It’s that time of year that so many people love. The lights, the trees, packages, cookies, candle light services, parties, delicious meals, fun times with family–we all find meaning in this season in different ways. Some even passionately hate it due to holiday stress and expectations.
Me? I’m as neutral as Switzerland on this one. It could pass by as any other date on the calendar and I would hardly notice. Some years I would not have put up a tree if it were not for living with a man who loves decorating for the holidays. Other years, I’ve spent days decorating and wrapping gifts with matching bows and ribbons. It depends upon which way the OCD wind was blowing. Ha ha!
Not everyone celebrates the holiday season in the same way. Some say December 25th is the birthday of Jesus Christ, although we have no proof or disproof of this. If the spirit of Christmas is about glad tidings of great joy, I see no reason for arguing over why the red Starbuck’s cups with a green tree do not have “Merry Christmas” printed on them. The cheerful “Happy Holidays” cups have the same pagan goddess logo on them that they use all year, and that doesn’t seem to be a problem. I don’t have an opinion on that, but as an empath, I pick up on the frustrated, stressful energy in the atmosphere.
I have found myself in years past getting grouchy as I stand in lines that are twice to three times as long as usual. I feel agitated and impatient while driving/sitting in shopping traffic that means people are likely spending more money than they want to or have available because it is expected of them. The season tends to interrupt daily life as it practically shuts off our sensibilities and heightens our stress level. Then, we overeat or drink to medicate. That makes us feel guilty so we spend more money or eat/drink to medicate that. Humans are a funny species.
I hope I don’t sound too negative about this. I suppose I feel frustrated by not being able to come up with an easy solution for totally ending the chaos of Christmas without seeming ungrateful. Over the past decade, I have been slowly letting go of the obligation and pretension that accompanies the holiday season. I’ll share some tips for reducing the stress in just a moment.
This year, it appears that the normal chaos has subsided a great deal. The members of my family who usually go out shopping at 5 a.m. on Black Friday did not go. The sales ads that we have enjoyed passing around the dining table at my parents’ house every Thanksgiving for the past three decades didn’t appeal to anyone in a way that made it worth the hassle. Most are shopping online this year and several brought their laptops to the table. At first, Mom didn’t understand the online shopping process, so she gave her credit card number to me and my brother and delegated the shopping duties. She liked Amazon wishlists so much that she had me use her card to buy things for others on her list. Hilarious and ingenious! I love that woman! She was nearly done with her shopping by the end of the weekend. Being the teacher that I am, I walked her through the process so she could finish her online shopping on her own.
Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress
- Trim down the list of people you buy for.
- Reduce the amount you spend on each person on your list.
- Shop online and ship directly to the recipients who live out of town. That way you can avoid the stores and the post office. Some sites like Amazon.com will gift wrap your purchases for a small fee.
- Put aside some money in savings all year so the holiday season is not a strain on your budget.
- Talk with family about changing the way you celebrate with one another. My brother and I agreed several years ago to not buy things for each others’ families. Even though my adult children agreed that it was not necessary to get them anything, I could not let go of the guilt I knew I would feel if I showed up for the family dinner without packages. See item 1 in this list.
- Make your celebration more meaningful by playing board games, watching movies, cooking a meal together, and simply enjoying one another’s company on Christmas Day.
- Create homemade things for people? I tried that. It takes a lot of time and it did not save much money because materials are just as expensive as buying a gift. I do enjoy making items, but it seems I never start quite early enough and I end up having to rush to finish a project.
- Get gift cards at the grocery store and be done with it! Well, that seemed like a great idea until I realized we were just swapping gifts cards with one another. I’m not sure that carries the same sentiment as giving an actual gift, but again, I’m not picky about it. Seems like we could just as easily buy ourselves something we need/want and forget buying stuff for other people.
It’s for the retailers that we do this end-of-the-year shopping, I think. This is when stores make their highest revenue. So, if that means they can offer us a better price and stay in business year round, I suppose it’s worth the hoopla.
From my observations, this conundrum seems to be resolving itself as we become more aware of what we are doing and why we are doing it. I encourage you to take time out of this busy season to meditate on what we have to be thankful for all year. To that end, I have a blessing in light language for the month of December to share with you. The intention of this transmission is to help us shift our mindset out of materialism, stress, and expectations, and into loving ourselves and others more. This can mean setting boundaries and saying “no” when we realize enough is enough.