I’m a winter holiday junkie. The thought of Christmas anytime during the year makes my eyes sparkle. I think I get jazzed about Fall as much as I do thanks to the fact that it means that Thanksgiving and Christmas is right around the corner. I LIVE for the holiday season and always have.
There were a few difficult years for me to sort through in the past 10 years, though. My own family dynamics have changed drastically from when I was younger, and that meant I had to allow the meaning and experience of the holidays to evolve along with it. I wish I came to that conclusion a bit more quickly, but I’m grateful to finally understand that pretending that you’re in picture perfect Norman Rockwell family painting on Christmas Eve just to appease others is not the best way to make the most out of this undeniably special time of year.
For those of you have no idea what I am talking about, and you can’t imagine feeling anything other than the warm and fuzzies when you think about your family: You are lucky. Hold onto that, nourish it, and thank whoever it is you believe is responsible for making that happen. Some families are a real life shit-show tied up with a bow of bitter resentment, under the table issues that never get aired, or general disdain for each other. It’s an unfortunate fact, and for a long time I believed that you spent the Holidays WITH all of that family as long as you had family to be with. Well, not anymore. And I’m happy to report that the holiday season has never been better. Here’s how I did it.
- Accept that every family doesn’t have their act together, and it’s ok not to spend holidays with them. Send a text, make a call: only if you want.
- Even if you’re going at this solo, don’t skip the holiday activities you love just because you aren’t spending them with the usual crowd. Make the cocoa you always drink, cook the dishes that you always look forward to. Keep the traditions alive, but tailored to your new plans. What about making new traditions, too? Invite your friends over for a Christmas movie night or plan a gift wrapping party. Surround yourself with people that you love, and that show you love in return- whoever they are!
- I spend Thanksgiving either with just my husband or with the family members of our choosing (meaning people that we know we are emotionally safe and stable around). I’m one of 5 kids, but happen to be super close to one of my sisters so that is who we spent this last year with. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve I spend every year at home with my husband and our animal babies. I grew up with 20+ people attending our family gatherings, so while you may think that sounds boring or lonely, it’s not. It’s perfection. Everyone’s happy place scenario will look different, so do what makes you happy, whatever that may be- you deserve that.
- Don’t make boundary exceptions just because it’s [insert holiday here]. If you know there are toxic people in your life that you avoid at all costs, it’s more than likely best to honor that judgment call year round. If someone reaches out, be gracious and compassionate. You can consider what’s been said, but don’t feel like it can’t wait a couple of weeks to address with more focus until your life and schedule calm down.
- Don’t look to “send a message” when you deal with turning down family event invitations. No time is the right time to hurt people with words or actions. You don’t need to be hateful, crass, rude, condescending or any of that nonsense in verbal conversations, texts, or physical actions. You make accommodations for a happy, joyful holiday season that fits YOU and YOUR LIFE. You don’t need to take cheap shots to do so, I promise.
- Expect to feel guilt and even excitement over the very likely possibility that you’ll have a drama free holiday season. You may even feel a little bit of both, but just be open to the fact that it may initially feel a little odd to celebrate things differently.
Just remember that it’s ok if things aren’t what many call “perfect”. You can make this time perfect for you and your situation.
I wish you a happy, joyous, champagne-filled (if that’s your thing) holiday season. I hope it’s filled with laughter, and love, and people that make your heart sing, because that is exactly how you should close out this year.