My One and Only Birthday Wish (Take 2)

In a little over a week, now, I will light a cigar.

(This is not Paleo. Tell the police.)

I’ll curl white smoke around my fingers, prop my feet up on the backyard table, and take a long, slow breath under the glow of the Christmas tree winking through the windows. The phone on my lap will tick down, down, down to midnight, and Christmas Eve will close as quietly as it came – the 25th of December, and my twenty-fourth birthday, not far behind.

There was a time, once, when midnight meant I’d be inching the doorknob to the left left, sticking my head out into the hallway, and staring down the darkness to try and get a glimpse of the twinkling colors beyond. There was a time when the sight of the Christmas tree put a hitch in my throat and red and green glitter between my ears, my mind occupied with every gleaming box I hoped would be waiting under that tree come Christmas morning. I couldn’t sleep back then. I couldn’t do much of anything, honestly, but sit on the edge of my bed, waiting for the sun to finally wake up and make it okay for me to sprint out into the living room and dive under the branches.

That was a long time ago.

In a little over a week, now, I guess I’ll do what all the big kids do instead: sleep.


But here’s the thing: I don’t want to.

I don’t want to sleep the whole night through. I don’t want to be twenty-four on the 25th – and while that might sound like I’m rebelling against my age, friends, I’m starting to realize it breaks down more like this.

I don’t want the magic of Christmas – whatever you decide that may be – to be lost now that I can scratch another month off my calendar. I don’t want the fact that I’m older, in other words, to offer some half-assed sort of excuse for not celebrating this day as I should, for not taking it upon myself to reconnect with the core ideas – the core message – of a holiday that’s been glamourized, commercialized, and pulled further and further from its roots.

And isn’t that how it goes? Another year slips by, another holiday comes calling, and these days that once meant something just grow heavier all the while – heavier on the wallet, on the heart, and on the mind of every single person who stops, thinks back, and realizes that they’ve lost touch with a month that used to ask for more than just obligatory gift-shopping.

I don’t want to be like that.

I want to feel that Christmas spirit agains, folks, and I want you to feel it too.


Lucky thing, too, that reconnecting – feeling – might be the easiest thing you do during this entire crazed season.

The idea is two-part, but simple.

1. When someone asks you what you’d like for Christmas this year, do the minimalists proud: smile and say “I want you,” pausing for dramatic effect before wrapping it up with one of the closers below.

1. “…to buy me a cup of coffee.”

2. “…to go see a movie with me.”

3. “…to take me to breakfast/lunch/dinner.”

4. “…to stay up late one night and talk about the universe/books/music with me.”

5. “…to spend an entire day with just you and me.”

6. “…to go on a date like we used to/still do/most definitely should.”

Jazz it up as you will, but be insistent. Remind your would-be giver of gifts that you’re doing them a pretty decent favor, here, by sparing them the madness of any shopping mall in mid-December. Remind yourself that you’re missing out on a gadget, shirt, etc., but that you’re gaining something infinitely more long-lasting instead: a memory. You’re gaining an experience shared with someone you love, and trust me when I say that’ll last you longer than any toy ever could.

2. Spend Christmas with your loved ones.

That could be friends, family, pets, etc. The key, I think, is in the implication – the insistence that you spend it with your loved ones, and not with the TV, computer, games, etc. This is something I’ll struggle with, given my immense affection for my laptop, but those very same amorous feelings are exactly why I need to step back and remind myself what I’m doing.

Christmas, I think, is about family. It’s about friends, memories, laughter and (okay, fine) gifts, but here’s the part that boggles the mind: how easily we dump the wrapping paper, finish our cocoa, and hoof it back to our individual rooms before closing the door.

Call me a romantic, I guess, but I’d like to spend the entire day with my loved ones. I’d like to spend it with no TV, no distractions, and no glowing rectangles to keep drawing my attention away from what matters most. This is one day out of 365, after all. These are eighteen(ish) hours out of so, so many in any given year, and yet we can’t spend most – if not all – of them with our loved ones?

Let’s change that. Let’s carry the focus of Christmas back to where it belongs: us.


I did this last year, too.

It’s been a wild twelve months in so many ways: moving, shaking, and even a little remodeling, a few broad strokes of change that have made Matt (soon-to-be 24) a much brighter and bolder person than Matt (23). For all these changes, though, and every bump in this road that I’ve been walking, one thing has stayed unchanged: my birthday wish for December 25th, 2011, and the hope that all of you incredible people will help make it come true.

I asked for 100 people to get on board last year. A cursory glance at the comments suggests I came in just shy of the number, so I’d like to get a little bold with it – I’d like to see 200 people leave a comment below with their agreement before December 25th. Is that stretching? Maybe so. The number of readers (thanks so much!) that visit 3NL, however, means this is oh-so doable, and something I’d dearly love to see even with the limited time frame.

The total number, honestly, isn’t the big draw here. I’m more keen on the idea that I’m not the only person here who wants to change their approach to December 25th, and I want to know that there are dozens of people out there who have made this same choice to recapture the Christmas spirit.

I want to light my cigar, in other words, with the knowledge that people all over the world are going to spend the next day just like me: with loved ones and little distraction, sharing laughter and smiles from then all the way into 2012. I want to watch my clock tick down to midnight and then be so excited by everything written above – and everything waiting the next day – that for a time I can’t even sleep.

And I want to turn twenty-four, I guess, the only way I know how: with a smile.

If you enjoyed this message, friend, please share it using one of the buttons below. 200 signatures is a big wish, I know, but taking just a few seconds to tweet this, like it, stumble it, etc. can go a long way towards making it happen. Thank you so much!


  1. Vic Magary says:

    Count me in! I’ll be spending the holiday with my best friend Coda and if I have any gift inquiries I will request experiences that we can share and not “stuff”.

    And happy birthday to you!

  2. Alejandro Reyes says:

    First of all Happy Birthday Matt!
    You can count me in too. I promise to spend the holidays with my family and enjoying the time, not hoping for gifts but for great conversation.

  3. Faith says:

    Happy early Birthday Matt,
    I will be joining you in capturing the spirit of Christmas. I will be spending Christmas with my honey of 15 years and our 3 pups and 1 kitty.
    Have a magical Christmas and a wonderful 24th year!
    Peace, Faith

  4. Kaye says:

    Has anyone ever told you that you have an old soul? You must, to have such a gift for wisdom at your age (from someone with more than double your years…)
    I, too, intend to spend the day with my family of choice!
    Blessed Yule,

  5. Mike says:

    Great message Matt, enjoy the cigar and the reflection time, Happy Birthday. The family will be up before the sun on Christmas morning and it will be a good day had by all.

  6. Marie says:

    I am going copy your Christmas want list. I still have problems with family and friends who are all about the gifts. They think I’m taking the joy out of the holiday when I really don’t want anything but their company.

    My Mom’s birthday was Christmas Eve. I think she always felt it was a little lost in all the business of the holiday. Glad you are making the most out of your day.

  7. Richard Jones says:

    We actually redid our family visitation schedule in order to actually spend some REAL honest fun quality time with everyone; instead of just a quick meal and present exchange. I think its going to make space for creating some real good memories.

    Have a wonderful Christmas.


  8. Lee says:

    I’m with you, Matt. We’re planning to spend most of Christmas day together, in our pajamas, in front of the fireplace. We’ve already decided to downsize the spending this year, though we’ve never gone crazy on it. Like you, we’re wanting to get back to the heart of the holiday.
    Happy birthday! I hope it’s the start of a wonderful year for you.

  9. Melody says:

    I have to preface this commitment by saying it’s not a huge leap for me. I deliberately have no e-mail at home, nor cable, and my phone is “dumb”. :)
    However, I will commit to a Christmas with my sister and her kids and my Mom with no computer or television interruption. Time with the kids, hugs, cooking, playing cards.
    I wish you a Merry Christmas and happy birthday. :)

  10. Chuck Grimmett says:

    I will join you, Matt. Thanks for the provocation.

  11. Trish says:

    Happy Birthday and Happy Holidays Matt,

    Thanks for all your inspiration this year. I will spending time with my partner and my sister and we will spend it with little distractions and lots of talk and love!

  12. Kim says:

    We will join you as well, Matt… Our family of five will join extended family (another 15 people!) and have just the sort of Christmas day you would like! Have a wonderful holiday and a wonderful birthday too

  13. Ashley says:

    Well stated Matt. I will be spending time with friends and family over the holiday weekend and enjoying every minute of it. No “stuff” necessary. Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to you!

  14. Laurie says:

    I’m onboard, Matt! I need a break from the glowing rectangle myself. My family will be spending the day together in the warmth of the woodstove…Mom, Dad, me, sis, bro-in-law, three cats, three dogs, and lots of love. :)

  15. Dusti Arab says:

    Man… Reading this makes me hopeful but kind of sad. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, trying to figure out exactly how to prevent the 24th and 25th of December from turning into the same as every other day of the year. I want it to be special – I definitely feel you. I guess I’m just not sure how.

    Been thinking about you lately – For Christmas, I want YOU to give me a call. ;)

  16. Gip @ So Much More Life says:

    I never do a very good job celebrating Christmas, but I’ll be doing better this year.

    As you know, it’s my birthday, too, so it should be a really special day for me.

    Happy birthday. I think 2012 will be your best year ever.


  17. Michael says:

    I’m with you Matt, at least in spirit. We are working our way back from a commercial Christmas. While we’ve only partially recovered, there is much hope for the future.

    I remember how important family was as a kid and how slowly it had broken down over the years and in adult life. Recovering those bonds and experiences would make christmas, and the rest of the year, perfect. Thank you for the inspiration and happy birthday!


  18. AW says:

    The gift of time with others is a priceless gift. We’ve been doing it more and more each year. It does wonders for the soul.

    May the Christmas spirit linger throughout the year!


  19. Barrie Templeton` says:

    Happy Birthday, Matt! Did you know that Aristotle (of ancient Greece) was actually born on the same day, unlike a certain carpenter, whose date of birth is uncertain? Merry Christmas anyway, too.
    An earlier comment pegged you as an old soul. Well, I have more laps around the sun than that commenter, but I agree that you have more insight and maturity than many who are much older.
    I am a recent convert (if that is the right term) to the Paleo lifestyle. I find it difficult to break away from more than six decades of eating according to Canada’s Health Rules – pretty much the same as the U.S. food pyramid – especially during the winter when almost everything unprocessed is shipped in from thousands of miles away.
    Thanks for your site and its encouraging words. They help a bunch!


  20. Aggie says:

    This year it’ll be me and my bf cuddling on a stay-at-home movie date. Complete with homemade hot chocolate and a nice healthy dinner.

    All I want is time to enjoy the moment.

    Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!

  21. Heather says:

    I’m in Matt~ even if I am reading your blog, talking on the phone & watching a webinar all at the same time…..

  22. amy says:

    Count me in, Matt!

    Hope you enjoy the heck out of your cigar and have a very happy Christmas-Birthday.

  23. Pingback: Little Leaf: Forget Your Phone | Three New Leaves

  24. Ben says:

    My wife and I are expecting our first child January 4th. A huge part of our getting ready for this has been decluttering our lives and our home. And that has included talking with our families about presents this year (both of our families tend to go way overboard) – and our desire not to get more stuff for the sake of getting more stuff.

    Honestly I’ve found their reactions pretty surprising – there has definitely been a resistance to the idea. They have all agreed at one point to downsize this year, but then they have all turned around and asked for suggestions for presents. In talking to them and saying “we aren’t looking for gifts this year” I’ve actually had responses like “well I have to get you something”. It’s more about their feelings of obligation then any desire or need on our parts for more stuff. Weird (and in my mind not at all what this time of year is about – give me family, friends and a nice meal any day). And having said that our families are awesome and I don’t mean to paint them in a negative light I just know that my wife and I are both frustrated by the situation.

    Anyway enough ranting from me – Happy (early) Birthday Matt – I hope you get what you’re hoping for.

  25. Jenny says:

    Awesome post! I struggle every year with how much to get my kids for Christmas and how to keep the clutter down- this year I got them groupons instead of video games! Archery lessons and paintball reservations for my teen, a train ride for my little guy, even a golf and lunch package for the husband- all great gifts, great deals, and great adventures with zero clutter.

  26. Absie says:

    My Chanukah present (and probably my next few birthdays or something) from my parents is a 10-day trip to Europe with one of my best friends. Plus getting to be home with family and friends for the holidays. It’s the best present ever. Travel, a friend, adventure with minimal stuff weighing us down… so excited. I’m the luckiest person on earth, I think.

  27. maryanne says:

    Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday Matt!
    I am already planning to spend the day with (some of) my loved ones. Don’t have control over their glowing rectangles, but mine will be off. Actually, like one of the other commenters, mine is”dumb”.
    My b’day is exactly 2 weeks before Christmas, and I always felt short-changed too. But now I have “everything” I need and more stuff than I can use in several lifetimes, so I have already asked at least one of my loved ones for a gift of time (yes even before your post!)
    Hope you get your Birthday/Christmas wish.

  28. Mia says:

    6. “…to go on a date like we used to/still do/most definitely should.”

    Upon reading I decided, screw it Im inspired, I’m going to tell my friend who I have been crushing on for some time how I really feel about him. By Christmas Day! So I did. Resulted in sexy time under the moon & stars some time about 1am on Christmas morning. Definitely Primal. ;)

    So while I dont know if it is going anywhere, thank you for encouraging me to follow my heart Matt. Hope you had a wonderful birthday and are starting your 24th year on the planet in style! And hope to be reading your blog for another fabulous year. xx

    • Matt Madeiro says:

      Primal indeed. ;) Congrats on the sexy time! And many, many kudos for striking out to get it.

      Thanks for your support and friendship, Mia. I hope I’ll see you around next year. :)