“Tradition is a guide and not a jailer.”– W. Somerset Maugham
Holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and thankful feelings. Joy and laughter, decorations, bright packages with bows and ribbons… You know, the whole festive picture. So what is to be done when your world is not right, things are not settled, and you just don’t feel any holiday cheer? Trying to fit into the old norms can be disastrous for your mental well being.
It can be very difficult to sort through this inner turmoil. Making matters worse, you may feel like the whole world has its eye on you…. trying to see if you are “alright,” which may seem supportive, but in reality it is a LOT of extra pressure. This may be, for example, your first holiday as a single parent… or your first holiday out on your own… or your first holiday after a divorce… whatever your situation, it is different and it is stressful. If you try to make it just like every other, it will feel very much like a fraud to you and those you love. It is time for a change. Just like you reinvented your environment for a fresh start, you can reinvent this holiday. You can take this moment in time to refresh and refocus your holiday norms, making them more bearable after a change, and also showing that ever-watchful outside world that you are taking the reins in your new situation and molding your new world to your expectations.
Choose one or to “traditions” from your “old holidays” to keep up, as that will be very grounding as you move forward in your life. Try to make these the very oldest ones that you can remember, like from your own childhood or from stories you remember being told of your parents childhood. Those are good for you to remember and continue. (Maybe, holiday baking with the family, or getting a Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, like you always did when you were a kid.) Take every other thing that you have done more recently around the holidays and just forget about it. You are going to make some changes this year.. You are going to re-establish the traditions. I know, I know… you are saying “but isn’t a tradition supposed to be TRADITIONAL???” If you have kids and they ask you “why aren’t we doing blahblahblah tradition this year?”, you will simply say, “that is what we used to do, but now we do THIS instead!”
Here are some ideas that might trigger something inside you for a new holiday tradition… They lean towards the free stuff, but there are plenty of things things to spend money on too.
- Take I night out to drive around a nicely decorated neighborhood and oh- and ah- at the light shows.
- Make a night of inviting friends over to have some mint-flavored hot chocolate made the “old fashioned way” on the stove with coco and milk
- Find a group of friends to carol (or if your have instrumentally talented friends, have them play their instruments!) near a religious establishment that is collecting people for the holiday. (Some churches have live nativities with hot chocolate that already draw an appreciative crowd.)
- Take holiday-themed books out from the library and read them aloud with your family a few nights in a row
- Search the local papers (also available at most libraries) to see when there will be festive things going on in your area
- Ask the local high school when their Winter Concert will be (almost always free) and take your young family along to see the “big kids” playing holiday songs.
- In some areas, the county or local “symphony orchestra” will play a free or low cost concert aimed towards encouraging young children to pick up an instrument.
- Look for local reenactments that are done in your area each year around the holidays.
- Start a “cookie day” or “cookie exchange” with your new neighbors, or old neighbors that you have never really met.
- Find a local plant nursery and see what seasonal selections they offer, many have ornaments or supplies for building your own wreaths and whatnot
- Create a chain out of construction paper to hang around the house
- Please list other ideas in the comments!!
The idea here is to do something DIFFERENT this holiday, and make it a new tradition for your family. Your world is a different place now, and holding on to wanting everything to be “just like it was” is a recipe for disaster. It won’t be the same, even if you want it to be. That can cause some serious depression if you are not on the front lines trying to sort out a way to overcome. Put the decorations in new areas, or if you can afford it, but some new ones. Reach out to people and share joy with them. Make some crafts or food together, which can generate good feelings and bonding, which can help heal your heart. It is difficult to do these things when you are sad, but twice as important.
If you are having money troubles, which happens when thing fall apart…. most schools have a charity system set up for families that fall on hard times… don’t reject this help! This is the community you live in coming together knowing that hard times happen to all of us, and likely have happened to them in the past, and they want to make sure that families can enjoy the holidays despite what they may be going through… Take the charity, and once you get yourself better positioned, give back to that same charity for others.