Why do we have holidays?
To celebrate the things in life that are important to us — family, friends, religion, community, the spirit of giving, being good to one another. To practice rituals and traditions that give us joy and bring us closer as humans.
The lights, the trimmings and the music create an atmosphere of festivity that gives us permission to let go of our daily routines and show the people we care about how much we value them. The holidays sanction a free-spirited behavior that most of us welcome with open arms.
Then there’s the food.
The very thought, let alone the smell and the taste of certain holiday foods immediately trigger vivid memories of holidays past that involve all five senses. No wonder we can’t wait to celebrate wholeheartedly. If our holidays aren’t perfect, and they never are, who cares, they were wonderful enough.
But not everyone feels that way. What if you dread the holidays because you don’t really relate to your family and those gatherings bring up old issues you’ve struggled all your life to get past and forget?
What if you’re alone?
What if you can’t afford the extra spending that’s come to be expected during the holidays?
For those of us who only wish we could be jolly through the holiday season, here are a few things to consider.
You don’t have to let your family drive you nuts. You’re who you are now, not who you were back then. If you can’t brush off the old jabs that have always driven you crazy, don’t go. Or just see the ones you want to see. The world will not come to an end. Send a card or a text saying you have other plans for that day. Spend the holidays with people who value you. Let go of the guilt, and the stress will fade away, too.
If you’re alone, you don’t need to be. Volunteering your time at a meal distribution center, a senior facility, hospital, or charity event can brighten your holidays right up. Showing a little kindness to people who have less than you reminds you of your own value and lets the people you’re helping know you see them and value them too.
If you have limited income and feel like you’d like to hide from the holidays, remember: The best things in life really are free. Love is the greatest gift of all and no amount of money can buy it. Kindness and acceptance are right up there too.
As for the trimmings, when I was a kid, we made just about all of our holiday decorations from stuff we had around the house. We had a great time doing it, and it brought us together as a family. We kept to a budget for gifts and it made us more thoughtful about what we could get within our budget that our loved ones would really like or need. The holidays can be wonderful without breaking the bank.
That brings me to how you treat yourself. These are your holidays. Relax and pamper yourself. Whether you give yourself a little present or do something fun you don’t usually have the time to do, enjoy this time. Use social media. Get in touch with people you think of but never see or talk to. Get on Zoom with the ones who live far away and whose faces you’d like to see.
Do something healthy. There are lots of health and fitness related events tied to the holidays. Charity runs, cooking classes, discounts on gym memberships and fitness gear, healthy recipes all over the internet. Take this opportunity to start some new healthy habits.
If you’re traveling, try to approach it with a relaxed attitude of acceptance. You know what you’re in for. Give yourself enough time for the unexpected and try to take it in stride and not to get overwhelmed when the unexpected happens.
Cut yourself some slack. Even the most wonderful holidays can be stressful. Don’t take yourself or the holidays too seriously. They were created to have the opposite effect.
Enjoy it all in moderation. Remember it’s the thought and the spirit that counts. Jazz singer Bobby McFerrin put his finger on it with his hit song from the 1980s. "Don’t Worry, Be Happy” — an easy recipe for happy holidays.