Disclaimer . . .
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Making the Most of the Holiday Season . . . . .
Capture the Magic of the Holidays
Links to online holiday resources
Share Your Special Holiday Traditions
Holidays--we love them and we hate them. Holidays . . .
Remind us of important values;
Provide us with an opportunity to
Give us a reason to take a break;
Encourage us to stay in touch with
friends and family;
Create fond memories that can last a
the other hand, holidays can . . .
Bring up unresolved issues from the past;
Reinforce feelings of loneliness, anger
Increase friction between family and
Place additional stress on our lives and
our pocket books;
Fall victim to more and more
commercialization each year &
Can be a painful
reminder of loved ones and relationships we've lost along the way.
Like most things in life, how we feel about holidays depends on what our
experiences have been. Obviously, if you grew up in a close knit
well-to-do family where holidays were a time for celebration and
reflection on your blessings your experience will be very different than
if you came from a family challenged by alcoholism, poverty and divorce.
But even the happiest families struggle with the loss of a loved one,
changes in financial circumstances and turning points in life that color their experience of the holiday season.
Holidays act like amplifiers . . .
exaggerating our experience of
the good things and the bad things in our
Our job is to focus that exaggeration on
It's important to remember that holidays act like an amplifier,
exaggerating our experience of both the good things and the bad things
in life. No where is this more apparent than the winter holiday season where
family expectations, social obligations, financial pressures and alcohol
collide from mid-November through January 1st, leaving us to pick up the
pieces at the start of the new year. To make matters worse, many of us also
experience longer nights, overcast days and nasty weather that keeps us
inside, triggering a form of depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder)
that can stay with us until spring. Then again, falling leaves,
jack-o-lanterns, spiced cider and the familiar smell of holiday cooking
in the air can be a welcome break from everyday life.
to enjoying the holiday season is, as the song goes, to "accentuate the
positive and eliminate the negative." What follows are a few tips to help you
make the most of your holiday season.
Get back to
basics . . .
of the biggest threats to a happy holiday season is the tendency to do too
much, spend too much and/or endeavor to please too many people over too
short a period of time. If you come from a large family, "broken" home
or are separated from your loved ones by distance, you may find that
you're particularly vulnerable to overdoing, but, in truth, any of us
can fall prey to the syndrome of trying to do too much.
yourself. Remember---even if there are twenty people you would like to
please or who "expect" you to please them, there is only one of you and if
you do too much, in the end, everyone loses.
on the people and things that are most important to you--including
yourself. Odds are against your dong everything you want to do during
any one holiday season, but if you prioritize, plan ahead and start early,
you're likely to get a lot more done than you will if you procrastinate and
leave everything to the last minute. But more importantly, your experience
of the holidays is likely to be a lot more pleasant.
Debrief. History has a way of repeating itself and the lessons learned
from past holiday seasons are rarely on our minds when the new year rolls
around. Start a new tradition. Create a holiday notebook where you record
memories of special moments and lessons learned from each holiday season. If
you're really ambitious, make holiday resolutions for changes you'd like to
make the next time the holiday rolls around. Some of you may even want to
create a Holiday Planner---a notebook where you store everything from
recipes to gift ideas you know you won't remember when you need them. In my
psychotherapy practice, I sometimes encourage families to sit down after
holidays, vacations and special events to share what they liked most, what
they liked least and what they would like to change about their experience
the next time around. The key here is not how you debrief, but that you take
the time to reflect on the things that are most important to you.
Heal old wounds . . .
Holidays can be painful when things aren't going your way. There's
nothing like sitting at home by yourself at Christmas or being bombarded
by lacy red hearts on Valentine's Day when you're all alone to make you
feel down. What's more, if you came from a hurtful family,
recently lost someone special or are disappointed about the way things
are going in your
life, the holiday season can sometimes make you feel worse.
hard to celebrate when you're hurting inside and unrealistic to expect you
can go from sadness to celebration just because it's a special occasion. But
you can do, and may already be doing, is to systematically plant one foot in front of
the other as one by one you heal your wounds, set limits with abusive family
members, build new healthier relationships with family and friends and say
good-bye to the people and relationships that once played an important part in
can do is your best. Time has a way of healing some wounds, but others
will require work. Set realistic goals. Don't expect to change things overnight.
Do your best to make the most of each holiday season and, by all
means, use the holiday season as an opportunity to learn and grow. Set ever
so small goals for yourself and the kinds of changes you'd like to see in
your relationships. Just don't try and do everything at once. I'm not saying
it's impossible, but change is hard and trying to change everything at once
can increase the chance of unnecessary failure.
doubt, get help. Many of the problems we face in life can be resolved if we
only knew how. Find a counselor that specializes in the kinds of problems
people typically face during the holiday season from dealing with grief and
loss to blending families and coping with difficult people. No one has
all the answers, but if you look hard enough, chances are good you'll find someone
who can help you get started.
Put the "holy" back
in the word holidays . . .
holidays to . . .
many of us, the word holiday has become synonymous with paid vacations,
days off from school and another excuse to party. The values that
holidays once represented are often lost in the
commercialism and the stress of dealing with everyday
are like most of people, your holidays are spent racing from one place to
another in an effort to do more things than are humanly possible for a reasonably
sane person to do. Unless you're religious and practice your faith on a
regular basis or come from a family that makes a
point of celebrating the holidays each year, it's easy for the meaning of
the holidays to get lost in the commotion.
You don't have
to be religious
to put "holy"ness
back into the holidays.
can be an empowering force in our lives, if we
use them well. What's more, you don't have to be religious to put "holy"ness
back into the holidays. Let me
explain . . .
Holidays were created for a reason. They were designed to remind us of
important events, rites of passage and values that guide us through life.
Because many holidays are associated with religion and national events,
they're rejected by people who don't share the same beliefs. Other times the
values that holidays represent are clouded by commercialism that distorts
their meaning in a marketing ploy, but it doesn't have to be that way.
control of the holidays. Examine the role you want each holiday to play in
your life and develop rituals that move you and your celebrations in that
direction. Pick and choose the meaning and values you want to accentuate. If
you want to use the holidays to stay in touch with family and friends, focus
your energy in that direction. If you want the holidays to remind you to
repent for your sins, make that your primary focus. To play, to honor, to
remember, to gather, to rejoice---the choice is yours. Holidays are what we
make them and mean what we choose to make them mean.
wishes to all of you throughout the holiday season!
Resource Links . . .
internet is a great place to explore the holidays. It offers everything from
articles describing the meaning of different holidays to tips for managing stress and dealing
with difficult family members. It's become a great place to turn for novel
celebration ideas, recipes, gifts and crafts for kids. As luck would have
it, many of the best holiday sites are also backed with banners and
advertisements. Search the web with
discretion and pick and choose wisely, and by all means, have a wonderful
Psych Central If you have
any interest in psychological things, check out this site. I've linked you
Holiday Coping page which covers tips on everything from grieving loved
ones at the holidays, surviving family gatherings, and managing children's
expectations to seasonal step-family stress, Christmas holiday lighting
addiction and making New Year's resolutions that last. The site contains a
wealth of informal.
Lists holidays by day, year and country with links to more detailed
descriptions for many of the holidays.
Religious Dates If you want to know what religious holidays are
happening in any given month, take a quick glance at this site published by
the University of Kansas.
Did you know that Abraham Lincoln stored papers and notes in his stovepipe
hat? Can't make it to a real haunted house on Halloween. How about a
"virtual" online haunt? It's not as scary as the real thing, but can help
you get in touch with the "spirit" of the season. All in all, this site has
a little something for everyone---from the meaning of holidays to craft and
gift ideas and just plain fun.
Family Education This site has a little bit of everything from
ways to separate Chanukah from Christmas and deal with stress to tips for
making cards, helping kids fly alone and tree, lights and fire safety.
Helping Yourself Heal During the Holidays Holidays can be a difficult
time when you've lost someone close to you. While no amount of advise or
list of "tips" can take away your pain, you might want to check out this
page offered by The Center for Loss & Life Transition just because it hurts.
His, Hers, and Theirs: Finding Holiday Happiness in a Blended Family
Tips for helping newly blended families through the holidays.
Rest on Traditions Patricia
Stelzer reinforces of the role tradition
plays in our lives, while reminding us of origins common winter holiday
Holiday Traditions Check out this site for a quick look at the
many different ways Christmas is celebrated around the world.
Holidays - Wikipedia "The Free Encyclopedia," Wikipedia is packed
with descriptions of holidays of almost every shape, size, religion,
culture, country and activity.
For those of you wanting to know more about faiths of all kinds.
Kaboose "Holiday Fun"
page with links to summary descriptions of major holidays.
Keeping it Together for the
Holidays If you could only put one thing on your refrigerator door
to help keep you sane through the holiday season, this article by Dr. Susan
Zoglio would be my current pick.
Some of you may not be familiar with this holiday as it wasn't established
until 1966. As a newer holiday, Kwanza reminds of the power of bringing
meaning to our lives by setting aside a time and place to remember the
things that are important to us. While steeped in African American
tradition, Kwanza is a cultural (i.e., not religious) holiday built on
values that are likely to resonate with us all.
Making the Holidays Less Materialistic Check out these tips presented by
designed to help you and your family think about rather than expect things
for the holidays.
Memories this Holiday and Beyond There's nothing in this article you probably couldn't have thought of own
your own. The problem is that most of us don't take the time to think about
this stuff. Thankfully, Theresa Ryan did the work for us and organized some
simple, enjoyable things you can do to both make and record holiday memories
for years to come. You may want to start with some of her ideas and them
personalize them to come up with some ideas of your own.
Martha Stewart Living While much of Martha's site is geared toward
sales of her products, it also includes simple craft ideas and projects you
can make to personalize your holiday experience.
Orthodox Union A great site for
learning about the Jewish holidays---dates, customs and the history behind
for Holiday happiness Practical tips to help you fit things into you
holiday season without over doing.
Blended Family Holiday One among many articles by Dawn Miller, a writer
and step-mom, describing the trials and tribulations of blending families.
Check out some of her other articles on holiday survival while you're there,
or just look around. Not all of her advise will fit your family's
circumstances, but odds are some of her tips will come in handy.
Season on Edge You used to be able to tell time by the holidays,
but now they just seem to blur together. Paul Brand has captured this point
nicely in this article.
Tips For A
Greener Holiday This article was written in 2006, but it's
relevance is bound to grow with each passing year. Traditionally most of us
have associated the holidays with a time of indulgence--a time of gifts,
cards, food, lights, packing materials and increased travel. The last thing
on our minds is the impact our increased indulgence is having on the world
around us. Given the growing and very real concerns about pollution and
global warming, however, it may be time to include thoughts about the
environment in our holiday cheer. Check out this article for tips on
greening up your holiday celebrations as one possible place to begin.
* Please check back from time to time for
Disclaimer . . . . . .
This site is provided as is without any express or
implied warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of
the information contained in on this site, the author assumes no responsibility
for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the
information contained herein.
This site is not
intended to be a substitute for professional advice and/or counseling.