Posts Tagged ‘hoidays’

We are at the threshold of the Holiday Season or if the retail world is to be believed we are halfway through it. As a result, I am bracing myself for the onslaught of cynicism that comes along with arrival of the shopping mall Santa.  “Ugh, I just hate this time of year”  “The holidays have become so commercial, its all about money and greed”  “I hate the stress and pressure, why can’t it just be January already”

I have decided that for those folks who feel this way, I am going to provide a how to list to help them actually enjoy the Holiday Season and see it as an opportunity rather than an obligation.  Please feel free to print it out, put it on your refrigerator and reference it often.  Share it with friends, start a revolution, a wave of holiday spirit if you will.

I am going to begin with a couple of simple questions before I move on to the laying out of tangible strategies.  Do you have indoor plumbing?  Access to food, shelter and medicine? The right to vote?  If the answer to these questions is yes, I would suggest a counting of blessings

Has your home been demolished in a tornado, fire or tsunami?  Are you begging for loose change?  Has your heat or electricity been shut off?  If the answer to these questions is no, I would suggest a recount of your blessings and a moment of thanks to the powers that be.

I ask these questions because I have noticed that the nay sayers and holiday haters are rarely folks with any of the a fore  mentioned legitimate reasons to be miserable.  The anti-holiday sentiments have most often been uttered to me in the comfort of a friends warm and lovely living room, or at a social gathering at a nice restaurant or while driving in their well running automobile.  Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that Holiday Spirit like happiness in general is a choice much of the time, and if we are lucky enough to be getting through life with minimal battle wounds, we should make a conscious effort to choose it.

I can hear all you scrooges muttering in response to my theory, “How can I choose spirit? Its not my fault that the retailers, the commercials on TV and all the greed around me just make it impossible.  The crowds are awful, the rudeness is unbearable”  I am throwing the bullshit flag on that argument, there is nothing forcing you to participate or buy into any of that.  If you would like it to be less commercial, less materialistic, less hectic, then make it that way for you and your family.  You want people to stop being rude and impatient? Start with yourself. Probably easier said then done I know, but I am going to help you do all that with concrete strategies you can utilize and share with others.

I will begin with gift giving.  This seems to be a particularly nasty sticking point with those that are anti-holiday.  Prime talking points on this subject include obligation, cost, greed, and shopping crowds.

Begin by tackling your attitude about feeling obligated to buy gifts. Instead of thinking of it as something you are being forced to do, think of it as an opportunity to show the people in your life how loved and appreciated they are.  This is not done through the amount of money spent on the gift but through the thought put into it.  By truly knowing the person and paying attention throughout the year to what they have longed for, cared about or been interested in.  The common response to this argument is that we should be showing our love and appreciation all year long.  Well of course we should, but the truth is WE DON”T!  For those of you who are buying for people you do not love or appreciate but have somehow been pressured or bullied into putting on your list, then STOP.  Really, just stop, no one can force you to do it so don’t.  If there are folks you care about but they stretch your holiday budget past what is ok for you then suggest an experience instead.  Take a moment out of what would have been shopping time and share a peppermint martini or hot chocolate with each other.  Watch Its a Wonderful Life  or Christmas Story or Elf in PJ’s with popcorn. Make it a tradition, smile at each other, be kind.  Kindness is the best gift out there.

Change your attitude about the actual gift buying as well.  It doesn’t have to be a greedy commercialized experience it really doesn’t.  I start my shopping each year by visiting a couple of my favorite websites that specialize in fair trade goods, and global awareness.  I made a decision a few years back to do my best to buy gifts that provide some type of charitable reward.  That way I can feel good about the whole buying process knowing that money I spend is not just about material goods but about helping others less fortunate.  There is the added bonus of shopping from the comfort of my couch, while I sip a holiday beverage.  Two of my favorite websites are http://www.serrv.org  and http://www.thehungersite.greatergood.com.  They offer a huge variety of wonderful things and each and every product is fair trade and helps support a global or local cause.  I have also recently discovered www.bravelets.com which sells bracelets that each support awareness and research for conditions such as Cancer or Autism or Alzheimers.   You can find your own favorite websites by googling fair trade gifts, or gifts that give back.  When you shop at these sites not only are you doing a good deed,  you are also guaranteed a unique and special gift.

When I have exhausted those websites I turn to my local mom and pop shops.  I love to support local business’s and will turn to them next for my holiday needs.  I am sure if you think about it, there are many small store’s in your area that you drive right by on a regular basis without ever thinking about going in.  It is good for our communities to support these hard working folks, so take the extra time and effort to seek them out.

Despite my best effort there are always going to be items I need to turn to the big retailers for and I am sure you will find yourself in that situation at some point.  All is not lost, you can still be a conscientious consumer there as well.  Pay attention to what big name retailers you are giving your money to.  Amazon now has a program where you can buy from them and support a local group at the same time.  I will confess to doing much of my shopping with them recently through their Smile Charity program because I can get what I need while supporting Theatre on Fire, a fantastic fledgling theatre company in Charlestown Ma.  Take the time to see if there are any folks working with amazon that you would like to support.  I also do much of my retail shopping at Target because they donate so much money to Special Education.  So don’t be a sheep, know who you are giving your money to and you can feel a little better about spending it.

While we are on the subject of donating, consider adopting a family to buy for this Christmas.  Nothing lifts the spirit faster than knowing you can make this difficult season easier and more joyful for someone who has less than you.  If you are without the money to do this then donate your time.  Find out what local groups are looking for help servicing the poor during the gift giving season.  I am a huge fan of a local charity in my area called My Brothers Keeper.  They help thousands of families all around me have a joyful holiday.  Some years I have been in a position to buy gifts for their program but even when I had nothing to spare there was a chance to help, I went to their location in Easton Ma and volunteered in the workshop wrapping gifts and putting together packages for needy families.  Take the time to see who in your area is helping out the folks who need it and jump on in to lend a hand.  I promise you it is what holiday spirit is made of.

When it comes to the stress and frenzied pace, my best advice is embrace the things that come along with the season, breathe deeply and often, and refuse to hurry.  Drink eggnog and cocoa and holiday inspired cocktails.  Listen to your favorite holiday music and decorate early.  But decorate with things that are fun and make you happy.  Stop worrying about having a Currier and Ives Christmas card for a house and put a blinking Santa on the lawn if it makes you warm and fuzzy.  In fact let go of what doesn’t make you happy altogether without fear of judgement.  If you hate sending cards, don’t do it.  If baking Christmas cookies makes you want to cry then go to the local bakery.  If you want lasagna for holiday dinner, go for it.  Do what you love, drop what you hate, seriously, it’s your holiday, make it what you want.  Don’t go to the mall if it makes you nuts and if you have to go, laugh about the craziness.

In fact, try smiling at everyone you see all through the holiday season, it is infectious, truly.  And if someone scowls back you can feel good that you are in a better place then grump pants and maybe, just maybe, your smile will make their day.  Even if it doesn’t, you will feel happier simply from the act of smiling, its science folks.  When all else fails and you cannot help that you are stressed out and everything seems to be going wrong, try what my sisters and I have done for years.  We take a moment, embrace our crankiness, yell Merry Christmas Dammit!! and then move on.  It makes us laugh a little and it releases a little tension.  Try it! It works!

Last but not least lets tackle the whole Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas thing head on.  I say if you are wishing someone a happy holiday because there are a whole bunch of holidays in a short amount of time and you would like to include them all, then fantastic, that’s great!  If you are saying it because you feel it is politically correct and you really want to say Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas or Happy Kwanzaa, then screw political correctness and say what you like.  Anyone who is offended by being wished a happy anything is just a big tool and I say they can suck it.

So final thoughts; the holidays are coming, like it or not.  Choose spirit and happiness, embrace the ideals that can make it such a wonderful time of year.   For those of you mourning loved ones during this time, rather than being sad, honor their memory by being a kind and loving person and celebrate them.  There is not a single person who loved you that wants you to miss out on the magic of the holidays in their name.  I will be thinking of each and every special person in my world as I sip my eggnog listening my sweet talented daughter sing carols and while I admire my colored lights and dancing Santa.  And in that moment I will feel grateful.  Happy Holidays!