Surviving the Holidays, Part One
FALL IN LOVE WITH DRAGONS IN THIS DYSTOPIAN WORLD!
NORSE MYTHOLOGY AT ITS FINEST
This series began its life as a short story titled Blood Fortunes. So many readers asked for more, it grew into three full-length books with perhaps a fourth one in the offing.
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Surviving the Holidays, Part One
Every year, I run a four part post on surviving the holidays. One of my favorite parts of this annual ritual is hearing from all of you.
The “official” holiday season (at least in the U.S.) begins at some vague point after Halloween and extends through a week or so after New Year’s Day. Historically, it was a time for families to be together and engage in holiday rituals they’d developed over the years. By “rituals” I mean things like a Thanksgiving Day meal or putting out a plate of cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve. Hanging stockings from the mantle is another example. Or firing up the old pickup to head into the woods to select a perfect tree.
Because America is truly a melding pot, other rituals include lighting a menorah or Kwanzaa with its traditional candles, songs, offerings, and artwork. Families can also create their own rituals. There's no right or wrong here. Whatever works for you and yours is wonderful.
Let me roll the clock back. A mere hundred years ago, it was 1919. Cars weren’t all that popular yet. Most small towns still had at least as many horse-drawn conveyances. Television was years away. Radio was closer, but the first radio news broadcast didn’t happen until August 31, 1920. Families in that era tended to remain closer geographically, and it wasn’t unusual for people to be born, live out their lives, and die in the same town.
My point is that it was easier for families to develop and retain holiday rituals in a simpler era. Another important point is that people’s expectations were lower. No one expected to be happy all the time. No one expected that all their family members would be “perfect” or always treat each other kindly. And our ability to entertain ourselves was far greater than it is today.
Somewhere along the line, coincident with the rise of first radio, then television, then the Internet, came messages telling us how we’re supposed to feel and act. Those same messages proclaimed we should all be happy, surrounded by our families and loved ones, through a progressively more commercialized holiday season. I can see their rationale. Happy people spend more money, and coming out of the holiday season deeply in debt has almost turned into an American pastime.
Spending money doesn’t really make us happy, though. All it does is surround us with a bunch of stuff we didn’t need in the first place. And it leaves an uncomfortable, empty feeling that we should be happy with all this stuff, and there’s something wrong with us if we’re not.
We’ve come a long way from when my husband was delighted to unwrap new socks, one of a scant handful of gifts with his name on it beneath the family tree, to today when children rampage through dozens of brightly wrapped packages and don’t pay attention to any of them. It’s grown progressively tougher to raise kids with decent values when they see their friends drowning in material things, which is why prioritizing spending time with your children is so very important. Time when you talk or go for walks or do things that don’t cost bunches of money. The same is true for our friends and families. We need to relearn how to be with them minus having our heads buried in our phones or tablets. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t feel particularly valued when the person I’m talking with constantly diverts their attention to answer a text.
Back to the holidays for a moment, and then I’ll wrap this up. Create the type of holiday you want. It doesn’t need to look like the one you were raised with. Nor does it need to look like a picture-perfect Hollywood version. Consider volunteering at a local homeless shelter. Or a church. Or something your town has planned over the holidays. If being alone over a holiday saddens you, reach out. You’re far from the only person in your shoes, even though it might feel that way. My point is start planning for the holidays now. Develop a relationship with somewhere to volunteer or book tickets to leave town for a while. If you wait until the last minute, you might not have as many options as you do today.
Stay tuned for part two, which will focus on families.
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