As I write this, the weather has become colder, decorations are in store windows and the local grocery store has been playing carols since the day after Halloween. Whatever your tradition: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus, it’s becoming impossible to ignore the fact that the holidays are fast approaching.
While main-stream media perpetuates the idea of the holidays as a time of gift-giving, spending time with family and friends and eating beautifully prepared food; this is not the reality for many people. For some people, financial difficulties may prevent them from buying the same number or type of gifts they were able to give in previous years. For others, 2017 may have brought a change in family/relationship structures either through death, divorce or family members and/or friends moving away. Even happy events such as the birth of a child or the addition of a new adult member into the family can lead to changes in previous holiday traditions.
Instead of anticipating the holidays with a sense of dread, how can we make the ‘season’ as peaceful as possible?
Consult and Plan Ahead
Once we recognize that not only is the festive season coming, but that it will be ‘different’ this year; having a plan for the holidays goes a long way to working through any potential rough spots.
Contrary to popular belief, traditions can adapt to deal with new circumstances. However, consultation is key. If these traditions involve others, a sound idea is to have ‘the conversation’ before the event is looming. That way everyone is agreed on the new plan and has time to make necessary changes. For example, Aunt Shirley may not be open to limiting the price of gifts to $10, if you tell her the week before Christmas, and she has already spent $100 on your gift.
Do Something Completely Different
Sometimes it can be fun to take a break from our traditions and do something completely different. Rather than missing what isn’t there, we focus on doing something new. Often families may choose to travel over the holiday season rather than be reminded of a loss–whether it’s loved one, relationship, job, pet, etc. Once they are through the ‘year of firsts’ they may return to their regular plans, but in the short-term creating a new plan is a way of getting through the ‘first holiday’.
If You Are Going To Be Alone, Take Advantage of the Holiday Buildup
In most traditions, the celebrations last for more than one day. Let’s take Christmas for example. While the main focus is usually on December 25th, many events start to happen anytime from mid-November onward. If you know that you are going to be alone on “the day” (and this isn’t your first choice), get your fill of pre-December 25th events, and then plan a special day for yourself filled with activities that have special meaning for you.
No matter your holiday tradition, one common factor is love for each other. This time of year provides many opportunities to give back to your community. Volunteer at a shelter, visit seniors in retirement homes whose family members are unable to visit, offer to take care of a friend’s pet (who wasn’t invited to holiday celebrations)…the list is endless.
By lifting our eyes from our own situations, we have a wider view of the world and places where we can be helpful.
“Festivas for the Rest of Us!”
And now…Festivas! Enjoy! Warning…Seinfeld’s humour may not appeal to everyone.