Today, I’m moved to reflect on one of my favorite Christmas days. It was three years ago, at my second home on Cortes Island in British Columbia, Canada. Even in this remote location, my then 15-year-old daughter Diana and I were engaged in the usual bustle of phone calls, emails, music, cooking…when suddenly, the power failed.
It became extraordinarily quiet. The house also began to get colder as the central heating system shut down, so we found ourselves huddling ever closer to the fireplace. We cooked on our gas stove, so no one went hungry, but the lack of electricity for kitchen appliances made the fare somewhat simpler than planned.
Friends began dropping by, and they all seemed merrier than is usual, even for Christmas day, enchanted by the novelty of this hushed, primitive, stripped-down holiday experience. I recall the conversations that day as particularly warm and intimate, and remember how we all sighed rather sadly as the power came back on, and the various electronic paraphernalia throughout the house buzzed and beeped back to life.
It’s nothing new, of course, to decry the creeping busy-ness of the holiday season, but this experience taught me to take a slightly different approach. Rather than “fighting” the frenetic, hyper-commercial aspects of the season, Diana and I simply emphasize simple acts such as reading aloud to each other as holiday traditions. There is no better way to create the kind of Christmas - and the kind of life - that you want for yourself and your family than to create positive traditions that emphasize the values that you hold dear. If enough people do that, the excesses of Christmas that plague the planet will simply melt away like snow in springtime.