I recently was part of a group who was asked to explain what about the holidays makes them so stressful. Others responded with very reasonable answers. Holidays bring back memories of those they miss. Holidays push them to spend money they don’t have, or take in calories they don’t need. I can identify with all of these, of course, as can most. But what popped into my mind first was that holidays push me to celebrate in ways I don’t particularly enjoy.
Odd. I am a grown woman and nobody makes me do anything I don’t want to do, at least not these days. Yet I feel pushed to honor traditions that don’t resonate with me. I don’t particularly like turkey, but will make one because some of the family cannot image Thanksgiving without this traditional dish. I will put up a tree because all three grown children will be home and how can we not have a Christmas tree. I will buy presents because everyone gets presents for Christmas, even though as a family we have all that we need, and so much of what we want, that we have trouble coming up with gift ideas.
Don’t misunderstand. There are holiday traditions at my house that I do love. We will have fresh artichokes and lobster for both feasts. We will each pick a game to play and hand out our presents after the family has humored us and played our game. That means I get to play ping pong AND eat lobster in the same day. I like my twinkly lights lining the porch, even while I find other decorations annoying. My expressions of Christmas spirit may have shrunk down to a short list over the years, but I don’t begrudge those few things I do love the time and energy that they require.
So how can I make the holidays more my own? No cards again. Ran out of oomph on those about four years ago when I started to write novels, and I don’t think a soul out there minds. Okay, I’ll do a small turkey. And a little tree. Some simple presents that are usable.
Why should I bother? Because the holidays are a time for love and I want all of my family to have some of what is special to them also. I’ll try to find that middle ground. I’ll try to learn which traditions, if any, the rest of family is every bit as happy as I am to forgo. I’ll try to fill the season with things that bring me joy. I’ll try to be cheerful about the compromises I choose to make, remembering that smiles on the faces of the people that I care about are one the greatest joys of the season.