When I was a child, my mother did everything to make the holidays a magical time. She put the tree up, and let it stay up well into January. She would dance to Christmas music in the car on the way to school. She would let us stay up late and watch the Christmas specials on tv. My favorite was the Christmas Eve tradition of driving around and looking at the lights on the houses, visit my Grandma and rush home to be in bed before Santa came. Christmas was my favorite tiof year, thanks to my mom. She worked hard to make the holidays perfect.
I think a lot of us feel that similar pressure to make the holidays the better than the last year. It can be stressful, especially with the nostalgia from our childhood memories. Feeling the pressure to be "on" all season, to find perfect gifts for your in laws and extended family, not to mention gifts for the close family. I get it. Add hosting duties and it's over. It doesn't matter what religious background you come from, December can be a tough month.
I am writing to you today to tell you that it's okay to take care of yourself. Your family won't remember the perfect christmases, especially since perfect doesn't exist. My list sounds a lot like mindfulness, and it is. Being present during the holidays has helped me get through some of the rough ones. It's okay to want to take care of yourself.
1. Step Back
It's so easy to get caught up in the need to make everything magical and perfect. So easy that we tend to forget what it is that we are actually spending time to celebrate. When this happens to me, I try to step back and practice a little mindfulness. Think about what you need to do in this moment. Think about your problems within the larger scope of the world. Think about all you have, rather than what you don't have. (Trust me this one is hard for me, everyone knows how much I love shopping) We really do have so much, even if all we can be thankful for is the breath in our lungs.
2. Find Your Tradition.
We all have the tradition that we love. What is the one thing that can make you really enjoy the holidays? For me it's walking around my neighborhood at night, slowly taking in my neighbors light displays. For someone else, it might be attending an Advent church service. Hell, I even love having a fire in the fireplace with my knitting and a big glass of wine. (But that's everyday, so I don't know if it counts) Either way, find something that you can do that makes you enjoy your time.
3. Set Boundaries
You can't do everything, and really, who wants to? If you're knitting or making hand made gifts, allow yourself some time to make them, and make them for people who will appreciate it. (We have the term Knit Worthy for a reason ha ha) If you're going to be stressed out by that one racist uncle at your holiday party, remove yourself from the conversation. Christmas is my happy space. I don't mind making things for people and I definitely don't mind engaging when someone is being rude, but if that person is in my happy space either physically or mentally and they're draining my joy, they can leave. It's that simple. If they want to engage in controversial topics, they can take it outside. If I wonder if I am wasting my time on a gift that wont be appreciated, I buy them something easy instead. My sacred space is for me and the joy of my family, and I welcome people to join me there. It doesn't mean that I have to let people take advantage of my love.
4. Give Back
The holidays are a time to remember that we aren't alone in this world, and that there are people who are having a more difficult time than we are. The whole basis of this design company is to give back to people who work hard all year to make the world a better place to live in. Find some way to give back this holiday season. Seek out a charity or program that could use you. Volunteer at a food bank. Give money to those in need. It might not seem like it, but giving back is the single most important thing you can do during the holidays that will bring you joy. I know what it's like to be poor and unsure of where my next meal is going to come from. I know what it's like to work hard for almost nothing. These people deserve our love and respect. We are in this life together, help each other. Love each other.
These are some of the things that help me bring back my Holiday Joy. What are some of yours? Do you have any special traditions that you absolutely love? What makes this time of year special to you? Add yours in the comments below.