It’s the holiday season! Here’s why you shouldn’t stress yourself out about creating the perfect holiday, so you can enjoy it for precisely what it is.
I have a very specific fantasy when I dream of the perfect holiday season—I’m in a beautiful log cabin nestled in a mountain valley, with thick, plush snowdrifts practically walling me in. I’m reclining on soft faux-fur rugs in front of a crackling fire, nursing a cup of homemade eggnog in a luxurious nightgown, perhaps a little tired from the parade of fabulous parties I’ve attended.
Every gift under the sixteen-foot-tall tree is expensive, lavish, and unique and wrapped to Martha Stewart perfection. Everyone will shed tears of joy when they open their gifts. My social calendar is full of exciting events, pretty dresses, and wholesome Hallmark-movie activities like caroling in 18th-century garb, baking sugar cookies for orphans, and going to Handel’s Messiah at the opera.
I blame Pinterest, honestly.
Social media makes it seem like this fantasy, and many like it, are supposed to be our realities—after all, they’re other people’s realities, aren’t they? (They aren’t. I promise.) I’m sure there are some people out there whose lives look like that, but for the most part, it’s really all for the show, the photo, the ad revenue, the likes, the attention, the validation. This sort of aesthetic ambition makes regular life look boring, and especially around the holidays, it’s easy to feel bad about yourself if your reality doesn’t match what you’re seeing on your Instagram feed.
But, at the risk of sounding corny, that’s not what the holiday season is really about. No matter what spiritual or cultural tradition you follow, the general consensus is that this is the time of year to give thanks, be with one another, celebrate, and rest.
My fur-rug-and-fireplace fantasy isn’t going anywhere soon, but I’d rather be in the moment than live in my dreams. So in the spirit of that, I’m trying a few new things to keep the holiday season simple this year.
Letting the Calendar Breathe
Instead of overloading my calendar with every possible social engagement and fun activity I can think of, I’m keeping it to my favorites: baking with my mom, skating on the river, watching cheesy Christmas movies, and keeping the parties pared down to just my favorite annual events. The goal here is to remain present, engaged, and energized and to really enjoy the moment. I might even put my phone into airplane mode and leave it at the door, though we’ll see how strong I can be…
There is no shortage of volunteer opportunities and ways to make a difference in your community. Look into your local shelters or soup kitchens, school or church events, community boards, and local charities to see where you can help. Try doing something that’s specific to your skills and interests. For instance, I love to embroider, and in the past, I’ve hosted embroidery workshops at my local women’s center.
Being Mindful About Giving
I’m trying to give simply and with thoughtfulness, instead of devastating my bank account trying to find the most impressive gifts I can. It’s not a competition, after all! Being mindful about giving also means looking into the charities you choose to donate to. Spend a bit of time researching the policies and practices of the places you’re sending your money to so you can feel good about making a real difference. Art of Living works towards providing free education for underprivileged children in India, and local charities like your city’s women’s shelters or Humane Society are great choices, too!
It’s essential, I think, to counteract the busyness and interpersonal friction of the holiday season with a little bit of spaciousness. I know that finding a few quiet minutes each day to continue my meditation practice will help me keep centered and calm, so I can re-enter the fray with my mood high and my resilience intact.
This holiday season, I’m trying to get back to what it’s all about instead of letting my social media feeds fill me with dread and FOMO. I’m trying to remember that getting into the holiday spirit is as simple as popping on the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s iconic Charlie Brown Christmas album and just being in the moment.