As the holiday season approaches, I am always wary of wishing someone a “Happy Holidays” or a “Merry Christmas”. Though well intentioned, these statements are laden with assumption, aren’t they? At this time of year, I prefer to make deeply uncomfortable eye contact and inquire “How are you, really?”
Some of you come alive at this time of year, sprinkling glitter and powdered sugar everywhere you go. You hum carols, string lights, and smell like gingerbread. You will likely set up your Christmas tree on November 12th. You excitedly pull out your Santa hat earrings and ugly sweaters, and ensure your stash of charming hostess gifts is sufficient for the lineup of events on your calendar. What fun!
Others feel a sense of dread, obligation, and overwhelm during this “festive season”. In past years, I, too, have succumbed to my own prickly Grinchiness. I craved the day when I could stuff my Christmas tree back into its ridiculously tiny box—which is not unlike attempting to force Pilsbury dough and back into its can. Exhale. Christmas is over for another year.
In recent years though, I have reflected on my cold Christmas heart—which felt two sizes too small--and decided there must be a better way. I was tired of white-knuckling my life for the month of December. I wanted to join the joyous singing with the rest of the citizens of Whoville.
The shift began by giving myself permission to examine traditions and ask what worked and what didn’t. I kept what felt fun and discarded the rest, even when it meant throwing away what has always been done. As a result, the boys and I have stayed in fancy hotel rooms on Christmas Eve and had pizza by the pool. We’ve dined in luxurious restaurants instead of making turkey dinner. We’ve gone for long walks in the snow on Christmas morning, searching for dazzling Christmas lights. Christmas began to feel like an adventure.
I also embraced the idea that Christmas is more than one day. It offers a full month to celebrate with people I love, play with my kids, and create moments of joyful memories. Last year, my boys and I created an “advent calendar”. One evening in November, we sat down, and wrote slips of paper containing creative games, festive outings, and bonding opportunities. We jotted down ideas such as:
So, give yourself permission to let go of anything which doesn’t serve you during this busy time of year. Don’t be afraid to create your own brand of magic, carve new traditions, and invite your kids to provide input into the redefinition of this holiday season.
I wont' wish you "Happy holidays."
Instead, from the bottom of my heart, know that I want you to really be okay.