Hiking for the Holidays

renee's picture
Submitted by renee on

You know what really burns my bottom? The fact that holidays - a time that is supposed to be about being together, slowing down, feasting, remembering and reflecting on our collective and family histories - has become another excuse for shopping.

Hirtles beach hike Boxing Day 2008

And I'm not just talking about the pre-event preparation that leads up to Thanksgiving and Christmas (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate). I'm talking about the post-event shopping madness of Black Friday in the United States and Boxing Day in Canada. I've experienced small doses of Boxing Day shopping years ago but have never ventured near a shopping mall on Black Friday. In this day and age getting to the store at 6am isn't good enough. You can actually arrive at midnight to many malls (don't people value their sleep?) or you can stand in line all night and risk death to get half price on a made in China electronic gadget. And people question our sanity hiking during hunting season!? 

Hiking Black Friday 2007

I have nothing against shopping. Unless you grow all your own food and produce all your own goods, it's necessary. (Full disclosure Damien did order a pair of running tights on-line on Black Friday). 

Heck, shopping can even be fun (or so I've heard). But I find the focus on consumerism during the holidays to be quite disturbing, if not disgusting. And I want no part of it. This is a time that should be centered on family traditions and spiritual practices. Even if you don't belong to a particular faith being grateful for your blessings and mindful of the changing seasons can connect you spiritually to other people and nature. 

view from Blomidom Christmas week 2008

We'd rather be outdoors than go shopping. And so that is what we do.

When I was growing up our Boxing Day tradition was to have a huge skating party at my grandparent's farm on the slough (pronounced slew, a little pond). My keenest memory of this time was just how pickin' cold it was and the sweet satisfaction of returning indoors after freezing my toes. Then more feasting and playing board games with all my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. 

Trust me, my entire collective memory of childhood and adult shopping experiences added together multiplied by a one thousand do not even come close to how fondly I recall those holidays in my heart. 

Our family doesn't skate, nor do we live close to my aunts and uncles but we are making new memories with our children. Due to our relative proximity (driving distance) we spend most holidays with my parents. And I am so thankful that they are active and enthusiastic about going hiking with us at the holidays.

We are making new memories with our children. I don't think the actual activity matters so much. Sledding, skiing, hiking, surfing, snowboarding, rock climbing, skating. Anything people powered, active and outdoors is a great activity for the holidays.

Boxing Day, Hirtles Beach 2008

I know I'm a bit of an idealist but wouldn't it be great if the holidays were remembered not for the shopping deals but the ridges we walked, the hills we sledded and the cold wind we felt on our face (and the comfort of coming home after these activities)?

Hiking for the Holidays - Laurent Tougas
Artwork: Laurent Tougas

Does your family have an activity you particularly enjoy during the holidays?



You are so right, Renee!

You are so right, Renee! We've done short hikes as a family on Thanksgiving day for the past 3 years. That tradition started after we got Ronin as a puppy. This year, we've been talking about going on a longer hike on Christmas day. Now that I've read this, it's as good as done. Love you guys!

P.S. Watch out for those idealists - they're trouble ;-)

I couldn't agree more..

I couldn't agree more.. However, my sister and I slept till 12p. (oops!) on Black Friday and then went to Bikram yoga. Not exactly an outdoor kind of day, but it was still better than shopping.

I am now inspired to make a greater effort this holiday season to get out there. I'm just not a fan of cold. We'll see how brave I get.

I haven't commented in awhile-- you know what happens ;) But I hope you are all well. You know I read every one of your posts. Brienne's birthday sounded and looked fabulous. I have this great vintage full-length dress that is blue with white flowers. I got it at a yard sale a couple months ago-- I definitely wanted to go put it on for the event.

I agree one hunderd percent,

I agree one hunderd percent, Renee. The commercialism of the holidays is absolutely disgusting. With gift giving, we attempt to make as much as possible...but do spend money to buy things. However it is never because there is a sale on. I'd rather pay full price for something and avoid crowds and line ups. You'd never see me out shopping on Boxing Day...and the closer it gets to Christmas the further away from the malls you'll find me.

While we love the outdoors - I'm sad to say we don't have a holiday tradition. Although, it's been my dream for a while now to rent a cottage from Boxing Day through until New Years Day and hide away from the chaos of the city. No tv's or computers, just my little family and a pile of board games and books and music and the great outdoors. I'm hoping to make this happen next year.

As for this year...I'll think we'll find our way out for a hike of some sort. We will be with my parents this year (first year in a long time) and they aren't hhikers...but still , a walk along the beach would be lovely.

Thanks for keeping it real. You are so right - we need to reconnect to the meaning of Christmas, to deepen our spirituality...and this cannot be done at the mall. Love to you and yours. xo

Amen. Amen. and Amen. We were

Amen. Amen. and Amen.

We were sad to wake up to steady rain on Friday. But we hiked anyway. Saturday we hiked in the snow. I actually considered my weekend/holiday a success because we didn't step foot in any stores, but rather spent time in creation.

No specific outdoor holiday

No specific outdoor holiday traditions, but we always find a way to enjoy the great outdoors on any holiday. We paddled as a family today in 50 degree weather and enjoyed ourselves so much (though the girls were certain their fingers were frostbitten)! None of the Black Friday madness for this family! :-)

Nice Vests!

I dig your hunting season vests. We just wear orange hoodies, but we should probably look into vests like that. Our trips to the snow are graced with far fewer sledders and many Elk hunters. It wasn't until then we realized just how much the dog looked like a deer.

Growing up, my family always

Growing up, my family always went hiking on Thanksgiving and Christmas days. We've continued the tradition most years with our own small family, although the details of hiking in California and adventuring in New Brunswick are worlds apart (T shirts vs snowshoes!).

Each year I find that I have less tolerance for the shopping madness, and this year I'm finally done. We have few resources where we live and rather than stressing about it I've decided to embrace it. Ours will be a (mostly) handmade Christmas this year, with lots of books thrown in but few toys. Our 7 year old doesn't want anything (no letter to Santa!)so we'll be keeping it simple. Hooray!

I love your vests, too. I don't think I could convince DH to go hiking during hunting season, but I love that you do safely.

i totally agree! When I was

i totally agree!

When I was growing up we spent (Canadian) Thanksgiving Day hiking on the Niagara Escarpment - we would collect fallen leaves, pine cones and such, to bring home to make the centre piece for our feast. If enough family members were able to join us, we would also play football in a nearby park.

I have enough fond memories of these holidays to keep my heart warm for the rest of my life.

Now with my own growing family, we live smack in the downtown of a major city, and don't own a car to get out. I'm finding it difficult not to have shopping become a large part of my own children's memories, as we're not lucky enough to walk out our door onto the Niagara Escarpment, but rather into a shopping and financial district. We love to go out for long walks as a family -- but it's somehow not the same when we're passing billboards and chain coffee shops as well as stopping to "just run a quick errand" along the way.

I'm inspired by your post to think creatively about how we can continue to be active as a family without all the noise and commercialism of our immediate surroundings.

That brings back memories of

That brings back memories of going hiking on holidays with my parents. I'm so glad I never got into the black friday thing. Two years ago Glen and I did venture out to the mall (during the day) but not to buy anything. We like people watching ;0) and wanted to see what black friday looks like. But that was right after the crash of '08 and the Portland mall was less busy than it was on a typical Saturday ten years ago. This year the only traveling we did was when Glen took Nemo out to pick up a few supplies for the new coop and to pick up our Christmas tree. The rest of the day was spent with us together at home, calming music, enjoying old sentimental ornaments together (even the kids!) and sipping tea. I love lazy days with the family!

I couldn't agree with you

I couldn't agree with you more, Renee. Every year, it surprises me how much the media jabbers on and on about Christmas shopping. Before our son was born, my husband and I always went for a Christmas hike. It was our tradition, because we live far from our families, and usually didn't get to spend the holidays with them. We're visiting my sister and her husband this year, and I know we'll go on a hike or skiing trip of some kind - since that's what we always do when we're together.


Completely agree - we don't have the black friday thing here but we do have boxing day sales - which I have NEVER understood. Thanks for this post. I can't imagine anything worse than shopping, or anything better than getting outside and renewing your soul in the nature.

I love this Renee. Even

I love this Renee. Even though I do participate in the 'disgusting' Christmas commercialism, I like your take and your family's ideals and your confidence in going against the grain. I think it would be a lovely way to spend a holiday. We are nowhere giving up mounds of presents and over-doing it like I enjoyed as a child, but maybe we'll fit in a hike in the snow this year too! I enjoy how you can write to express your point but you still do not offend, I think that is a great talent you have.

Love it!

I just wasted much of my kiddo's nap time reading your blog. It is wonderfully inspiring. We spend as much time outside as possible with skiing, walking, hiking, fishing and playing. We have mandatory family bonding activities when there are no excuses such as skiing to get our tree, bundling up for the christmas tree lighting and walking on christmas morning! I hated this in my high school days and now love it so much!

I share your sentiments...

I wish I could say those exact things to the people in our circle that don't understand, or worse, have negative things to say about what we are attempting to do. This is our first truly intentional holiday season. Sure, we've talked about these concepts for years, but this is the first year that we are actually acting on what we've been wanting. I had no idea that our move towards simplicity would actually offend people. How could they be anything but supportive of us shifting away from ourselves and towards ideals that are more focused on being of service to our community, fellow man, and planet? Ha! You'd be surprised!

I wish there was a way to send this blog post to them without starting a war! :)

Beautiful post, I share your sentiments...