaments for sale at Target.

You Have Permission to Reevaluate Traditions – And to Stop Doing Some Altogether

One of my favorite Christmas articles of all time is from old school blogger Crystal Paine, where she talked about not having a Christmas tree one year.

Was that a permanent change? No. But it was a necessary change for that particular year of their lives.

If a tradition is costing you too much money, causing so much stress with all the added clutter, OR taking so much time and energy it’s making you hate Christmas (I’m lookin’ at you Elf on the Shelf), you can stop doing them. 

“Just because we did something last year doesn’t mean we have to do it again this year.”

Crystal Paine, Money Saving Mom

So as we move into the holiday season, spend some time thinking about the traditions you want to continue, and come up with a plan for the ones you want – or need – to stop. 

As long as your kids have a few core traditions to hang onto, they’ll be ok. And there are so many great traditions that don’t require bringing more stuff into our homes!

In the long run, hopefully your choice to cut back will lead to them then passing on traditions to their own children that are beneficial for their mental and financial health (and the planet’s health, too).

Here’s a holiday season that’s far more about love and slowing down and kindness and togetherness and far less about filling our houses with more stuff and adding more things to our to-do lists.

Read Next: 10 Things I Stopped Doing That Made Me a Happier Mom


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  1. Wonderful post. I feel the same way about Christmas and the simple traditions u can make with family and children. We keep things simple with our children. We put Christmas music on and drive around and always pick a night for Christmas movies. Also getting just a few things that they want/need Christmas is a beautiful time of year and keeping our focus on the simple is what it’s all about

    Thanks again love ur blog very helpful merry Christmas

  2. Hi June!
    Today I came across your blog when I googled, “I’m always cleaning but my house is still a mess” Lol.
    Thank you for the reality check! It’s been great to step back and breathe and ask “DO all of these things actually have to get done?”
    Life with little kids is just messy 😆 Thank you for your wonderful experiences and advice.

    1. Author

      I’m glad it was helpful! And you’re so welcome. 😊

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