Holidays and ordinary days

mountains and Christmas treesWhy do we change our daily routine around the holidays? If we’ve established what works best for us on our ordinary days, then doesn’t altering it for special days make us worse off? How about when we alter it for days upon days in preparation for the holiday?

Often the habits that support our own wellness are the first to go, evident by the emptier yoga classes and the crowded malls this time of year.   It’s a funny phenomenon, really, that we take what many of us consider the most sacred time of year and plunge into self-neglect, often with bells on. And in the name of Jesus Christ.

For better or worse, it doesn’t take much ‘extra’ to make me feel out of sorts. I know I’ve had too much holiday hoopla when I start doing things like searching for my phone while I am holding it in my hand. Or creating a shopping list and then promptly losing it. My mind does not do the two- places- at- once thing well, and frankly I don’t even want to.

I don’t want to give up writing for weeks leading up to a holiday. Or even for a few days. Ditto for yoga or jogging or cooking healthy meals or any of the other things that make me happy on ordinary days.

Around the time of my high school prom our History teacher asked the girls why we were making hair appointments for the big event. I assume the way you wear your hair every day is the way you think it looks best, so why change it for prom? he asked.  I thought he had a good point which I guess is why I still remember his statement so many years later. There was something just a little relevant to life here, not just to proms and hairdos.

I enjoy the holidays so much more when I don’t allow them to take over my life, and in particular, my life style. Holidays are fun, but I like ordinary days. My dopamine levels are doing just great on ordinary days, thank you. I’m not really looking for a shot of wow.  I’d rather push my limits in a completely different area of life.

What if everyone leaned into the holidays only as far as they found enjoyable and no more? It’s not always an easy task, identifying your ideal level of holiday stimulation and drawing the line there. It has a lot to do with temperament and personal preference, and maybe a dozen other things. I think it’s worth figuring out for ourselves though, when to shake things up- and when the ordinary hairdo is just right.


5 thoughts on “Holidays and ordinary days

  1. Thank you for a terrific thought-provoking post. The question of the hairdo is a great summary.

    My husband and I celebrate a very quiet Christmas – just the 2 of us. We no longer exchange gifts with each other or with anyone else – except for one gift to a great-niece overseas which is sent off in November. However, I love the Christmas atmosphere and I put up a lot of decorations – lots of festive red and silver (probably makes a minimalist like you shudder). This might be at least partially because my house is in desperate need of decoration so the “everyday” is not enough. We also indulge in a few special foods – special because we have them only at Christmas – this is similar to enjoying fresh strawberries in June.

    I think there are 2 reasons why people go overboard at Christmas, creating stress rather than joy. One is social pressure which we would all do well to ignore. The other is that it provides a break from routine, a little excitement and festivity. The more enjoyable and fulfilling your ordinary days are, the less likely you are to need the extra excitement of Christmas. But even if your every-day life is fulfilling, most people need a change of some sort once in a while.

    Because I don’t have to shop (other than for food), my December is relatively stress-free. I make a point of not having any extra projects or must-dos for the month so that I can relax, soak up the atmosphere without the stress, have a few lunches/dinners out with friends and enjoy both the process and result of putting up the tree and other decorations.

    I guess what your post really asks is “what is it about our ordinary, every-day lives that isn’t good enough?”

  2. Gillian, it sounds like you have found your perfect balance for celebrating! I enjoy the celebration as well; not letting the holidays take over an entire month leading up to them is key for me. I also think I enjoy them more now that our children are (young) adults. I think a lot of the ‘extra’ are things women put upon themselves- which is fine as long as it adds more joy than stress. (I don’t often hear of men feeling stressed around the holidays, but that could be my limited view of things) And yes, I think it is always a great question to ask: How can I make my every day life even better?

  3. Oh, I so agree! My daughter comes to visit me at Christmas. I’m a widow. So it’s just the two of us. I put up a few small decorations–no tree. She usually gives me one gift and I give her money. I tell people that her favorite color is green. We both cook simple healthy meals for ourselves as a rule so we always have a few fancy meals out. And that’s it. We don’t see each other often so it’s just good to talk and have some laughs. Some people think that I should have a tree or cook something special or buy gifts. I love simplicity.

    • It sounds to me like you and your daughter have hit the sweet spot for your own celebration and that’s wonderful! No one is stressed or too busy from the preparation to just enjoy each other’s company. And fancy meals out sounds divine!

      Since I have now moved on to a blog I coauthor with my daughter, I hope you will visit here:
      Happy Holidays!

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