I’m a grinch. A big, bad, grumpy grinch. I’m a bit like Charlie Brown and his big pink aluminum Christmas tree; I want to just turn my head up to the sky and yell, “AAAAAAAARGGGHHHH”. I’ve lost it around the commercialism of the holiday season. I’m sick of the buying, and the rushing, and the disposability of this time of year. I hate the greedy little goblins that my children have become and I’m disgusted by my role in all of it.
But, after one too many deep soul rending sighs, and my husband putting his foot down on my SBD (Seasonal Bitchiness Disorder), I’m taking back the holiday season. I’m going to figure out a way to rediscover the spirit of Chanukah and Christmas and find a way to build healthy traditions that work for me and my family.
First, we’re going to slow down. As hard as it may seem, we’re going to take our time and enjoy the weather, the decorations, the festivity of this time of year. We’ll spend an afternoon making cookies, and spend evenings walking through the city looking at all the lights. We’ll fight the urge to run from one party to the next, and stop and breathe here and there.
We’ve convinced the kids to give instead of get for just a little bit. They’ve agreed to give up some of their presents so that they could pick out new gifts for children who might not get much during the holiday season. They picked out toys that they would like to receive and we brought them to our local Goodwill, where they throw a large holiday party for local families in need. We explained to them where the gifts would be going and explained the importance of giving back all year long, not just during the holidays. I hope that we developed some empathy in our children and that they will carry the message of social responsibility throughout their lives.
We’re sharing our holidays with people we love. It’s important for the kids that we make cookies for our teachers and neighbors. We’ve been doing it for years, and it’s become a lovely tradition that the special people in our life look forward to. We know who waits for the molasses cookies and hoards them for herself, who we will put in the effort to make the very special caramel stuffed chocolate cookies for, and who will turn his nose to the peppermint cookies. We look forward to spending a day in the kitchen mixing everything from scratch, ad we can’t wait to include new people in this tradition.
We’ll schedule our days to maximize holiday cheer. Tree Trimming, and Chanukah Parties, and Open Houses. We’ll also welcome the people we love into our home. We’ll make it low key, and we’ll make it easy, but we’ll fill our house with love and laughter right through to the new year. We’ll make our holiday more about the relationships we have and less about the things that we get.
I recently learned about hygge; it’s one of the reasons why people from Denmark are the happiest people on earth. It’s loosely defined as “practiced, intentional coziness,” and I love the idea. We’re practicing hygge this year. We’ll cuddle up in blankets, and drink hot chocolate and soup, and turn off the TV and listen to music and stare at the lights on the tree. We’ll let the kids stay up late to watch the classic holiday specials on TV. We’ll lay in bed and read good books and tell stories. We’ll bundle up in hand-knit gloves and hats and scarfs and breathe in the winter air and let our noses turn pink.
I’m going to celebrate in moderation and continue to take care of myself. I’m going to enjoy a little bit of everything that I love. I’ll avoid the food comas and the hangovers. I’ll wake up the next morning and have no regrets or guilt from the night before. And I’ll continue to stay active and eat healthy because I know that I feel better and I’m a happier person when I do the right things for myself. And when I get a bit stressed out, I’ll go somewhere to sweat, because I know that I can’t frown when I’m working out.
We’ll commit to making memories and sharing experiences. We’ll show the kids that the holidays are more about our traditions and adventures and less about the gifts they receive. We’ll make time to go sledding, and hiking, and ice skating. We’re thinking of gifts that make memories not messes.
I try hard to document these experiences and show the kids our good times as they get older. Each year I make them a new calendar with their pictures from the year before. We keep these calendars and look back on them to track their adventures throughout the years. We make a Michigan video that we pull out on rainy days to remember our practically perfect weeks Up North.
I hope that as the kids get older they remember less about the gifts they received and more about the times that they had. That they look back on the pictures and videos and covet our memories instead of the material things.
So, there it is. My manifesto. My promise to myself and the people I love to try harder. And, happiness begets happiness. The more I love this season, the more the boys will love it. And, we will build traditions that are based less on stuff and more on joy. Happy Holidays!