“Many of us have a love/hate relationship with the holidays. For example, I love spending time with my family, playing board games and cards fireside, finding a special gift for each of my girls, attending Christmas Eve services, winter walks, and more. Then there’s the stuff I hate: the excess, the stress, and sometimes my memories of Christmases past. Here are some classic holiday related struggles and how to cope with them.
Identify friction and look for an alternate solution. Although my husband and I are Jewish, Bob grew up celebrating Christmas and I was amenable to continuing that tradition. But as our daughters grew, the tree got bigger (not Bob's plan) and the presents got more plentiful (probably my fault, I do like to shop) and I felt more and more alienated from the whole concept until Christmas just felt very wrong to me. To cope, I decided that while the family decorated the tree, I needed my own activity that worked for me. So, I baked cookies: for my family and for gifts. Christmas has since evolved to be less about gifts and more about hanging out together. We focus on what special food our Christmas morning breakfast might include (monkey bread this year) and what movie we should see on the day (last year it was Slumdog Millionaire). Identifying friction and finding an alternate solution has made the season cheery once again.
Focus on the real meaning of the season. We need to focus more on the simplicity and real meaning of the season -- offering warmth and kindnesses -- and keep material gifts to a minimum. Admittedly, that's hard for me: I love to shop. I love the malls and the town centers and I love finding the perfect present for that special person. I used to buy in excess; not wasteful or daffy gifts, but still too many. We have since scaled back and now that our girls are older, each of us buys or makes each other one gift, and Bob and I also get some small stocking stuffers for our daughters. And all through the season, we keep in mind giving the good way: saying something nice to someone or spending quality and fun time with friends and/or family. It feels healthier now.
Find traditions that everyone can look forward to. Over the years, we've identified some great traditions. For example, Bob is a nervous shopper; he has no clue what I want and even if he did, he's sure I wouldn't like it. So every year, we go out for a nice dinner a few weeks before Christmas, then window shop. I’ll point to something I like and he goes back and buys it the next day. Sometimes we enjoy dinner so much that we barely get to the shopping, which doesn’t matter a bit. It’s the simple ritual that’s fun. We also go to a Christmas Eve church service with friends who have children the same ages as our girls and then we eat a festive family dinner together. Christmas day, the four of us choose a movie and eat Chinese food (this is considered a Jewish Christmas). We're not reinventing the holiday wheel but we’re enjoying treading on it.
Mourn Christmases past. I am a huge fan of confronting one's past. I'm also a huge believer that much of holiday misery stems from bad memories. We think we're weak if we dwell on the past. And we believe that harkening back will make us more miserable. Not so. Facing the un-decorated, unadorned past frees us. As Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish say in How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, "Not until the bad feelings come out, can the good feelings come in."
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