This holiday season, re-examine your traditions
It’s here—the most wonderful time of the year. Early evenings seem to hush business hours’ rush, and reduce the harshness of deadlines and exams with the glitter and gleam of street and holiday lights.
Comfort food and drink, rich and filling, can easily be found to satisfy cravings. Many excuses emerge for spending extra time with family and friends, and in the spirit of giving, everyone’s time, thoughts, and gifts are more readily available.
This sounds wonderful, and indeed it is.
Yet beneath such sweeping intentional goodness, doubt, conflict, and uncertainty hide well. Early evenings mourn the loss of extra sleep. The end of a calendar year brings reminders of time lost, goals unfulfilled. The holiday season with its emphasis on tradition requires effort to make sure that your outlook and surroundings are decorated perfectly, in the way they always have been.
Material gifts may exert financial pressure on a person, and gatherings of family bring about probing questions and exacerbate political differences. No matter how well meant the holiday season is, it can be extremely stressful, and at times can frustrate the love and harmony that it is supposed to create. This year, take some time to make sure that your spirits, too, may stay merry and bright by reframing your holiday approach, and celebrate in a way that is meaningful and special to you.
Embedded in the National Parks list of core values is this description of tradition: “we are proud of it; we learn from it; we are not bound by it.” Each part of this statement lists an idea that should be applied to the traditions inherent in all holidays.
Be proud of your holiday traditions by recreating the ones important and comforting to you. Decorate a Christmas tree. Participate in a gift swap. Bake myriad cookies and pies. Learn from them to better understand and connect to them—why have you always put marshmallows on top of the sweet potato casserole? Why is the third advent candle pink rather than purple?
Perhaps most importantly, do not feel pressured to be bound by your traditions. All holidays operate on an optional basis, so opt in, opt out, or take your pick of this year’s celebratory offerings. Confront them, examine them, and maybe shape them into new traditions that are special to you.
Before you visit family, take some time to think through your political opinions, and come up with tactful arguments with which to express them if the need arises or dedicate yourself to taking on a diplomatic role at dinner.
Simplify your buying needs by instituting a gift swap system among your friends so that not everyone must buy for everyone else or will buy things for only the people they are closest to. Use one vacation day and plan a day trip to explore somewhere new.
It may take a little extra time, thought, and effort at straightforward communication, but this season’s stress and dreaded conflict might be avoidable. Make the most of what can be a wonderful time, and embrace the opportunity to bring a bit more light and happiness into this early winter darkness.
Sophie Williams is a senior majoring in biology and English. Her column runs biweekly.