23 December 2014

Make Your Own Holiday Traditions

In the fall of 2007 I made a decree to my family: "I will not be celebrating Christmas this year," I said authoritatively. "I'm not going to get you anything, and my gift to you is that you don't have to get me anything in return. Kthx"

A year out of college with a new-found love for the outdoors, I was going to take all of my extra money (and what I could eek out of my paltry vacation time) to transport myself for 10-glorious-days to Patagonia. No. Not the store. The place.

Torres Del Paine in all it's glory. Photo by Ryan Thurston.

With three friends, I embarked on my first-ever backpacking trip. We opted for 'difficult'. Bright-eyed and fresh-footed, we set out on the 5-day W-Trek through Torres del Paine National Park - a place where distances aren't measured in kilometers, but in hours. Those hours, we decided while on the trek, were determined by a bunch of Chilean guides running from point to point with nothing but the shirts on their backs to see who could get there the fastest. The shortest time was how long they told everyone it would take.

I have a few really old blogs about my 5-days on the trail, but to give you the general gist: the trip was amazingly transformative and influential in the future of my life outside. I learned that I could suffer more than I thought I could. I learned that I was capable of so much more than I imagined. I smiled bigger than my face thought possible, and I cried giant crocodile tears when I thought I couldn't hike any more with camp still hours away.

Patagonian Christmas Tree
The trip also served as an introduction to how other cultures treat the holidays/Christmas. Much of South America is Catholic, and we saw many Christmas trees and holiday decorations while we were in town. We spent actual Christmas day on the trail - the 4th and hardest day of the trek.

I'll always remember that day.

We hiked 14 hours. Up and down and up again. I finally got to the tent to take of my boots and my ankles were the size of grapefruits; the blisters I acquired days before festering beneath a layer of foot-saving duct tape. By all accounts I was miserable. But today it still stands as the best Christmas ever. And then we took a boat back back to town and took showers and everything was better again. And we were greeted by loads of holiday decorations - on December 26th! The humanity! They remained when I left on January 1.

Christmas Ankles

When I returned to Seattle I realized just how much this trip meant to me, and vowed I wouldn't participate in the whole "consumerism" part of Christmas again. Not because of political or socioeconomic or any of those other "hippy" reasons people choose not to participate, but more because taking Christmas decorations down on December 26 and making people work on Thanksgiving and Halloween crap everywhere in August is all just wrong. Plus I just fundamentally disagree with getting people a bunch of shit they don't need.

Case in point: Do you remember what you got for Christmas last year? What you gave? I'll give you a minute to think about it....




Exactly. So now I just don't give gifts. And I don't expect or want any in return. Not having to give a gift is the best gift you could ever ask for. No malls. No shopping. No wondering if that thing you ordered online is going to arrive in time. Glorious, right?

I want to be clear though that I do still CELEBRATE Christmas. I love everything about it. The giving spirit. The decorations. The endless supply of fattening sweets. The COSTUMERY!



Instead of gifts I've designed my own traditions. The beauty is you can choose how to celebrate - which for me means more international trips (Aus/NZ for the holidays 2010-11; Thailand this year) and of course my holiday cards.That was my one consolation - I won't send gifts, but I'll do cards. Thus my new tradition of holiday cards was born. And you all know I love sending cards.

I've never put these all together before, so here is a look at my holiday cards beginning in 2007. Curious what I did this year? Well too damn bad - those are in the mail and I can't spoil the surprise. Want a card next year? No problem. The only catch? You have to send one back. Ain't nobody got time for a one-sided card exchange.

2008. I hadn't yet discovered text overlay...






1 comment:

Michal said...

I love your cards and have them all saved!!