For many, the excitement of the yuletide holiday season is a boon, lifting spirits and reminding folks to treasure their loved ones and indulge in all things bright and warm and soft and generous. For others, it's a hell-scape of religious trauma, consumer greed, family drama, and commercialized, overly saccharine sentimentality.
So how do you cope with the unavoidable holiday madness? How do you find peace, comfort, and joy in a world oversaturated with ads, music, and imagery that won't let you forget the things you dread about the season?
If you're long burnt out on holiday cheer, this one's for you.
Reframe and Rework
There is a reason this season is packed with holidays originating from all different cultures and time periods throughout history: it's because humans need light and warmth in the dark and cold! The oldest versions of Christmas were simply celebrations of the inevitable return of the Sun, kindling joy and encouraging generosity and gratitude to bolster ourselves against a harsh and barren season.
It is human nature to huddle together for warmth, to bring light into dark places, and to make merriment where there is gloom. If the trappings of Christmas have lost their novelty then by all means, identify and indulge in what does spark joy for you! Decorate with your favorite colors, make traditions of your favorite foods, and redefine this season as you see fit!
If you can't relate to the religious themes of the season, be empowered by the fact that most of our recognizable Christmas traditions were adapted from pagan celebrations of Yule, including caroling, decking the halls with holly, and decorating an evergreen tree. You may even find power and peace in reclaiming some of the traditions you enjoyed as a child with new understanding and new meaning.
Choose Your Family
We are not all blessed with a loving and supporting family, but we are all blessed with the freedom to choose our friends. The people you choose to surround yourself with, the ones who love and support you, who are genuine and compassionate with you, who challenge and temper you, who it feels good to spend time with? That's your real family. That's your chosen family.
You may not have the option of skipping certain family gatherings (though if you're independent and your family is truly making your life worse, you should consider it), but you can organize festivities of your own. Set aside an evening for your chosen family to come together, decide for yourselves what you want it to feel like, and start some new traditions! The point is to be filled with love, happiness, and hope, and if your family gatherings don't make you feel that way, you have every right to cultivate that goodness for yourself somewhere else.
You do not need to spend money in order to give gifts.
You do not need to spend money in order to give gifts.
If you feel moved to exchange gifts this season, consider all the things you could do that don't break the bank. Acts of service can’t be unwrapped, but they can make some of the very best gifts! Any arts or crafts you enjoy can become gifts as well. You can bake sweet treats and deliver them in old pickle jars or thrifted tins, paint expressive portraits of your friends' pets, knit scarves, scavenge stones and bones for your earthy friends, write silly songs and serious poems or vice versa. (Try rewriting the lyrics to Christmas songs that annoy you. Poof! Turn irritation into levity!)
Utilize the materials you have in your home and at your disposal already, and forage in the outdoors where you live for anything else you can use. You don't need wrapping paper, you have newspaper and watercolors! You don't need bows, you have pine cones and holly!
And if you do shop, please support your local artists, makers, and small businesses!
Meditation and Mindfulness
When you can't escape an irritant or a trigger it can help to have honed tools for staying objective! So if Christmas music drives you up a wall, then for your own sanity, you might want to try practicing mindfulness.
Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as "awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. And then," he says, "I sometimes add - in the service of self-understanding and wisdom."
When you practice mindfulness, you'll be observing and labeling thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the body and attempting to do so without judgement. Observing non-judgmentally can take lots of practice, but you'll be better at it in challenging moments if you've been practicing in your daily life.
You can get started with the basics of mindfulness and mindful meditation for free at any time!
Release Yourself from Expectations
Just in case someone needs to hear this, here it is: it's OK to just not. It's OK to not do gifts. It's OK to not decorate. It's OK to skip the ugly sweater party and the eggnog, and it's OK if you don't make a single thing from scratch the entire season. Give yourself grace, and the permission to excuse yourself from traditions that don't enrich your life.
We love you, Sea Witches! Take good care of yourselves! We wish you all the very merriest Yule.
Thank you for these wonderful words
Thank you for these words. It’s not “The most wonderful time of the year” for many people. I appreciate this reminder to not only give myself grace but also to those around me. I wish us all peace & love.
This is so beautifully written, and such a necessary message… sometimes we all need “permission” to make our own magic! Thank you :-)