A Survival Guide For The Holiday Season
Whether you believe, disbelieve, ignore or go crazy over it, Christmas is likely to overwhelm you in every way. People will wish you a happy holiday, even if you don't want them to. Traffic accidents will delay you because someone had a bit too much seasonal cheer or tried to get to that five-minute sale in two. Stores will run out of your favorite brand of jeans just so that some ungrateful gift recipient can return a pair before New Years. Seating at your favorite eatery will be non-existent as people recover from day long shopping orgies, leaving you with frozen take out. One way or another, the holidays will get you!
Now don't get me wrong, I am a fan of Christmas. I think it has made and continues to make the long winter tolerable. It's not only a break, but also a reminder that someone bigger then us cared enough about people to provide a way of salvation. For others who do not follow the Christian Faith, there are equally important celebrations like Hanukah and Kwanzaa. Like Christmas, these celebrations are very important to those who believe in them. Together, these holidays dominate the latter part of December and early January. Sadly, not everyone is up to the challenge of surviving the holidaze.
The biggest mistake most people make during the holidays is to become overwhelmed by everything. Negatives seem worse and positives get all bent out of shape. An overdue bill or lack of grocery money can seem like the end of the world at Christmas. But as bad as things can seem, the holidays are often as much the solution as the problem when it comes to being without. People and organizations tend to have more compassion during that time and are likely to offer some help. The key is being wise enough to swallow some pride, seek out and accept that help.
The positive side of Christmas can quickly turn negative when we expect too much of jolly old Saint Nick. Holiday revelers tend to have expectations that far exceed the ability of any holiday to deliver joy, good will toward people and a flat screen TV. People expect to find the love of their life at a Christmas Party. Others expect their mate to spring for that isolated ski lodge where Tony Bennett will come with his full orchestra and serenade them during the wait for Santa. Kids need the latest version of Play Station or their friends will never forgive them! It's all about unrealistic expectations.
If you enter the holiday season expecting some great emotional rescue, anticipating an unrealistic romantic getaway or plan on receiving more gifts under the tree then there are stars in the heavens, get real! The best way to plan what to expect of Christmas is to get with your immediate family (even it that's just you) and discuss the matter. Set a limit on the price everyone will spend on gifts and stick to it. Plan parties, getaways and other events with a sense of personal, financial and societal responsibility. Blowing your nest egg on a wild weekend might seem romantic now, but wait until your next anniversary. Both of you may want to repeat something that cannot be repeated due to a lack of cash. For singles, there are lots of Christmas parties and special events designed to help them get through the season. The key is to go out, find these events and attend them.
The people most impacted by Christmas are those who spend it alone or have experienced a terrible loss during the holidays. The cure for that type of situation is to understand that life is about living, not dying or suffering. Christmas, itself, reminds us that we have a Creator who understands the pain of loss, has been alone when everyone else turned away from him and is there for those not too proud to call on him.
Ask anyone involved in a bad or abusive relationship if being alone during the holidays is such a horrible thing. Sometimes we are where we need to be for growth or other reasons. Friends can often be the solution to the lonely holiday blues. You would be surprised who many times I was invited to join family celebrations when I was alone and unmarried. I treasure those times and deeply appreciate those who cared enough to invite me to share their holiday celebrations. If the holidays are more about giving then getting, perhaps you will invite a lonely friend to your holiday party or gathering?
Reading can be an excellent escape from the sheer volume of holiday commerciality dominating your TV screen, the Internet and car radios. Listen to a book on tape in the car or read that book you heard about on the bus, subway or during a quiet evening at home. Reading can be very satisfying and will often take your mind to a better place if you have the holiday blahs.
Remember, you do not have to love or hate the holidays. You just have to survive them. Try and remember to keep your expectations realistic and revel in moderation. Don't allow emotions or problems to overtake you, but face them down and understand that tomorrow can always be a better day!