As a child, Christmas once seemed to be about fun family gatherings, snow, movies, (and, yeah gifts), and it was enjoyable, right? At most, the holiday spirit felt as long as the weeks in December leading up to it, not the eternal obligatory burden I feel it is now in my adult years. Is it just me, or do the holidays seem to stretch their arms around the calendar, keeping us forever in the realm of one of them? I use to complain about seeing Christmas decor out the day after Halloween. Now it’s out in July. By the time Christmas actually arrives, I already can’t wait until it’s over. I don’t even know that I like it anymore. Is there any nostalgia left, or has it all been wrung out from our thanksgiving napkins and washed down the drain? This guide is intended to help us find our Christmas spirit again, and keep it going even if only until the day after.
See your friends. I cringe when I hear the phrase “let’s plan to get together after the holidays.” Dinner with friends, drinks with co-workers, brunch with your family. “How about after the holidays?” How many times have you said that phrase or agreed to it and actually made those plans? No, really, the real irritant to this is why after? If these are your friends and family, isn’t this the time of year to be with them? You should be enjoying the time of year dedicated to togetherness with the people you want to get together with. I felt seriously hurt by close friends suggesting in early November that we all get together after the holidays. In truth, I’m sure people don’t even realize that they are saying this and what it means. Enlighten your friends that you’d love to get together with them sooner, even if to do something festive together. Go shopping together, make a gingerbread house together, I don’t know but there’s clearly plenty to do because we are all so busy, so do it together. Do December a favor, see your freakin friends.
Don’t shop Black Friday. But it’s okay to shop cyber Monday. There is nothing crazier to me than a country that sits down to give thanks for all we are lucky to have in our lives, and then a few hours later, fights mobs in parking lots and stores for a deal on material things. It’s not even Black Friday anymore, all these sales start Thanksgiving Day now. Actually there are sales like this pretty much all the time if you pay attention. We live in the age of the 24/7 deal. More and more people are having to skip their family dinners to go into work to enable this craziness. Don’t disrupt a nice dinner for these shenanigans. If you must have a thrilling sale, save it for your couch on cyber Monday.
Send out Christmas cards. Why? Because nobody gets anything nice in their mailbox anymore. There is nothing nicer than seeing a handwritten envelope amongst all your bills. You can really spread cheer and recite a special moment with each person you send one too. I send out snowflakes because they represent uniqueness and each relationship you have is unique. I write why that person in my life is unique to me. “You are the only friend I made in college!” “I die over your style every time I see you” “You’re my favorite sister” (I send that one out twice). Include a special memory or you’ve shared or thought about them you cherish. Taking the time to let people know how important you are to them will make everyone feel warm and bright.
Keep up a tradition or start a new one. There could be a movie you’ve always watched on Christmas Day, keep watching it. Maybe you always dress up on Christmas Eve, get glam. Perhaps you made every Christmas morning look like a scene from the Little Princess, filling the table with delicious bakery treats. Keep indulging. These things will make you happy. I have to drink Baileys for breakfast and completely do my makeup before opening any gift. Then I watch The Grinch. The cartoon version. And I always cry when he carves the roast beast. Traditions are important because they not only tie you to the holiday, but they tie you to your years and all of the people you have shared them with. Some traditions are so good, they outlast us! Think of something special and enjoy getting your loved ones on board.
Have empathy. Remember that for some people, this could be the worst life experience they’ve had yet. For anyone that is going through a hard time or has lost someone, to experience the sirens of the holidays on top of their grief can be unbearable. Have grace and compassion this year. Don’t gripe about the music playing in stores or complain about the lines for a friggan iPhone. Who cares? It is the time of year to acknowledge that we are all going through something. Step out of your comfort bubble if you have to, don’t let people spend the day alone. Don’t turn your cheek to those truly in need. Maybe you know what it is like to have a very sad holiday, and if you don’t, know that some year you will. With that in mind, trade in your holiday stress for holiday caring. Do something different and extend compassion to those who could use it. Be in the present for the people around you. Isn’t that what all of this is really about?
This year, the sales are going to be bigger, the lines crazier, and the careless word vomit more projectile than the last. This year, forget all the chaos around you. Have a really meaningful holiday experience. Take a moment to listen to the music, and take in the beautifully falling snow. Reflect on how the years have changed things. Feel peace and love around you.
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