Why I Canceled Christmas One Year (And What I Did Instead)
Back when I was single with no kids, I decided to cancel Christmas, which meant not flying east from San Francisco to visit family and friends. I was having brunch with my friend Brian and we were lamenting the stress and cost of traveling home, shopping for holiday gifts, and how every year I’d catch some terrible flu, no longer used to the frigid temperatures of the northeast.
My parents and sisters were never really up for flying west for the winter (despite my pitch for mild weather, wine tasting, and coastal hikes in December). So I announced that I would be canceling Christmas in the traditional sense, no gifts, no obligatory travel, no flu.
Instead, I said to Brian, “Let’s go to Buenos Aires!” The city was, at the time, pretty affordable and we’d be landing in SUMMER. Brian was game, and we explained to our families that we would be traveling for the holiday (both sides were pretty understanding, actually), and then immediately booked tickets and an apartment in the Recoleta neighborhood.
The Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires
We landed on Christmas day and arrived at our apartment, which was modern and perfectly located. Recoleta felt like Paris with its Haussman-style architecture, high-end boutiques, and strollable tree-lined streets.
We found one restaurant open below our apartment complex on Christmas day. We shared our first of many glasses of Malbec and a Buenos Aires-style steak frites (also first of many). Later, we explored the Recoleta Cemetery, where Eva Perón and other Argentine notables are buried in fancy tombs.
During the week, we walked around Soho Palermo and explored colorful and edgy boutiques and cafes, and popped into old-style bars, where we played gin rummy while sipping cafe Americano or more Malbec. We dined at steakhouses and watched people tango in the streets of San Telmo. It was summer after all!
Brian and I playing one of many games of cards on our trip.
We visited El Ateneo Grand Splendid, known as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world by The Guardian and National Geographic, and told stories as we walked endlessly around the neighborhoods each day.
Buenos Aires reminded me of all of my favorite cities, Paris, New York, Rome, and I don’t regret skipping Christmas in lieu of traveling. I was with a good friend in a beautiful city and for once I was gifting myself something pretty special. Now with a kiddo, where my travel is limited to theme parks and hotels with pool slides, I'm pretty grateful I took the leap.
Me enjoying some papas fritas and warm weather
But before I sound scrooge-y, I will say I’ve come to love Christmas time. My daughter makes it so much more fun for me: her anticipation of it all, the gingerbread house-making, the tree lighting and holiday events in our town of Sonoma, filling her advent calendar with little trinkets leading up to the big day. It’s the best and we have created our own traditions, including staying in California to celebrate every year. (I opted to visit my family in the summer instead).
Next year, 10 years after visiting Buenos Aires, I will head back east to celebrate with my extended family again so my daughter can experience my childhood Christmas traditions – and perhaps even a white Christmas.
But sometimes opting out of a holiday because of stress, because you’re broke, or because your family makes you a little crazy, isn’t the worst idea. In fact, it can make you appreciate it so much more when you do something you love instead.
Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.