A few years ago I decided that I had to disengage from all the stress; that I did not wish to continue to live with all the resentment I was building up each December. Something had to change and I since I couldn’t do much to change the rest of the world, I was going to have to change the way I approached things.
My first act was to decide to quit Christmas completely. My partner was out of town and my family was all far away and so I gave myself permission to just not do Christmas at all. I had some folks over to celebrate the solstice. We lit candles to welcome the return of the light and had a nice dinner together. No fuss, no muss.
I was amazed at how free I felt. I didn’t have to shop for gifts, or worry about spending too much money. There was no time pressure, no rushing around. Without all the obligations that come along with this season, I was able to just relax and enjoy the spirit of it.
With all the pressure off, I was able to look at what was important to me in this season. I began to build my own traditions that help me create holiday seasons filled with meaning, grace, and ease.
I really value honoring the rhythms both of the natural world and of our human culture. In the natural world, this time of year is dark. Plants have sent their energy down into their roots to survive the winter and many animals have gone dormant. It’s a time for rest and renewal, for the inward journey and getting in touch with the earth. One of my most treasured practices to make time for quiet and reflection.
Another aspect of the holidays that I really love participating is fun time with my community. I love cooking for people, so I always try to schedule a couple of feasts. This year I hosted my husband’s family for thanksgiving and some friends for the solstice. Planning meals, making a pretty table setting, mindfully creating a nourishing and nurturing experience is very fulfilling for me.
A third choice has been to shift my gift giving experience. I hand make a lot of my gifts. I make felt scarves and hats. And I find new real food treats to make each year, something a little challenging to me and fun for my friends to receive. In the past, I’ve made peppermint marshmallows, chocolate peanut butter cups and sugar plums. New this year was homemade Nutella – surprisingly easy to make and SOOO delicious!
My partner and I have a jar that we put $20 in each week as a gift fund. This is plenty for our gift giving needs, and helped us to get away from the notion that we have to give everyone expensive, extravagant gifts. We like to give experiences rather than stuff, like zoo memberships, or spa gift certificates. I like to think of people really having fun with our gifts rather than having to find a place to put more stuff.
Most of all, what transformed the holidays from a season of resentment and obligation to one of joy is choosing where I put my focus. I deliberately choose to look for the meaning in my actions, to create community, to give back. I still have to cook, shop, and make gifts. All of which takes time and energy. But when I am concentrating on taking it slow and savoring the connections that each of these actions creates, it doesn’t seem burdensome any more, and I don't have to run away from the celebrations.