It’s taken me a long time to realize that, when you add things to your life, you usually have to subtract some things, too. Unless what you’ve added is more time or help, and then you might be subtracting money. The holiday season fools me each year, especially now that it includes Thanksgiving, Chanukah, three birthdays of immediate family members, Christmas, and New Years.
I haven’t been doing much artwork lately, nor have I been taking nature photos or doing much writing. That’s okay. Instead, I’ve been hosting family, buying a few gifts, decorating, un-decorating, and battling a cold-turned-sinus infection. ‘Tis the season!
For the past few years I’ve started to look forward to January, when I can have my time back and get things organized. It used to be the big letdown month—no more festivities, gift-giving, and pretty lights—just a long, frigid winter ahead. But now It’s a relief and a fresh start. Nothing special is expected of me in January, and I don’t expect anything special from anyone else.
Before you think I’m a Grinch: I still love the winter holidays. I’ve just had to let go of what I envision as an ideal Christmas/Chanukah/New Years and do what I can, when I want to do it. My family on both sides has been very easy-going about gifts. I accept that my holiday decorating will be a little more delayed than I’d like because I’m sick and our outdoor electrical outlet is broken.
On top of the personal complications of life—illness, having a much-loved toddler with some special needs, multiple family celebrations—there’s also still a pandemic going on. Viral variants. No vaccines yet for the under-fives. Then there’s the supply chain quagmires, concerns about climate change and excessive consumption, and just the state of our country in general.
Living in times like this has pushed me to give myself a break from expectations—from the old burdens of the old holiday season—and just keep the stuff that makes me happy. In a way, it feels like a little act of rebellion to do things on my own time schedule and in my own way, and resist the relentless creep of Christmas into earlier and earlier weeks. I know I’m not the only one feeling this way lately, but instead of framing it as “giving up entirely” I like to think of it as simply saying “no thank you” to the things that bog me down.
Did we always expect to have decorations and trees up the weekend after Thanksgiving? No! Did we always buy the volume of gifts that Americans typically buy now? No! Can we feel a little nostalgic about the days of Christmas past, while creating our own, reimagined, meaningful holiday season? Yes!
So, have yourself a merry little Christmas this year. Or a merry big ole’ Christmas, if that makes you happy and not overwhelmed. You’re doing a great job. Eat a cookie. Or a Christmas pickle. Whatever floats your boat.
[Photos: We made it through all 8 days of Chanukah! Also, my half-lit Christmas tree with two ornaments on it.]