The holiday season is upon us and I suppose I have to address it in some way, right? You are no doubt used to reading bulleted list articles about the ten things you need to do to make your Christmas bright or your Hanukkah happy or your new year fabulous. I’m not going to follow that usual template, but I’ll give you an article with a twist this season.
That’s right. Don’t.
Don’t expect that just because it’s holiday time that you and your family will suddenly get along, that problems in relationships will disappear, and that everybody will suddenly love everybody else. You may have been working on a better relationship with your mother or your spouse, or you may have been striving to set appropriate limits and boundaries with your sibling the entire year. Progress has been slow. You’ve been discouraged. Christmas Day rolls around and everyone expects to be thrown together in the same room with a turkey and some carols and act like nothing has ever been wrong. You will be sorely disappointed if you wait on the outcome. Be realistic. Be magnanimous. Just don’t expect to enter the kitchen, sample a turkey leg under the mistletoe and then sit down at the Cleaver’s dining room table.
Don’t overspend. What do you suppose your family and friends really expect from you in the way of a gift this holiday season? Now, if they are family or friends who know anything about you at all, they know your living situation, your line of work and can probably make an educated guess about your disposable income. If cousin Jimmy can surmise that your total holiday gift budget is three hundred dollars, should he really expect to see a thousand dollar iPhone under the tree from you? Do you think relatives would be happy knowing that you gave them gifts that will keep you in debt for the next nine months? No. Give freely and from the heart, but don’t go bankrupt doing so.
Don’t overeat. Today of all days, there will be food everywhere, on every table and every flat surface. Turkey, ham, veggies, bread, and more pies, cookies, cakes and candy than Will Ferrell could ever eat without help from the other elves. Just like money, food should be enjoyed, but in moderation. When you start to wonder if you’re more stuffed than the turkey, you’ve crossed the line. Push back.
Don’t over imbibe. Are you sensing a pattern here? Music, food, laughter, games, gift giving-all are wonderful parts of the holidays. Some may be enhanced by the addition of eggnog, cider, mulled wine, liqueurs or the distilled spirits of Christmas past. Just don’t overdo this part of your celebration either. Limit setting, common sense and rational use of alcohol if you are so inclined is key. Pick a designated reindeer at the start of the evening, or use the Uber credit that Uncle Ned gave you to get safely home from the party.
Don’t over schedule. Just like too much spending, food, or alcohol can put a damper on your celebratory mood, feeling constantly stressed and pressured to go go go can do the same. Keep a family calendar handy so that everyone knows the commitments that have been made. Schedule down time and breaks between traveling and parties and meals. If you drive a long distance, consider spending the night and coming back the next day instead of driving stuffed, tired, or intoxicated. (See the Designated Dasher and Uber reference above)
Don’t expect that others will make you happy. You’ve heard this one before. You are in charge of your own contentment, holidays and every day.
Don’t blame yourself for the ghosts of Christmas past. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all played the part of Scrooge, said things we didn’t mean and done things we regret. Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving, only if you keep gift wrapping it and tagging it with your own name under the tree.
Don’t rush things. Be mindful. Be in the moment. Holiday time is truly one of those times when we get the most out of the least, and when the most profound messages come through the soft tinkling of bells and the aromas that conjure up celebrations long past. Stop. Listen. Savor.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. That Santa hat on your head? Perfect. The ugly sweater with the battery powered lights? Go for it.
Don’t forget to play. My grandchildren have already taught me the lesson that sometimes the world is best seen from floor level while surrounded by Legos and Disney princesses.
Don’t forget the reason for the season. Whatever or whoever you celebrate, there should always be an underlying sense of joy and thanksgiving in our gathering and celebrating together.
Don’t try to substitute anything else for true happiness, contentment and peace.
I guess I did give you a reverse laundry list of sorts, didn’t I?
Don’t do these things, and your holiday season just might be merry and bright. I certainly wish that for you and your family and friends.