20 Dec 12 Challenges of Christmas Part 2: Challenges 7-12
Challenge #7: How to have a shared holiday celebration
Yesterday, I spoke about how much effort goes into preparing for the holidays. Sometimes there is so much work involved that when the day arrives, for some people stress cancels out enjoyment. Why? Because the bulk of the organisation often sits squarely on a couple of shoulders.
Here is my challenge for people who spend the holidays with other people: Create some ease by preparing together. It doesn’t matter whether you live alone or with a bunch of people, if the party is at your place, ask everyone you plan to celebrate with how they want to contribute. Make a list according to age, availability and capability, so that everyone gets the chance to share in the tasks either before, on, or after the holidays. Share the cleaning, decorating, food preparing, setting the table or doing dishes. After all, many hands make light work.
Here is my caveat: Giving up the definition and roles of ‘host’ and ‘guest’ requires a mind shift that may initially feel uncomfortable as cultural rules no longer apply. You may find, however, that you let go of stress and can celebrate a true community event where everyone shares and connects.
Challenge #8: How to have a mindful holiday celebration
I did my weekly grocery shop at the local shopping centre today. People were shopping as if a famine were imminent. Or the holidays and the daunting prospect of shops being closed for a whole day.
Here is my challenge: How about you find out how much food you actually need for the next couple of weeks, celebrations and guests included? Make a shopping list for each day/event/attending person, resist the temptation of buying things just because they are on special offer, and then only cook what you have planned and calculated. Every year Australians throw out more than a quarter of the food bought for the holidays, the British bin the equivalent of over four million Christmas dinners and Americans waste about approx. 2.5 million kilos of food in December. Last but not least, find out about expiration dates. ‘Best by’ or ‘use by’ does not mean you have to throw it out. Freeze, make creative leftover dishes – the opportunities are endless.
Challenge #9: How to have a non-digital holiday celebration
Most people spend part of the holidays celebrating with others. Which, especially when kids are involved, generally means that smart phones, tablets, monitors and laptops are an integral part. Even though people are gathered in one place, they often interact with electronic devices more than with each other.
Here is my challenge: How about minimising the time spent looking at a small or large screen? Depending on who you spend time with, set up some reasonable guidelines you negotiate before you get together so everyone knows what to expect, and temper tantrums and withdrawal can be minimised. And if putting away devices for a whole day is in the too hard basket, you could establish some timeframes, such as everyone gets a certain amount of time, and decides how use it, either in one go or spread out over the day, with adults being good examples for the kids.
You could plan some games, get everyone involved in a group project like cooking some special food, doing a big puzzle or engaging in a treasure hunt you (or someone else) has planned beforehand. Maybe ask people to bring some old photos and then sit together telling the stories that go along with them. These are just a few old school ideas; I am sure you could come up with many others that work even better for you and those you around you. Design your holidays away from electronic devices, and find out how genuine connection can be part of the holidays.
Challenge #10: How to have a low-pressure holiday celebration
Preparing for the holidays is often exhausting enough. Things can become even more stressful when your goal is to prove to your nearest and dearest how much you can spoil them. When you make sure that everyone is as comfortable as can be in the perfect setting, enjoys the perfect food and perfect entertainment, while you run yourself ragged. The pursuit of making this year’s holidays the best one ever for everyone around you will only drain you and take the joy out of celebrating.
So here is my challenge: Instead of turning yourself into a pretzel, anticipating that you can fulfil everyone’s needs, simplify things and recruit the people you celebrate with for the various tasks – even if you know you could do them better. Step out of wanting to be perfect at the cost of your own wellbeing just so your internal and external approval ratings go up. Don’t let your ego get in the way of enjoying the holidays. They are there to be savoured by everyone. Including you.
Challenge #11: How to have a present holiday celebration
It’s the last week, the final spurt towards the holidays. You are buying the last presents, finishing your preparations, and taking care of the last-minute tasks at work so you can take a few days (or hopefully even more time) off. This is the very likely the time where you hold your breath, determined to push through, so that you can eventually exhale with relief when you get to the actual holidays.
Here is my challenge: Remember this is not a race. Nobody wins for running up to finishing line the fastest. Collapsing in a heap, however, or becoming so stressed out that losing the plot feels like a viable option to get some relief doesn’t serve anyone at a time that is meant for celebrating, sharing and connecting. So instead of proving that you have the willpower to persist at breath-taking speed to the merry festivities, how about taking a moment to become aware of the here and now? Take a deep breath in, and then breathe out all the tension. Remind yourself that the festival of peace starts now.
Challenge #12: How to have an appreciative holiday season
You have almost made it! – Yay! It’s time to celebrate the holidays!
Here is my final challenge: Before you dive head-first into the celebrations, the gifts, the foods, the family traditions, stop and breathe. Become present to yourself and get in touch with a feeling that not only helps you connect with others but out of all emotions strengthens your immune system the most. And couldn’t you do with a health boost right now?
The emotion I am talking about is gratitude. You can feel gratitude in two different ways: Firstly, you can be thankful for what you already have. Secondly, you can imagine that what you want to happen has already occurred and feel grateful for that. In this case, you will focus more on the positive aspects rather than the negative ones as things take place.
Take a moment to think about and feel into what you can be thankful for: for making it this far; for the presence and support of other people (maybe even for those who look like obstacles and who therefore provide a great learning opportunity); for the gifts, whatever love language they come in; and for all of those things that haven’t happened yet but are about to. This will fortify you for any dramas that may pop up at a time when emotions of all kinds run high, and refocus you on what really matters.
I’d like to add my own gratitude: Thank you for reading my posts about challenging the holidays. It has been fun to write them, and I hope they have been useful to you.
Have a wonderful time, enjoy however and whoever you celebrate with.