Halloween decorations were lingering in the yards and children were just finishing up their bags of candy when discussions of Thanksgiving and Christmas plans began to emerge. We all plan ahead to keep expectations manageable and make sure we can count on the people we love. But it can be much more complicated than we want it to be with family at times. Family relationships can require the delicate art of negotiations at high levels of diplomacy.
Whether you plan a cultural holiday, a religious one or both, it is important to consider what you want to celebrate during this dark, cold time of year. In many Celtic, Greek and Roman traditions in Western Europe, this was a time of introspection, analysis, seeking and finding order. Even in pagan celebrations having reasons to come together to celebrate with the light from a fire and candles, making music, dancing and feasts were an essential part of making it through the winter.
Make your wishes and plans known to family and friends early, especially if you are changing them from past years patterns and expectations. What most people want in order to be content is to have relaxed time with friends and family.
Here are a few areas in which you can focus and create a very meaningful holiday experience:
I am challenged to be in the holiday spirit without spending money! Most important is to agree to keep on a budget. How much expendable income do you have at this point in the year? Think of others’ limitations of time and money as well and perhaps agree to a grab bag where each person draws a name and only buys one gift for a family member instead of the whole group. Consider the spirit of the season and it may come to light that what is most important is being together and NOT necessarily exchanging gifts. Perhaps the gift of donating your time together to a charity would mean more than having to get the perfect gift for each other.
Plan an evenly paced holiday season. Talk it over and share memories of your favorite family traditions. Select a few of them to update and share the stories without having to fully recreate them all. Create new traditions that are scaled back in production time and money but carry the theme and meaning of the holiday to you and your friends and family. My favorite one for Thanksgiving is to go around the table and ask each person to share their own blessings from this past year. The children love it and I am always moved to tears with gratitude.
Keep it simple and healthy. Ask people to contribute by bringing a dish or helping with preparation. Yes, leftovers are important but so is your time and energy. I always feel my best when I can help out, get involved and be a part of the production of the celebration.
Originally published November 1, 2016