Tuesday, December 23, 2008
My Secrets for Enjoying the Holiday Season
Earlier today a friend asked how, despite challenging circumstances, I manage to have so much Christmas spirit. After I shared my secrets to holiday happiness with her, she suggested that I share them with you. So, even though it's probably too late to help anyone this year, here are a few tips to tuck away for November/December 2009.
First, accept the fact that the same laws of the universe that apply to every other day of the year also apply to the Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa season. Stuff happens, roll with it.
Visit a hospital, nursing home or animal shelter. Get a perspective on how blessed you really are. If you can, take a fruit or gift basket for the staff. Or, if you visit an animal shelter, take a gift certificate for a Petco or Petsmart. They'll be surprised and really appreciate it.
Make your own holiday tradition. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate most holidays. While there are a few specific religious observances, for the most part, how, where and with whom you spend your holidays is a matter of choice. Choose carefully and don't succumb to emotional blackmail.
Find your spiritual center. Embrace your faith while remembering that everyone else may not share it. If you want a nativity scene put one on your lawn and don't get upset if there isn't one at your City Hall or at the local Target. Conversely, if you're not into the religious aspects of the season don't begrudge those who are.
If squirrels decide that your outdoor Christmas decorations are their winter playground just grab your camera, take pictures and have a good laugh. Who knows, you might have Animal Planet or America's Funniest Videos material. Besides, you really should have put out a few nuts for those squirrels, right?
If a few of your Christmas lights fail, don't worry. Your magnificent display is just a blur to passing cars and your neighbors will not run you out of town if it is not perfect. Seriously, if the view from your living room window looks good, just enjoy it. Why obsess over what strangers think?
Balance your news intake with equal measures of holiday cartoons and movies. While I don't recommend sticking your head in the sand, a soul can only take just so much discussion of political corruption and corporate crime.
Stop trying to find the perfect gift for everyone. Some people aren't going to appreciate your gift no matter what you get them. Shop early and spend a little extra effort picking out gifts for the appreciative people on your list. Then, either buy gift cards for the rest or cross them off the list, entirely. The latter won't remember what you gave them anyway. And you can donate the money you've saved to charity.
Stop waiting for your mother's ( or other family member's ) affirmation. Get used to it. She will never praise your cooking or decorating. This is a law of nature.
And on the subject of cooking ... Don't wait until the last minute and don't feel that you have to cook a traditional menu. If you aren't well acquainted with a certain recipe make sure that you have a back-up plan. If something is inedible, decide if it will make tasty pet food or a treat for the birds and squirrels. If not, it goes into the compost pile or the garbage bin before anyone but you is the wiser.
Instead of making yourself crazy with shopping, clean out your closets and garage. Anything that you haven't used or worn in three or more years probably needs to be given to someone who needs it. Give the really nice items to a local charity. It will make you feel good just dropping off the items.
Surround yourself with all of your favorite things. Wear your best PJs and use your best bed linen, candles, crystals, etc. Reward yourself for being SO good all year long.
If you're really not into the decorations, songs, gatherings and religious observances, save your vacation time and go away. But let's face it, it's hard to escape the holidays. Just make a game plan for getting through them. They happen every year.
And lastly, know who your true friends were for the other 300+ days of the year and keep them close during the holidays. No matter what the holiday season brings, having friends and/or family in your life who really love and care for you will get you through it.
photo courtesy of Corbis.com