The holiday season is upon us! For many of us, we approach the holidays with dread and consider it a time full of expectations, extra work, triggers, and conflict.
How can we actually ENJOY the holidays instead of wishing they’d be over?
The answer is consciousness.
Most of us don’t put much thought into holiday traditions and activities. Instead, we stick to what we’ve always done, what our family has always done, and the traditions that our culture upholds as the norm.
We carry on with the gift-giving, huge meals, shopping, decorating, baking, and all the other things we’ve always done without pausing to ask ourselves if those activities are actually meaningful.
When you have a job, partner, house, children, all that is an overly full plate. Then you add on all these accepted norms for how you prepare for a holiday and it becomes a tipping point for a lot of us, especially mothers.
Please understand, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with any of those things. Those activities can be very fun and fulfilling when done with consciousness. It’s only when we do them because we feel like we SHOULD that they can become stressful.
Examining Holiday Traditions
One tradition that we often feel overwhelmed by is gift-giving. Thinking of a gift, purchasing the gift, wrapping the gift, sending the gift…it’s a lot!
Many of us enjoy the idea of giving and getting gifts, but the reality is another experience altogether. When we are unconscious, we’re more likely to overspend and give gifts out of a sense of obligation rather than love.
I’ve noticed that most kids in the United States have more stuff than they know what to do with. Because of that, they might expect more and more but feel less and less gratitude.
How can they feel grateful for something they have so much of? The experience feels empty to them when they just receive more than they can possibly use.
I once observed this overwhelm in my son when he was young. My son’s birthday is the day after Christmas, and one year he said to me “Mom, do I have to open any more presents?”
The act of giving gifts can be done consciously. For instance, giving handmade gifts or acts of service can feel more meaningful.
We might want to ask ourselves whether a materially-oriented holiday is still relevant or if we’d rather rethink the way we give gifts so that the experience feels more meaningful for both parties.
Do our traditions still serve us?
I invite you to list and examine your holiday traditions. Before the holidays, start thinking “what does this holiday really mean to me?”
Ask yourself whether you actually enjoy those things and whether you still want to do them the same way.
Think about things like cooking and eating huge meals, decorating the house, putting up holiday lights, buying and wrapping presents, hosting and attending parties, and all the other things you might pressure yourself to do.
What would be the most important ingredients of a meaningful holiday for you? Is it quality time with loved ones, giving back, opening presents, or eating wonderful food? Do you enjoy your traditions, or would you rather take a more relaxed approach to the holidays?
You can even sit down with your family to discuss how to make the holidays more meaningful for all of you. Listen to their input on what they find magical about the holiday season. Is a spiritual aspect at play? Is welcoming winter part of the holiday magic? Or is it communing with friends and family? There are so many possibilities of what we could focus on. There are no right or wrong answers.
Some of the best holidays I’ve had have been ones where my family and I leave the country for a trip and we didn’t buy presents, decorate, or cook. It was just the trip.
We find those so much more memorable than the Christmases we have at home because the focus was on family time and creating new experiences together. The burden for creating a magical holiday for others didn’t fall on any one person.
This is not to say we won’t ever want to give a gift or make a nice meal for the holiday. The idea here is just to look at our holiday agenda and think “Do I want to do it? Do I have time to do everything on this list without being exhausted or going into debt?”
If we consciously choose our holiday activities instead of doing all the things we think we’re supposed to do, we can enjoy our holidays instead of overextending ourselves and hoping we have positive memories to show for it (and then feeling relieved when it’s all over).
You’re free to create your own holiday however you want and reap the benefits of a more conscious holiday.