I've never been a traditionalist. There are a millions of winter holiday traditions from many countries, regions, faiths, and families. I've read and heard so many different stories about how families expect their holidays to be. Many have very high expectations. If they don't have the right color candles, and the right brand of mincemeat, and the perfect weather they complain. At work, if we run out of the brand of stuffing they always use they will slap the counter with their fist and yell, "Now what am I supposed to do?"
Long ago, even when the kids were little I decided not to join the madness. I still bought toys for them each year. I never shopped on Black Friday, and never bought into the hype surrounding the newest toys which ended up being available the following season for half the price.
Working retail for two decades can suck the holiday spirit out of you. I've worked a department store on Black Friday and witnessed people fighting over junk and hitting one another with shopping carts, and screaming at clerks. I've worked in mall stores during the holidays that weren't quite as bad, but gave me a ringside seat to the "merriment" at the larger stores with the big four hour only specials and at the toy stores which thank goodness I never had the misfortune to work at. Crazed parents actually hid out behind the trash bins in the alley behind the toy store at three in the morning. They thought that by waiting there they could be first somehow to get a Furby when the shipment arrived. If I opened my back door to find a mob of Furby crazed parents limping out from behind the dumpsters like zombies in a horror movie I'd be scared, I'd turn the fire hose on them.
If you're trying to lead a frugal life and the holidays are stressing you out, opt out of the big to do. If the environmentalist in you cringes at the thought of all that tinsel and wrapping paper ending up in the landfill, opt out of the fancy expectations. If you hate cooking and cleaning and would rather sleep in a box full of spiders than spend another holiday with Uncle Frank and Aunt Edna, opt out and go on a mini-vacation instead (or at least pretend to.)
I used to stress over being poor during the holidays. I wanted the children to be happy and have a magical season. I wanted the meal to be perfect and the gifts to be packaged beautifully and well received. I also worked full time hours through the holiday season. I worked open to close often on holidays themselves, so often we would just have it on a different day. One year, when the kids were of middle school age I decided the wrapping paper is thrown away anyway, why am I spending this money on something that goes straight to the garbage? The recycle bins always say that wrapping paper is non-recyclable too. The kids were upset for a few moments when they saw a black plastic garbage bag with their name on it in the morning but after they opened it they quickly forgot their resentment.
Do you need six different types of pie, or a turkey as big as Manhattan? Do you have to make the cranberry souffle you make every year just because you always have it? Do you have to risk life and limb to hang a bunch of lights on your house? Save yourself the frostbite and the high electric bills, opt out.
Take what traditions you want, and drop the rest. Have a wonderful holiday season, whichever holiday you follow if any. Just remember not to stress yourself trying to keep up with the Jones', or worse the Kringle's.