Back before electricity and industrialization, those good old days of “yester-yore,” we humans moved to the rhythm of the seasons. We worked spring, summer and fall, and holed-up in the winter. When the long hours of cold and dark began to drag on, our ancestors answered with bonfires and festivals.
For most of human history, there was nothing else to do in December. Life was slow. People needed diversion, so they burned fires to light the winter. Feasted on the fall harvest. Partied for weeks around that miraculous moment when the days final started getting longer.
Fast forward a couple thousand years and here we are, the pace of everything accelerated and the holidays amped up to match.
There’s no slowing modern life. Our artificially lit workdays are as long as ever. After work, we have carpools and recitals and practices to get our kids to and from. Then there are errands to run and groceries to buy. Our over-scheduled lives barrel on full throttle through the winter, despite our bodies’ natural inclination to cozy up by the fire and call it day by late afternoon when the sun goes down.
No wonder we have a stressed out love/hate relationship with the most wonderful time of the year. No wonder Googling “slowing down and enjoying the holidays” brings up more than 21 million results in .35 seconds. No wonder the myth of higher depression and seasonal suicides persists — although, fortunately it is myth.
All we really want for Christmas (or Hanukkah or Solstice or Kwanza) is a little relaxation.
Plus, we want all the joy the season promises.
And, we want our kids to take their childhood traditions and send them spiraling down the generations.
So how can you slow down and enjoy the holidays?
Let your own priorities be the guide.
Remind yourself that you can’t do everything. It’s OK.
If you love to entertain, throw a party.
If you hate baking, leave the cookies to someone else.
If you need down time, schedule a couple free days. No expectations. Stay in your pajamas and play board games with your kids all day. Unless you hate board games. Then watch movies, read, do nothing at all. Whatever refuels you.
Say no to holiday parties if you’re not feeling it.
Shop for hours in a crowded mall if your love the chaos.
Perfect is a lie.
Your holiday doesn’t have to look like a Pinterest spread. Your holiday doesn’t have to look like anything but yours.
There will be some stress. The faster you can laugh at it, the better.
Remember, December holidays for thousands of years were only about lighting the dark, metaphorically and physically.
What I mean is, spend 10 minutes right now thinking about what genuinely lights your dark. All the rest is just stuff.
Do the things that bring you joy. If you’re feeling it, your kids will, too. And isn’t that what you want to endure?