Holidays can be weird and depressing, right? This has a happy ending. I promise.
I just learned a lesson from a downer of a Christmas. I come from a non-Hallmark-card family now. You know, those who look different as the result of death, divorce, marriage, re-marriage, birth, re-birth, moving, or other decisions that feel weird to one or more from the ol' family unit.
I thought I was prepared for being four thousand miles from most of my family by inviting over a couple of friends to fill the house with some joyful noise. My husband and I enjoyed the company of two lovely ladies who also had no family in town. While uplifting and fun, something left me wanting at the end of the night and I couldn’t put my finger on it till this morning.
I woke up to the idea that, while we all live and grow and journey along, I can’t celebrate Christmas the way I used to when I was a kid, or even as a young parent. Things change... a lot. The thought put a knot in my stomach and a lump in my throat because I will never be able to replicate those moments, those feelings I once had, and longed for, and loved. So, I’m going to stop trying. I’m going to give those happy memories a home in my memoir to be the utter joys they are. Now, I will journey along and nestle into something new and lovely.
Some of us lucky people have warm memories of idyllic holidays with family who smiled, hugged us, taught us how to wonder at nature, made us laugh at them and ourselves, and loved us. Some people hated holidays. They were long, dark days of chaos because family they didn't like, had time off that made them long to go back to school and work again. No matter what our history was, we have a choice to create a new celebration to take the place of the old.
Christmas is over for this year, but New Years is knocking at our door. Then there's Valentine's Day. Good grief, even St. Patrick’s Day causes anxiety. Kissing at midnight, kissing over hearts, chocolates, and roses, and kissing the frickin’ Blarney Stone. Oh, the pressure!
How about easing into simple, homemade themes we don’t have to buy into? Consider celebrating the changing of the seasons. Forget the marketing companies and take up your own celebrations to mark the movement of time in whatever way suits you best. Of course, there is your own birthday. I believe in celebrating the day you were born. It’s the most fabulous day of the year!
Take the twice-a-year solstice. December 21st is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and is shortest, darkest day of the year. Shift into a slower gear for a season. You could imitate the slow-moving sap in the trees and the hibernating of the bears. In German there is a word, langsam, which means “slowly.” Take time in silence and let your thoughts drift—see what comes to mind that might surprise and excite you. Take a long walk, or exercise without music or newscasts streaming into your ears. Write down your dreams as soon as you awaken. Dreams may lead to some important insight, or at least serve as interesting conversation over coffee at work.
In spring, the buds burst color onto the scene of your landscape. It is a good time to examine your talents and discover or rediscover what you might gift to the world. What is that one thing that you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t had the nerve… till now. Pick one and just go for it! Ask friends for input. They will tell you things you are great at that you may not be aware of. Be prepared to be pleasantly surprised. You are walking around all sorts of awesome, and you're probably clueless about half of it. So yeah, spring is a great time to celebrate you!
In summer, celebrate the summer solstice on June 21st. The days are long, so what can you do that takes light and energy to accomplish? Build strength, take long walks, have talks with old friends or new, or wrap up a project or pack up for a spontaneous adventure. Look long across the horizon for new opportunities before autumn appears.
Plan for your new celebratory events. Don't wait for them to creep up on you. Put them into your calendar and prepare for a fun in a way that will really jazz you.
In autumn, colors appear on the crisp again and your senses are acute. It’s a good time to sprint to finish or launch something that will tide you over the winter. Taste new herbs or spices in your cooking. Connect with a favorite elder or animal or volunteer to make a new connection with one. Find a pen-pal to build a friendship across the ocean or just across town. Everyone loves to get a handwritten letter in the mail. Or try something artistic that you haven't tried before. Make a day of it and see how you feel at the end, what you have learned about yourself in the process of getting messy doing something new with a friend or twelve.
There are so many things you can do to create your own "holiday" ritual any time of the year. Be deliberate. Go to Pinterest and create some secret boards and create some celebratory ideas all your own. Print them out and hang them up so you see which ones really speak to you over the days and weeks and months. Gather a few friends to celebrate together. Pick one theme worthy of repeating or building upon. Have it at a coffee shop or your home or the woods, make it big or little. Have it for two or twenty. It doesn’t matter as long as it brings you and at least one other person joy and a memory. And if you never do it again. So what! Try another. That’s the beauty of creating your own holiday, there’s no pressure to do it again, or to do it the same way twice.
Honor what brings you joy, and let the happiness spread! I'm planning my first one soon and you'll read about it here... Stay tuned!