This December is Gonna be Different

We survived the holidays, brought out a few ornaments, and enjoyed the people we love the most. I hope you have been able to find joy in this season of odd emotions. ~ Susan

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.” — Shirley Temple

“Most Texans think Hanukkah is some sort of duck call.” — Richard Lewis

That was the ornament ‘she’ gave me.
Those were the mugs ‘they’ once used.
That was the song ‘he’ always sang.
December is not what it was fifteen years ago, yet it’s all it needs to be today.

Sitting in a coffee shop, I look around and see beautiful decorations and consider the fact that I’ve not done much decorating at home. My husband put the tree together, and the ornaments only need to make the journey from the box to the branches, but is this beautifully decorated time of year merely about believing in Santa or knowing Hanukkah is more than a duck call? There are religious and secular reasons for the season (remember, it began as a Pagan event). Still, I believe that no matter who, what, or why you’re celebrating, it’s a time to create meaning for yourself and your family. We have to make an effort to do more than decorate a tree. We have to be willing to do what works for us.

Let’s just put all of our cards on the table (especially the pretty ones with family photos people are mailing today). December is a highly charged emotional time of year. The Jews celebrate Hanukkah for 8 days, the Christians celebrate Christmas for 12 days, while Las Posadas, Kwanzaa, and Diwali are observed for 9, 7, and 5 days, respectively. Does anyone in any of those groups wish for more angst and pressure to ‘get it right’? I think not.

Add to that a loss of a loved one, the pressure at work (or no work), or all the appointments you feel you must get in before the end of the year, and December has gone from being a treasured to traumatic time of year if you allow it. Take a deep breath, folks. Maybe this is a year you need to get through the holiday season — your child is sick, your spouse has left you, your parent has died, you ran out of money. Maybe this year, you take some of the control back and be intentional about creating what works for you without totally throwing the holiday out the window.

  • If you’ve lost someone you love, try to honor them this year instead of hiding from their memory. What did they enjoy (that you might not)? Do it to honor them; to feel close at a time you might be feeling incredibly separated.
  • If you have nothing to decorate, or no desire, look for someone else who would appreciate a hand with putting up lights, taking down the tree, or sipping a cup of hot chocolate with anyone instead of being alone.
  • If the anxiety of trying to keep up with all of the wants on the present list is pushing you to the edge, decide to do just what you can and start a tradition that minimizes things and maximizes love.

Are you looking for permission to make some changes? Well, here you go.

I hereby grant you permission to

  • Give yourself the gift of sleep
  • Give yourself the gift of nutritious food
  • Give yourself the gift of taking five minutes to sit by yourself and breathe in the stillness
  • Give yourself the gift of saying no to whatever is pressuring you
  • Give yourself the gift of putting a tree in every room or in no room, whatever suits you
  • Give yourself the gift of allowing others to do what they need to do

You can take better care of yourself and enjoy what is most special to you this time of year. What would that be, by the way? Looking at each of the religious and secular events mentioned, we find:

Christians celebrating the birth of a baby believed to have been born to save the world

Jews celebrating a commemoration of the rededication of the temple in a Jewish victory many years ago

Hindus celebrate life and the triumph of good over evil.

Kwanza brings a celebration of African culture.

And many people are just glad to rejoice that the Winter Solstice arrives in December and means the days will begin to get longer.

Each of these celebrations is about rejoicing – about life, hope, and meaningful cultures that have survived several generations.

The joy the holidays bring to some people seems negligible when you look at how stressful it is for so many others. We find parents hoping to get all the gifts requested, as the lists change and the stores close, the fella or girl who is trying to find that perfect gift to say ‘I care’ without saying too much more, the neighbors trying to decide what they should have on hand in case someone should stop to visit (and come bearing a gift), many of us wondering how to do things differently when life has changed, and most everyone wondering how in the world they will pay for the items they’ve purchased. Yes, the holidays bring joy, but they find a way to pack a lot of stress in that wrapping paper and ribbons.

In Prisoner of Azkaban, Dumbledore says, “Happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light.” You and I can’t wait for someone else to turn on the proverbial light. We must do that for ourselves. Whatever darkness surrounds you, I wish you less pressure, less stress, less dark, and more sanity, more serenity, more pleasure. Sing a song that makes your heart happy. Look around for people who could use a friendly smile or a pleasant greeting. Whatever you do, create a holiday that works for you and allow others to do the same.

 

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