The holidays are a stressful time of year. If you’re young or old or somewhere in between. We don’t identify it so much as stress, instead we have manufactured anticipation and excitement. That wish fulfillment is guaranteed one day a year. Above all other days this is the day you’ll get that thing. You’ll be resplendent in all your finery for family to see. You’ll eat without care. Your domicile will be filled with an abundance of love to carry you through the good times and bad times.
The sentiments of good will toward each other is real. We strive for that even when we continually fall short. The fact we’ve forced it onto one day for two millennia is where the stress comes in. No one day can live up to those expectations. Rarely do such events do. Weddings or milestone birthdays. Even child birth. The laser intensity of the event can doom it to failure before it even starts.
So how do we strip away the conditioning around the holidays. How do we make it a special day without making it the specialist of days out of the other 364. It’s a lot to unlearn.
Since my parents are no longer with me a lot of the holiday quickly transformed. My parents birthdays funnily enough bookend the holiday period. Which is sad and has added some anxiety that didn’t used to be there. Time around those days is poignant and marked with silent tributes to them. Maybe with what I eat or watch or where I go. Those days are the same. But are not the same. Nor should they be. They’re a work in progress.
The holidays with Covid have taken on a new pathos and the old ways will likely never return. My Christmas Eve party first cancelled out of depression over my Dad and then the pandemic mean it is likely never to return to what it once was. The consistency of that day is gone. Now replaced by old movies and hot toddy’s. It’s less frenzied but is just as celebrated as previous iterations. It’s an evolution. It’s not a downgrade I tell myself.
For the big day the focus changes as you get older just by default. Kids are the centre. As they should be. Wide eyed and interested in all their shiny new things and new adventurous paths. That part is well worth a little bit of stress to see their happy faces. Traditions like stockings are from Santa and gifts were from your parents is really the way to go. I’m so happy my parents did that for me and in turn kiddo didn’t think Santa was bringing her bikes or computers. It reduces and dilutes the special trinkets and best candies to a more level playing field. I truly believe children suffer when society is teaching them Santa brings whatever you ask for. And that’s simply an economic lie that carry’s over into adulthood. If we’re all just what big toy we have, then so many of us become have nots. And no one deserves that lie. Because we’re all have mores.
Taking time for oneself during the holidays seems to be the most difficult balancing act. Even in Wave 5 of however many more waves of this worldwide public health crisis there are, it’s especially difficult. I find my mind just – vanishes – during the day now. My brain leaves my body and goes where I don’t know. I mean I hope it’s somewhere pretty exciting but by all accounts it isn’t. When it does show back up it’s still got the same worries. Sometimes it adds in new ones! So I suppose it’s hiding more than vacationing. But the rest of me could do with hiding too. The desire to not do decorations or wrap any gift is HIGH. What is it all for when you can do what it’s all for all year round?
Years ago I stopped sending Christmas cards. It was too much. I’d made my own. Dozens. It became overwhelming. I had to stop. Now I send none and get maybe one or two. It’s ok. I kind of enjoyed how the act of sending/receiving cards became a public barometer on whether or not someone liked you. As if I’d stopped sending them because I didn’t like them – should I have sent out a card to say I wasn’t sending anymore cards? Ridiculous. But regardless I found the act freeing. It at least got rid of one stressful time of year act. What else could I eschew?
Mostly what I eschew (honestly this is a great word) is the notion that Christmas is not for all year. Meaning that it’s good will. It’s cheer. It’s abundance is not only for a few shorts weeks every years. The act of giving gifts, maybe, but surely the joy and cheers can be our everyday lives. Surely we can actively take what we wrap physically and metaphorically give gifts all year. We have to be able to subscribe to doing better than saying; I wish everyday was like Christmas. Everyday CAN be like Christmas. But what is our impetus to do so when the meaning is shrouded by mince tarts and sugar plums? And the Hallmark channel.
For Christmas I want us all to try, as hard as that trying is – Lord knows it remains hard even to find any desire to write, nevermind bake – that we can carry that spirit with us each day. Into each interaction. To try to gift others with our best selves. Gift others with our beautiful, like no other smiles. Gift others with our listening. Our patience. Our hearts. To place the gift turning over to a new day, to the impossibly possible.
The greatest Christmas gift is our perfectly imperfect love. The best homemade gift we can give.
I miss my parents. I miss them every day. The blah of the season may never go away. I may never unlearn the trappings of the commercialized holidays. But I can be born anew like the season promises. A baby born to make the impossible possible. They made me possible. The greatest gift they gave.
However you celebrate, wherever you celebrate, enjoy the quiet or noise of the day. Enjoy it how you like: excess or so much chocolate you think you might never make it to Boxing Day. They’re all good. All versions matter. Let’s take that into the everyday Christmases.
And if no one says it to you that day –
I love you. x