The holidays should be a time of magic, wonder, joy and love. Usually though, it feels like it’s just the opposite — a season of stress and tension and credit card bills a mile long. Well, I say it’s time to take back Christmas (and Thanksgiving, too)! Here are some easy ways to focus on and celebrate the simple joys of the season.
I love the holidays, and I hate the holidays. I feel the lightness and joy, but I am also repelled by the black pit of consumerism which seems to get bigger every year.
This is the season that is portrayed as the most wonderful time of the year, filled with heartfelt gifts and celebrations, cheer and an endless amount of delicious treats. But then there’s the true dark side of it — the stress, the gnawing feeling that there’s not enough time in the day, not enough money in the bank and not enough energy to keep up with everything. It’s hard to feel these things every year without beginning to believe in their truth. Unfortunately, that’s when the holidays start to morph into something less meaningful, less joyous and truly less magical.
Combat that feeling by slowing down, finding contentment with what you have, and savoring the simple joys of the season.
Here are some ways to do just that:
Spend time with loved ones
First and foremost is this: spend time with the people you love. Research suggests that meaningful and personal (as in, real life) relationships are critical to our happiness. Doing this doesn’t have to be a big affair — simply stopping by your friend’s house on your way home from work is enough to up your endorphins and strengthen your bond. If your loved ones live far away make sure to call them, or FaceTime them if you can. And when you’re at home, take time to play games or read to your children (obviously, in front of the fireplace is best). They’ll treasure it always.
Light candles and get cozy
Pinterest calls it hyyge, but I prefer plain old cozy. There’s just something about lighting candles in the winter when the dark descends so early, and cuddling in front of the fireplace with a good book and a warm cup of tea. It makes the cold something to look forward to, and the long nights something to treasure while they last.
Make Gifts for People
This doesn’t have to be anything big or elaborate, but it does make you feel good to sit down and think about what your loved ones might like to receive. I know my mom loves my homemade plum jam, so she’ll probably get some of that this year. And my sister is really interested in natural health and beauty, so I might make her some solid lotion infused with lavender I grew myself. Simple and heartfelt gifting is good for the soul, and brings us so much closer to what the holidays should be about.
Walk in the Woods
I know it seems like this is a terrible time of year for nature hikes, what with it being winter and all. But even in the rain or the snow, walking in the forest can calm you, lower your blood pressure and improve your mood. Nature is peaceful in the winter; quiet and serene. Look for winter berries and study the graceful shapes of trees that you can’t see when they’re in full leaf. The forest at this time of year serves to remind us that this is a season of rest and restoration.
Go on a Christmas Tree Hunt
If it’s possible, skip the local Safeway parking lot when you buy your Christmas tree. Try to go to a tree farm, where you have to cut it down yourself. It turns getting a tree into an exciting adventure, which your kids will remember all their lives. As a bonus, most farms offer cider or hot chocolate to customers, too!
Wrap Presents with your Kids
Okay, full disclosure here — your presents might end up looking a little less than perfect if you let your kids help you wrap. But children love doing this; mine do and I remember being thrilled by the simple act of present wrapping when I was a child, too. It also makes them more mindful and excited about giving the gift, which makes me feel good, too.
Make Natural Ornaments and Decorations
I know this just seems like more work, but I promise it’s actually pretty fun and meditative. It can be as simple as gathering boughs of cedar or branches from your backyard to put in a vase on your table, or as elaborate as weaving a wreath or drying orange slices decorated with cloves and anise. Scatter some pine cones around, and hang some fairy lights. You’ll be feeling happy and seasonal in no time.
Go Look at Christmas Lights
This is hands down my favorite holiday tradition. When I was a kid my whole family (even my grandma!) would get in the car, grab a milkshake from Dairy Queen, and then go cruise around town looking at Christmas lights, with holiday music on the radio. Jasper and I did it together in college and when we lived far away from family, and we still do it now with our girls. If you find a display you really love, don’t be afraid to leave a little card or note in the mailbox letting the homeowner know you appreciate it. You’ll make their day!
Send Holiday Cards
I don’t know about you guys, but I love to get and give Christmas cards! You don’t need to write long letters about everything you’ve done that year, or even a personalized message (though that’s obviously the best!). If all you’ve got time to do is jot down an address, that’s enough. Getting a card in the mail will remind someone that they’ve been remembered and thought of with fondness. That is the kind of simple joy to treasure.
Be Kind to Strangers
Random acts of kindness are perfect reminders of the simple joys the holiday season can bring. Volunteer time or give supplies to a local warming shelter. Bring cookies to your police department. Hand deliver little presents (like warm socks) to a nursing home and visit with the residents. Stick candy canes or little holiday notes under people’s windshield wipers. Buy winter coats to donate to children in need. Just being kind this time of year — even just smiling at people — is enough to remember what the holidays are really about.
What are some ways that you like to celebrate simple holiday joys? Let me know in the comments below.
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