Regardless of how you celebrate the holidays, be it a religious connection or simply a seasonal holiday, there's so much that is connected to celebrations during this time. I have heard so many people fretting over not being ready and having so much to do and not enough time. There's agonizing over gift lists, finding just the right item, and of course shopping for the best deals. That means charging into crowds of humanity and elbowing your way through the shopping frenzy. Some love this excitement, some do not. Another option is to join the cyber crowds, and shop online. There's cleaning, decorating, sending cards, cooking, baking, travel, attending holiday parties and celebrations. It can be a very busy time, and in many cases too busy!
Holidays are often connected with "traditions". Traditions can be deeply meaningful, or done just because it's always been done and some are obligatory in nature, but not really enjoyable. If you find yourself going through the holiday grind and feeling stressed year after year, maybe it's time to stop and evaluate your holiday schedule and activities. Perhaps it's time to change what you've been doing.
It's important to stop and acknowledge any holiday stress you may be experiencing. It helps to evaluate and identify the sources of stress. There is a story that is easily found on the internet. You may have already heard it but it goes like this:
A teenager was watching her mother prepare a roast for their holiday dinner. The mother first cut off each end of the roast. “Why?” asked the inquisitive daughter. The mother explained that the best tasting roast always has the ends sliced off first before cooking. The daughter challenged why cutting the ends off made the roast taste better. The exasperated mother replied, “Grandma taught me to do it that way, and everyone has always thought your grandma made the best roast ever. Maybe she can tell you why.”
Later when the grandmother came over for dinner, the teen asked her why cutting the ends off the roast made it taste better. The grandma said, “Honey, cutting off the ends of the roast doesn’t make the roast better, I cut the ends off because I didn’t have a pan big enough to cook a whole roast!”
The point of this story is that there are many traditions that we carry on, that at one time, had a purpose and meaning. Over time, the reason may become unimportant, but the habit simply continues. Habits that are rich with tradition and meaning are good to continue, as they have an important significance to your life. However, there are other habitual traditions, perhaps devoid of the meaning they once held, that are worth re-evaluating. If they are no longer meaningful, no longer purposeful, and lack significance, you may benefit from "de-cluttering" your holiday experience. Hopefully doing that reduce the pressure on you and alleviate some of your stress.
I've been evaluating holiday habits for sometime. It's been a process that I've been doing over many years. I've chosen to keep some habits and have chosen to eliminate or modify others. I've even added new ones over time.
What have I done to de-stress vs. distress over the holidays? There's been some changes that have helped me in many ways. My personal changes have been to stop baking lots of Christmas cookies. Now I bake for what I need at the time, and it's not always cookies that I prepare. Cookies that I do choose to bake are often less complicated and easier to prepare. I've reduced my Christmas card list, opting to send cards to select people that I want to keep in touch with but don't see that often (for a variety of reasons). I also try to include a note with cards to stay connected and make it personal. I've simplified and reduced my gift list. I don't give many gifts and I don't really desire or expect gifts. I try to be practical by gifting cash or gift cards so the recipient is able to buy exactly what they want, and maybe even get a better deal than I could before the holidays! Easier for me! No fighting the holiday crowds, no impulse buying or overbuying and no worries about having to return something. I have scaled down my decorating too. More is not better, and I've reduced the depressing burden of having to put it all away when the holidays are over. To me, less is more when it's meaningful and special to me. When it seems like work, it's time to re evaluate! I have favored items that I decorate with and I feel no less in the holiday spirit than if I would have gone over the top with lights, garland, nicknacks and a loaded Christmas tree
Christmas has a strong religious connection for us, and we have added singing in our church choir to our traditions. It's a family affair for us now, with 3 members of my immediate family now active members of the choir. We also sing in a pre-Christmas concert. Family holiday meals have been pot luck, helping to make meal preparation and entertaining less stressful and easier on the budget. I also don't feel obligated to attend every event I am invited to. Sometimes I will say thank you for the invitation, but I will be unable to attend. Just do what feels right for you!
Some might say I'm being a Grinch. But for my family and I, it's been a gradual change and it seems to be a good fit for us. The major point of this Musing is that we should enjoy our holidays and participate in traditions that have a purpose or meaning to us. What we do or not do is unique to us as individuals. We should be careful that we do not get caught up in the obligations and practices that can unnecessarily take the fun out of the season. Don't sprint to the holidays! Pace yourself and take time to embrace and enjoy the holidays the way you really want to.
Here are some links with additional ideas and things to consider.