Now that we’re nearing November, everyone seems to be gearing up for the holidays. During this time of year, I can’t help but remember family holidays when I was a child—I have fond memories of what seemed like hundreds of people cramming into my grandmother’s tiny one bedroom apartment in the Bronx on many a Thanksgiving. Laughter, loudness and food flowed throughout the day—and I do mean flowed!
But the long day spent with family and friends over a never-ending supply of food at the customary house has gone the way of 8 tracks and vinyl. Lighter and quicker seems to be not only the tech iMantra of today, but the holiday mantra for many as well. Many people have scaled back their get-togethers; big group celebrations have morphed into more intimate gatherings. One reason for this is that families are often more dispersed, and many must decide either to travel great distances or rather, to set up a new, more local holiday plan.
For me, the holidays have undoubtedly changed. My grandmother is unfortunately no longer with us and the consistent/typical routines, like who hosts which annual event, are often revamped for any number of reasons. Sure, we can turn each of these decisions into an overblown issue—who gets what holiday, who can or can’t come, and so on—but in the end where does that get me and my family?
Holidays are about love and fun—and that needn’t change. Sure, the players and settings may change over time, but life never does stay still…and if it did, what fun would that be? No matter where we celebrate the holidays, I use the following strategies to stay focused on what really matters on these special days:
• Quality always trumps quantity. Try not to concern yourself with family members or friends who have failed to attend but rather find joy in those who’ve decided to join you. And if it’s just you and your significant other, you can still make it a celebration. There’s nothing wrong with getting dressed up for an intimate meal for two at home with a good bottle of wine and a new playlist for the occasion.
• Leave your baggage at the door. Unresolved disputes with parents or siblings, tension with the in-laws, and other issues can quickly ruin a holiday. While it might not be easy, try to let go of all of this and head into the holidays with a fresh, new attitude. Don’t go near certain sensitive issues that some might have a difficult time discussing. This undoubtedly takes work and patience, but you’ll feel better in the end.
• Keep the rituals that your immediate nuclear family enjoys. On Thanksgiving, we go around the table and each say one thing that we’re thankful for in all the other people who are present. While it might sound trite, our kids do enjoy hearing everything that’s offered about them as well as those that they love. It’s nice, and I know that they look forward to it.
• Don’t sweat the small stuff. When making preparations for visitors, you might find that first attempts at recipes fall flat or you remember that noticeable chip in the living room mirror has yet to be fixed. Keep in mind, these things are only issues if you make them so. In the grand scheme of things, they are very small problems—treat them as such.
• Have FUN. Remember, that’s what it’s about.
• Stay positive, positive, positive. Don’t get in the middle of a downward-spiral conversation. Our spirits are meant to be lifted this time of year, not the other way around. If a conversation is becoming stressful, simply take a break from it by maturely stepping away. You can always take a stab at it another day.
• Laughter is truly the best medicine as it boosts the immune system and is a known stress reliever. It’s also contagious, so whoop it up!
• Savor whatever good times and feelings that make this time so special to you.