We’re in the midst of what has come to be known as “the holiday season,” sometime between Thanksgiving and New Years. Perhaps no time of year brings higher expectations and anxiety. Some of the expectations come from outside ourselves–the in-laws who want to include you on “the” day, the children with their list of presents, the work place parties that feel required, whether they are or not. Other expectations are internal–the need for an outdoor light display, special cookies, or standards around the wrapping of gifts.
Then, there are the layers of discomfort around religion. Even as we set aside the ridiculous notion of a war against Christmas, we can’t help but notice that Christmas is a religious holiday, and as UUs, we can chafe against some of the theology around it. We may be able to accept it as a celebration of the birth of Jesus, particularly as he represents the birth of the divine in every child, but we may not accept him as Lord and King, or God. Those Christmas carols, then, even when we love them, can irritate or trouble us.
Extended family, too, can create conundrums. Scheduling who to be with when, dodging the religious fervor of people we love, compromising on ideas of the right foods and activities–all add stress to a time that is supposed to “merry and bright.”
Acknowledging the challenges is the first step. Then, we have to make plans according to our immediate family’s needs and wants. Here are some suggestions:
- Talk with family members about what each person thinks is the most important holiday tradition. Maybe walking through the Festival of Lights, frying potato latkes, or singing carols around the piano. Be sure this season to do what each family member thinks is most important, but let go of traditions that no longer hold excitement for anyone.
- Find weekend day or weeknight evening during the holidays to just be together as a family at home. Play games, bake cookies, or take a walk. Keep the TV and computers off, and let the voicemail get the phones.
- Think of something to do for someone else. Pick a child to shop for who might not get gifts otherwise, visit a relative you don’t normally see, take some food to the Food Bank, or decide as a family to forgo one gift each to make a donation to a good cause that matches your values.
- Reflect together on your year. What were your favorite times? What do you wish had been different? Consider setting goals for the coming year.
The holiday season can be full of expectations. If we consciously decide how we choose to spend those holidays rather than being at the mercy of internal and external expectations, we may find the holidays a reward rather than a hassle.
Happy Holidays, Jonalu