When did the holidays become something to survive? When did holidays get to be things filled with to-do’s, rushing around and fulfilling obligations?
Sometime between childhood and today I have learned that not everyone likes the holidays. Lately, I’ve heard quite often how some people even “hate” the holidays.
I don’t happen to be one of those people (I know, you’re probably not surprised) but I am curious where the sparkle went out of the season for some. I’m sad to hear some answers, there are too many errands and not enough time, I have to go to parties with people I don’t like because it’s expected, I don’t like my family, or I miss my family. I can’t erase the pain of missing family, but for the rest I can share the way I preserve some of the joy of the season.
I’m not saying that I don’t have some sadness during the holidays because I miss people who are no longer here. I don’t claim to have all my decorations done just so and presents bought and wrapped before I prepare my Thanksgiving dinner (which by the way this year was steak). What I have done is altered my focus for the season from being movie perfect to perfect for me.
For me, the holidays are all about slowing down and spending time with those you treasure and love. This is not about buying the perfect present for the distant uncle or making sure the tree has more gifts than last year. This is about the gift that cannot be bought, the most precious gift; time.
I have a small family, I’m fortunate in that way, however each of us have extremely busy schedules and our distance makes time spent together even more precious. I suspect over the next year it’s going to become even more difficult with my speaking schedule, my son’s photography business taking off and my daughter’s travel schedule.
Some of the things I have done to maintain the joy of the season:
1. I have, for the most part, omitted gift giving for friends. I schedule time to get together instead and work this in over December and January so as not to add to people’s already stretched schedules.
2. I ask my children for a single big item they would like but can’t afford or that they have been saving for. Granted, my children are grown now and this works for us because of their age. My son has a particular lens for his camera in mind this year. Last year for my daughter it was a headboard for her bed that she had wanted for a long time. I could have gotten her another red sweater and other small things but it turns out, she doesn’t even like red sweaters!
3. I am flexible with traditional holiday meals. This year Thanksgiving dinner was just for my son and me, my daughter stayed back East. A turkey for the two of us might have been a bit ridiculous mostly because neither of us is overly fond of turkey; it’s just what you do. I asked him what he wanted and he said steak. I can tell you so many people were jealous of us…it’s not a hard switch to make!
4. I pull out all the stops to get the family in one place for a couple of days no matter what. This is a foregone conclusion that wherever you are, Mom will be flying you home for Christmas – wherever home happens to be that year.
5. I say no to invitations that seem obligatory but are not part of the list above. I refuse to be busy doing things I don’t want to do in my “free” time. That is what we call a job and can suck the joy right out of the season in a heartbeat!! Remember, to say no does not require an excuse (real or made up) it simply requires you to do it unapologetically but politely.
6. I send out handwritten cards. Yup, it’s totally old-fashioned in this digital age, but since I’m not at the malls buying gifts, I have time to thoughtfully write out cards to those I am grateful to have in my life. I do this for both my business and my friends and family. This is both a gift to myself to celebrate these people and how they have touched my life over the year, and a gift of gratitude to them.
7. I have pared down my holiday decorations a lot! Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have one of those houses on HGTV, but not enough to take time away from the other things I love – the non-things! Besides a ton of decorating means a ton of undecorating, packing and storing after the holidays. I have a few meaningful items that I always put out and forgo the rest. It doesn’t change the festivities, those are created by the people inside the home sharing memories.
These ideas may or may not work for you. For some the idea of serving steak on Thanksgiving is blasphemy! These are simply ideas to ponder if you are one of those people who seems to have lost the spirit and are looking to put some more joy back into the holidays. Some simple changes to consider to help you align your most precious gift with the most precious people in your life.