What do you do during the holidays because you are “suppose to” vs. because you really want to? What would you really like to do instead?

 In Holidays, Life choices

Being Wise… taking in the wisdom across generations
by Christine, age 37

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Today I live my holidays my way. I decide what they mean to me, who I want to spend them with, and I never do anything out of obligation. I make my choices from my heart and from what really brings me joy. But it wasn’t always that way. I used to be a holiday nut.When I was in my 20’s, I was that crazy Christmas chick with 12 boxes of ornaments, an 8 foot tree and enough lights to make the Griswold’s jealous. I baked cookies, I sent holiday cards, I listened to Christmas music 24/7 and I had a gift list longer than Santa’s. While part of this obsession was truly because of my love of the holiday spirit (It’s a Wonderful Life is still one of my favorite movies), the real underlying driver was my unhappiness during the rest of the year. November and December became the months when I could forget how unhappy I was in my relationship, in my mini-mcmansion, in a life that didn’t always feel so Wonderful. The holidays were like a magical wand that just whisked my memory of the unhappiness away, and for 6 weeks I was living in the jolliest of Winter Wonderlands.

Thankfully, like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, I got a second chance when my old unhappy life ended at the age 30. While I didn’t get my wake up call from an angel named Clarence, I did realize that I didn’t need all this Christmas ornamentation and hoopla to be happy. I got real about the fact that my over-drive of Christmas activities had been a way to make up for my unhappiness the other 10 months. Deep inside, the reason I had loved the holidays so much was that it gave me the opportunity to express all the love and happiness that I couldn’t the rest of the year… like it had been stored up for months just waiting to be released.

Over the last seven years, I shed all but 1 box of Christmas ornaments, I now keep my white lights up all year long, and I express my love and joy all year-long. I create my own Holiday rituals and gatherings based on what the holidays mean to me. This year I flew to Chicago in early December to give and receive the gift of spending time with two little girls I love to pieces… I bought a jingle bell bracelet that makes me smile… I will celebrate Winter Solstice on Dec 21st in the mountains reflecting on the year past and creating the year to be… I will spend December 25th with my soul partner and my dog remembering all that I am grateful for (and drinking fabulous wine and eating delicious food)… and I will give only those gifts that I feel inspired to give.

I don’t make any excuses or apologies to anyone for not being or doing what I “should.” I express my choices with the holiday spirit and from a place of love, and let them do with that what they may. My holiday wish for all of us is to be and act from the truest place within ourselves, where we express the holiday spirit of love, laughter and connection while doing what brings us joy.

Olive, age 13, says:

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I love the holidays. There’s really not that much I would change. I do hate how people will be walking around with Santa hats on. It’s not that I mind the silliness of it but are the holidays about Christmas? Absolutely…NOT! I celebrate Christmas even though I am not religious but there are so many holidays that when I see Santa it makes me realize how the US is Christian. You can even take prop. 8 as an example. Church and state don’t mix. There different. Same thing here. “Well most people are Christian so let’s just paint Santa all over the place.” Maybe paint eight candles instead for a change.My other issue with Santa is crazy adults. Sure, I loved believing in Santa when I was growing up but this is what bothers me.

“What do you want from santa this year Olive?”, says some crazy person.
“Um…well Santa’s not real but I want-” “WHAT!?!?!?! Of course Santa is real! He always brings me presents!”
“Uh, I’m 13 and I found out that Santa wasn’t real when I was 8”
“AWWWWW BOO-HOO! You’re hurting my feelings! Santa’s real!”
“Well he’s not real and…well…yeah I gotta go ask my mom something.. uhh yeah”

I swear this happens EVERY holiday season. I don’t like to be that annoying teenager who rolls her eyes at people but come on! It’s ridiculous. I should not have to take that kind of harassment. I could see if maybe I was 5 but 13? I may think poo is hilarious but in this case I definitely am having to say GROW UP. I think it’s funny how my parents will still label things from Santa but that’s just for my little sister because she really does think that everyone gets presents from Santa. She even thinks that Santa’s reindeer poo in our house judging by her reaction to my step-mom putting chocolate covered raisins on the floor. Now that was funny. I encourage everyone to embrace the holidays with welcome arms, but please, don’t insist that Santa gives me my presents. If he did I would have everything ever made by Vivienne Westwood, Betsey Johnson, and Marc Jacobs. So chillax.

Christin, age 25, says:

christin.jpgThis particular holiday go round I feel like Cindy Lou Who from The Grinch when she sings, “Where are you Christmas? Why can’t I find you? ….”  I feel like the whole she-bang is one big fat ‘supposed to’.  I mean really; parties, gift exchanges, family dinners, decorating, cleaning, fancy work get together’s, presents, wrapping, baking – Even reading the list is exhausting! Why do we do this to ourselves?  What is the point?

One of my favorite Christmases was the year I got snowed in with my boyfriend.  We woke up with no presents, warm cups of coffee and fresh snow.  I remember the magic of the morning being with someone I loved so deeply and the feeling that the world was fresh and anew and special just for us.

All the other rubbish – sure I missed it a little. Okay, I missed it a lot – but it was a nice change to keep it so simple.  What I want this year is to remember that the resonance of the season is uncomplicated; Love, Family, Friendship, Laughter.  I want us, especially as women, to hold those as priorities.  To keep those as the Why’s and let the What’s fall into place on thier own.

And when we don’t show up to the proverbial Holiday Soirees held by our local Seasonal Sandy’s (whom you know deep down, we don’t really like anyway) – I think we might just enjoy that egg nog, take more than one pleasurable sigh, and smile.

 

Anne, age 41, says:

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I have to say that I usually do exactly what I want for the holidays. This wasn’t always the case. There was a time I definitely tried to recreate my mother’s version of Christmas, complete with pie crusts made from scratch, perfect Christmas cards, and tons of cookies and gifts for everybody I knew. Now I try to keep all that to a minimum. I think the pressure to make
everything all Martha Stewart comes from the frenzied need to feel like we have all of this community and attention around us. Also, the pace seems to completely speed up this time of year and I am sure that adds to it. Let’s face it, the stores are playing Christmas carols before Thanksgiving complete with messaging that instructs us to show how much we care by going into credit card debt to buy more than we can afford. But the thing for me is I found the more I tried to do all that stuff, the less fun I would have and Christmas became about achievement, not Fa La La.

So I have a tree, I send some cards, buy a few gifts and really try to enjoy myself without
guilt. And for those people I didn’t reconnect with via phone, email or cards, I will when the time is right. I think it makes it about calming down and simplicity and really enjoying my friends, kids and family. This year, my sister and I only giving each other’s children one book, which is great, because I really hate the Disney store.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Dancing BAG Lady

    My husband didn’t have much as a child and he feels like he needs to buy the children everything they want. We can mostly afford it, but it is so wasteful.
    This year we will spend Christmas Eve with my sister in law’s mission for inner city children. I think this will be a great experience for the kids.

  • Tarja Stoeckl

    This year is the first time that I am coming home for the holidays. I’ve moved and am engaged so my life has changed. So, my feeling of obligation is all the people I haven’t seen in the past 4 months need to be visited and seen. How do I decide who and how many to see? I am working on being compassionate and knowing that what’s most important is being in my heart and grateful for the sweet time I do get with friends and family. I hope for the future that we find ways for more simplicity knowing that the moments with one another is the most important.

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