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How to Have a Merry Christmas
Let's Talk Holidays!
When contemplating the holidays, what descriptions come to mind?
Warm and fuzzy? Love, relaxation, laughter and joy? Or how about them warm woolen mittens and whiskers on kittens? STOP! Are you kidding?
How about frustration, headaches, palpitations, doom, debt, nausea, chaos or an opportunity to kick the cat?
For a large percentage of the population the experience of the first objectives isn't as frequent as the second. If involved in stressful circumstances, know that we can enjoy the holidays, any holiday, with simple strategies.
Fun Fact: A Pew Research Center Survey reported that 33 percent of Americans dislike the commercialism of the holidays, 22 percent dislike the cost, and 10 percent dislike the shopping crowds.
History of Christmas
Christmas was originally established as a celebration of the birth of Jesus. The Bible doesn’t state specifically when Jesus was born, or even what season for that matter. So how was December 25th chosen?
In ancient Scandinavia there were a number of days, December 21 to the 25th when the sun didn't shine—literally. These were the days of Winter Solstice. When sunlight returned, a festival would be held — Yuletide. A special log, the Yule log, would be burned as people gathered in celebration. In various cultures an outright drunken party consisting of Feudal Lords and paupers occurred. Such a practice must have provided a degree of frivolity after experiencing that stretch of dark, cold, destitute days.
Ancient Roman emperor Constantine, having converted to Christianity, announced that there should be a celebration of Jesus’ birth. Having chosen December 25th he ruled this would replace what was believed to be pagan habits of previous solstice celebrations. The Roman Catholic Church later stepped in and became more successful in making this December celebration stick.
There are a variety of interpretations among historians as to how Christmas was started, but regardless of the version, it has remained, with celebrations that spread throughout the world.
Let’s jump ahead to the New World, America. In the development of our nation, merchants looked to methods to increase business. Clement Clarke Moore’s beloved poem, “T’was the Night Before Christmas,” was authored in December 1823. From here, the fantasy of a “jolly ol’ elf” delivering gifts opened the door for merchants to promote the idea of gift-giving to loved ones. Christmas brought the celebration to the home, instead of the drunkenness in the streets, and during a time of mixed opportunities for many, this gift giving idea was joyful.
As our country grew, so did marketing tactics. How many of us have bought into the idea that the more we spend, the more successful we are, or the more we love someone. The American way is more --more house, more car, more food, more things.
When Christmas became a national holiday, the commercialism of the holiday grew.
Fun Fact: A New York Times article wrote, “In the first quarter of 2017, consumer debt rose to $12.73 trillion.” CBS News gave a report that “one-third of American adults and one in six children are now obese.” Just two examples of our too much ways.
Let’s Talk Strategies
We all desire a break from normal routines--to be exempt from responsibilities. Hence the belief we should celebrate.
Let’s begin with a simple piece of paper and a pencil. Divide the paper in half to create two columns. Title one column: what I dislike about the holidays and the second: what I need for the holidays.
Begin thinking about these two columns. There is no grade here, no one to judge answers. This is all about you and your thoughts. Start filling up this paper and write down as many things that come to mind . . . no matter how scattered or selfish. Include in your thinking: what do I have control over? What is most important to me? What is no longer bringing me pleasure?
Now set this paper aside -- a few days even -- and return to review answers. Be sure the answers express true feelings.
Fun Fact: Webster Dictionary’s definition of holiday is: A legal day off. A day set aside as exempt from regular labor. A day to celebrate or commemorate an important event. A day set aside for religious observation.
o Robinson and Jean C. Staeheli’s Unplug the Christmas Machine discuss common foils of the season and how most of us get caught up in them. They offer a host of avenues to break old habits and pursue new ones resulting in less stress, more satisfaction.
Due to my own mother-in-law issues, the holidays have always been a challenge. I read this book annually in November as part of my pre-holiday preparations and strategy planning. It has been easy finding one more idea to experiment with each time I’ve opened the book. As a result, I’ve worked effectively through many situations as well as created new traditions for my own family. This book has helped me organize real and effective tactics that increased not only my survival but my joy. God bless Jo and Jean.
This book has been in print for nine years and continues to sell due to how it addresses the ever occurring holiday stresses.
Let’s discuss common occurrences with the holidays. Do any of these show up on your lists?
1. For many, money is a heavy concern. It’s important to make an honest budget and if necessary get the word out caution will be exercised. It is understood this can be difficult especially if pressure exists that the more spent equals more love. The truth is love should never be associated to dollars. Fight for that belief and start a new movement.
2. What activities can be done at an alternate time? The holidays are a season, not an isolated day of the year. Are there obligatory activities to take part? It’s often believed to be a good son, good daughter, or good anything, we need to make everyone happy. A person’s happiness is of their own responsibility. Relieve yourself of such guilt and give what available time with sincerity.
3. Check decorations. Any that bring an unpleasant reaction? Give it away! This holds true for foods, songs, movies, whatever brings troublesome feelings. Remove it from the holiday routine and seek replacements that in turn will relax, calm, and bring a light to one’s soul.
4. Have a toxic relative? A common problem that certainly can rob one’s joy. WebMD offers an article on such an issue: Home for the Holidays; Tips for Overcoming Holiday Anxiety and Stress by R. Morgan Griffin. The first step is to ask what about these individuals is difficult? Do they absolutely have to be seen? Can they be visited at a different time during the holiday? Is the family truly going to disown you if they are not included in plans? Be realistic and try not to let fear guide actions.
5. Any potential triggers, such as serving alcohol, that may result in unpleasant behaviors? Does alcohol cause Aunt Wacky to act wacky? Is it even necessary to serve alcoholic beverages at the holiday meal? Introduce an original holiday concoction and start a new tradition.
6. Take a look at your own behavior. Has there been a contribution to issues? We are human and emotions can create unplanned outcomes. Work to change the outlook. Feeling worn down by the holidays means something in earlier traditions are not working. Turn off the idea of “perfect.” Think outside the box, give respect to the lists, and try fresh approaches.
7. Recognize what can be controlled and what cannot be. We can’t help it if Aunt Wacky enjoys being wacky and may bring her own alcohol. We can encourage her to try something different and commend her for being more fun sober.
A Couple More Thoughts
It is hoped you are not discovering this article on Christmas Eve. If, however, that is the case, begin the New Year with planning for the coming holiday season. As a reminder, turn off guilt, fear, know that some individual feathers may get ruffled. If they decide to unassociate then pray for their wisdom as well as your own to work through your right to merrier holidays. The word “new” is key here. New habits, new view points, new feelings, new plans, and new memorable moments.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) affects many each year and can occur during any period, but mostly during the winter times due to reduced exposure to sun light. The need for more sleep, change in appetite and generally feeling blue are symptoms of SAD. If experiencing these feelings make an appointment to talk with a healthcare provider. There are many treatments available and it is not necessary to suffer with yet one more concern. Additionally, the rate of suicide peaks during the holidays. Don’t take feelings of depression lightly. Get help
A Second Good Read
Bill McKibben’s Hundred Dollar Holiday is a quick-read book. McKibben writes more in-depth information on the history of Christmas. He talks about the challenge if someone only had a hundred dollars to spend for the holidays, what would be done with it? The idea is to be pressed into carrying out what is most important for this time of year absent the trap of materialism.
I include this book in my Advent practices starting the first Sunday of December and have loaned it to several friends who felt the pressure of holiday shopping. As a result, we started new holiday habits. One thing we do is get together for a craft-off, working together on projects that then will be given as gifts to relatives, coworkers, or wherever we feel the budget-friendly gifts will work. We have such a great time together and discuss anything and everything and giggle all the time. And this all started by my sharing Hundred Dollar Holiday.
If short on time but seek a more positive view on the holidays Hundred Dollar Holiday is your answer. Curl up with a favorite hot beverage and enjoy the ride as you learn on to put a fresh viewpoint twist on the festivities.
Here is a random list of things that can be done to improve enjoyment of the holidays:
1. Watch corny holiday films like Muppets Christmas Carol and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
2. Explore how other cultural and religious groups celebrate their holidays.
3. Drink hot chocolate.
4. Shop at stores not associated with a mall. Try “mom and pop” stores. They are much more personal and often less crowded.
5. Send emails or Facebook messages instead of Christmas cards. Less time and less postage costs.
6. Take a winter walk. Even better take a night time winter walk and stare at the night stars.
7. Plan to enjoy all the other seasons of the year. Whale watching in January, a romantic book in February, learning to live more green in March. There are endless activities and ways to appreciate all the seasons of the year…besides winter holidays.
8. Cook an unusual holiday dish.
9. Volunteer and be a secret Santa Claus for someone in need.
10. Drive around and look at holiday lights and decorations of your neighbors.
11. Shop for gifts at a thrift store. You might just be surprised what you find.
12. Research your own family Christmas traditions and traditional dishes.
13. Call in sick one day of December and do nothing!
14. Take a bubble bath or extra long, warm shower.
15. Light candles, especially scented candles with your favorite holiday smells.
16. No time to bake cookies? Splurge and buy them.
17. Cut out snowflakes and hang at work, home, your car.
18. Eat snow cones.
19. Ice skate.
20. Play in the rain. Puddle jump, too!
Wrapping It Up
There you have it . . . a starting point to help improve the holiday experience. Of course, this only scratches the surface. Keep seeking, keep thinking, and keep believing. You deserve a special holiday and it’s only in your near future for having the best holiday ever! .
Pew Research Center
History of Christmas
WikiHow.com: How to Get Into the Spirit of Christmas When You Don’t Feel It Any More
New York Times: Household Debt Makes a Comeback in the U.S.
CBS News: Obesity Report: One Third of U.S. Adults Are Beyond Overweight.