The evolution of holiday celebrations

Peggy McPartland

Presents. Lots of presents.

As a kid, Christmas meant presents.

Thinking about presents. Making lists of presents.

And waiting. And waiting. And then waiting some more.

In my family, we opened gifts on Christmas Eve. We were so excited for days beforehand. And the day of Christmas Eve dragged on forever.

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up so there were no extravagant gifts nor were there a lot of them. We usually got things we needed – pajamas, socks, a new alarm clock. But every now and then there’d be a stuffed animal or a board game – something really cool!

But it wasn’t the gifts themselves; it was the anticipation that made it so exciting. The days and hours leading up to Christmas Eve were almost unbearable.

At some point, we lose that child-like excitement and the holidays become a chore. Instead of a meaningful celebration, they’re about shopping, going into debt and overwhelming stress for too many people. It shouldn’t just be about surviving them.

It’s important to realize that the holidays don’t have to be anything other than what you want them to be. There’s no requirement that you celebrate a certain way. There’s no dollar amount that you have to spend, certain number of gifts to buy, or obligations that have to be filled.

It’s sad to see people stress over the holidays, complain about all they have to do and go further into debt. They dislike the obligatory get togethers, the money they spend and the chaos but feel powerless to change. They don’t realize that the stress is self-induced. We have complete control over how we celebrate.

The holidays are like anything else in your life. They can change and evolve. You don’t have to be locked into one way to celebrate them.

Your holiday celebration can be about family and being with those you love, but that doesn’t mean only the family you grew up with. The friends you surround yourself with and that you’re most connected to become a part of your family. This is a time to come together with those who mean the most to you, to reflect on your relationships and your life.

Make a commitment to spend less on gifts and more on worthwhile causes. Because really, at this point in your life, don’t you have pretty much everything you need?

Money’s tight and the economy’s been bad for longer than we care to remember. For many people, the thought of buying gifts is enough to send them reeling. So buy fewer or even no gifts and give more of your time.

Wouldn’t it be great if the holidays were more about giving “presence” than presents? We can all open our hearts and give of our time.

I don’t celebrate the holidays in a traditional way and haven’t for many years. Sometimes I spend it with friends and others I spend alone. My favorite Christmas in recent years was kayaking on Puget Sound. It was a gorgeous cold sunny day with no one around. A harbor seal followed me, diving under my boat. The sense of beauty, peace and contentment was awe-inspiring.

“I wish I could do that” is a comment I hear over and over again. Yet people are afraid to confront their habits and obligations, honor their desires and make changes. Just because a holiday’s always been celebrated a certain way doesn’t mean it’s right for you or that it always has to be that way.

You’re free to celebrate, give, and share your love in any way you want. Trust yourself to know what’s important to you and begin the evolution toward creating a truly meaningful celebration, with beautiful memories and a whole lot less stress.

I wish you all a peaceful and joyous holiday!

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2 Responses to “The evolution of holiday celebrations”

  • robNo Gravatar Says:

    Indeed! I long since ceased acknowledging this as other than the solstice season and an opportunity for a little more socializing. But I always enjoy a lot of peaceful “me time”, time in front of the fire or curled up reading. Today, the first day of winter and the day after the solstice the weather gods have decreed via the medium of snow that I’m staying home today to appreciate what I have here – in anticipation of tomorrow warm sunny day.

    Have a fantastic solstice season yourself. Life is good!


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