During a quick shopping trip at a neighborhood store, it became clear that, while Halloween is around the corner, so are Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am already behind for the holidays.
I haven’t sewn the linen table runner or embroidered its edges with hedgehogs wearing Santa hats….I haven’t ordered the turkey for Thanksgiving, much less Christmas….Haven’t made the plum pudding, which is best if made a couple of months in advance…..Haven’t designed my Christmas cards with woodblock prints or hand addressed the envelopes in calligraphy…. Haven’t made colored photocopies of the carols we’ll be singing.
You may be wondering if I am anxious about all these plans. Or you may be wondering why I didn’t start last January or at least June.
Or…and most likely, you’re wondering if I really do this stuff and why.
A Collision of Values
Years ago, I noticed that it was common to hear the words “stress” and “holidays” as if they were synonymous and as if that was to be expected and accepted. Something like this: “Well, you know…it’s the holidays, so…stress.” And that stuck with me as the exact opposite of what people want.
How Did This Happen?
We’ve been fooled into thinking that the holidays are a time to create picture-perfect moments with heaps of beautifully wrapped presents, homes decorated with fresh pine greenery, and elaborate meals. Equally unfortunate, we’ve been fooled into thinking that a successful holiday means spending more than we planned, buying from companies we don’t respect because they actually have items in stock. And then when we’re weary, overscheduled, and overspent, we feel like we failed to create the perfect holiday season. The supply chain disruptions this year have led to visions, not of sugarplums dancing in the heads of children but rather “disappointment” that the presents they wanted are not available. And how, and what, do we celebrate in a broken world. In a world that’s grieving and raging and hurting?
How Can We Make it Better?
Whether you espouse a particular religion or not, the word “holiday” comes from “holy days.” So it seems to me that the holidays should be centered on what is sacred to you and your people. You may consider quiet time with your family to be sacred. Or stillness. Or silliness. Or music in or out of a place of worship (or both). Or sitting around a fire with hot chocolate, spending time in contemplation. Or serving others less fortunate at a food kitchen or by donating your time and resources. Or having a huge party with friends and family you’ve not seen for over a year. Or maybe you really do everything on my “list” above.
So how then do we celebrate?
As you think about your holiday, what is most important to you? What memories would you like to make? How can you talk with your family about changing traditions to help you honor what you value most? How can you create your ideal holiday? You have an opportunity to design your holidays so that stress, to the extent that you can control it, is no longer part of your holiday planning. And if you used to get a holiday card from me each year and no longer do, please know that I think of you each year with love.