Even if you play the starting lineup on Team Christmas and by November 1st you are counting down the minutes until you can deck your halls with all kinds of holly jolly merriment, opening the doors to make the next two months special and sparkly for everyone within a hundred mile radius, you may still be finding this time of year isn’t without its own challenges. That initial elation upon opening your box of holiday decorations that have been safely stowed away since last year is intoxicating in and of itself. You drink in the smell of your pine scented candles, and get all those warm fuzzies about perfect placement of your ornaments on your tree.
But then the pressure of gift giving starts to mount. You are bombarded by advertisements. You can’t decide who has been naughty and who has been nice, and what to get each loved one accordingly. Since you’re feeling festive, you decide to host a holiday party but the pressure builds with getting the house looking like Martha Stewart whisked in to put her finishing touches on everything. You mull over your cookbooks to find the perfect appetizers that will pair with your sparkling cocktail concoction, and then when you get to the grocery store, there’s been a run on pomegranates, so your whole menu plan is ruined at the last minute. Your in-laws have decided to spend the holidays with you, and you’re foreshadowing your own personal version of the disastrous Griswold’s Family Christmas in epic proportions. You get in a fight with your sister-in-law’s neighbor over a White Elephant gift exchange. People push and shove in crowded, sweltering shopping malls. Your kid’s list of present requests is miles long. They have a meltdown in line to see Santa and, after two hours of waiting, refuse to smile to get their picture taken. The only takeaway is getting to share your kid’s tantrum-face and Santa’s horrified reaction with their fiance one day.
You drink too much, you eat too much. Buy, buy, buy, consume, consume, consume.
On New Year’s Eve you spend $300 per head, but the kitchen staff can’t handle this “special” New Years menu so you don’t eat until 11pm. By 12pm you’re grumpy, you’re not interested in swapping saliva with anyone, and you just want to go home. You’re ready for this year to be over, so you can start fresh and move into the new one.
Maybe you’re on the other side of the merriment fence because you lost a loved one recently. They may have been the one that made the holidays so special, now they aren’t here and you feel a void. Maybe you have fond memories of the holidays from a childhood, but haven’t discovered your own adult traditions. Maybe the holidays make you feel depressed and lonely and you prefer to relate to Mr. Grinch - the Mr. Grinch before he became “enlightened” with holiday spirit. Some of us have begun to dread, even loathe the time frame between Halloween and New Year’s Day. You spiral down the rabbit hole of being so anti-Christmas that you do everything you can to try and avoid the fact that it is going on at all.
Then you hear Silver Bells one too many times, and before you know it you’re breaking into tears in your car while you’re stuck in holiday traffic and you want to punch Bing Crosby in the face for being so goddamned merry.
It happens to the best of us.
And you know what? That’s ok. We don’t need to hold the weight of the holiday world on our shoulders. We put too much pressure on ourselves, and we honestly just need to give ourselves a break and cut ourselves a little bit of slack from time to time.
Whichever team you’re playing on, you’re inevitably going to feel the energy of this season in both good and bad ways. In our Western society, we’ve cultivated the holidays to become a stressful, busy, go-go-go time of year. Many folks realize that it’s just too emotionally draining and decide to escape it all together. That might be by heading off on a tropical vacation, or busying themselves with projects, or hunkering down at the bottom of a rum bottle to attempt to forget about it.
We can’t always escape it, but we can do things that cultivate a simpler, kinder, more compassionate holiday season, for ourselves and for others. We can take care of ourselves by continuing our healthy routines and regiments, remembering that just because it’s the holidays, it’s not really an excuse to consume 10,000 more calories than you usually do, or getting black-out drunk at every holiday party you attend. The yoga studio quiets down this time of year, but in all honestly, I think it should be busier. We NEED to continue to exercise and find spaces of peace and calm amidst the chaos.
Although there are plenty of ways to complicate this time of year, we can do our best to keep it as simple as possible. One of the best holiday celebrations I ever had was a Christmas I spent on Norman’s Cay, a remote island in the northern Exumas. We drew Secret Santa names out of a hat a few weeks prior and gave a gift to the person whose name we drew, but it had to be handmade. We had a bonfire on Christmas Eve and ate fresh caught mahi and lobster. It was the simplest celebration, and one of the best I had ever, hands down, experienced. The best New Year’s Eves I have spent were also on that island. Just a beach party with a few drinks and good friends, enjoying the tranquility of the quiet, star-lit sky. Sometimes, as obvious as it might sound, simpler is much, much better.
So remember that you can enjoy your holiday decor and all your holly jolly, but keep in mind that it’s all just “stuff”. The whole point of this season (which has spiraled entirely out of control) is to take a moment to reflect the past year, to honor and connect with loved ones, and maybe even to look for a little bit of magic. Maybe you don’t need to feel guilty about not having a tree this year. Maybe just lighting a candle in reverence for loved ones that aren’t with us anymore is what you truly need. Maybe it’s finding your own place to pray, worship or meditate is calling to you. It could be a church, the beach, the forest, or a quiet corner of your home. Listen to what your body is craving, and create your own joyful season.
I hope everyone has a wonderful, safe, happy and healthy holiday season. Sending love and light.