It’s all so full of consumerism and kitsch. Look at all the stress and the hurry. People don’t know the meaning of the holidays anymore, and what’s the use anyway? Christmas? Bah, humbug!
Oh, do come on, Scrooge. Because the whole “oh, I want the holidays to be calm and presents are stupid and ugh, I gotta go see my family” thing is basically the 2016 version of “no Christmas bonus for you, Mr. Cratchit, it’s a day like any other”.
Each and every year I have people complaining in my timeline about Christmas decorations and sweets in the supermarket in October, and each year I rejoice at the stuff, because guess what, I love it.
Yes, it’s full of good intentions gone bad such as ideas of how much money one must spend in order to prove their love for others. Sure it’s packed with awkward family assemblies and over-fed geese. But in the end – and that’s what it is about – it’s a celebration of the newborn sun, something that must have been like magic for our ancestors. Imagine being huddled around a fire in the dark (no central heating for a few centuries yet because hey, screw those Roman hippocaustics, we’re going back to the dark ages and the cold) and then when it’s darkest you have a few days of celebration because the days are getting longer again, just when you thought you couldn’t stand it any longer. And you celebrate last summer’s harvest by having feasts, and you celebrate the hardiness of nature by decking the halls with boughs of holly and firs and mistletoes and everything else that stays green despite the cold, dark Winter. And you try to get a little fattened up, too, because now comes the really hard and cold part of Winter, too. You light the fire a bit bigger than usual and you gather around with friends and family, yes, even Uncle Whatshisface who you were always a bit afraid of because he’s such a stern fellow, and you are warm, and safe, and the darkest night is over in a heartbeat.
And not only that. Because you’ll have twelve days of fun and celebration and misrule in front of you when you wake up the next morning.
Well. I got a little carried away. Sorry, not sorry. Here are a few ideas to get you out of the scroogery and grinching and into a festive spirit, no matter what you are celebrating.
- Decorate. Be it a wreath of tinsel on your front door, a decked-out tree or just one tiny straw star on the spider plant on your desk it will probably make you smile, if you want to or not. If nothing else helps, go with my year-round favourite and hang some fairy lights or put up some more candles. More light and warmth is always a good idea.
- Get together. Invite your friends to dinner or an evening of the kitschiest Christmas movies you can find. If you don’t have many people where you live right now meet up with your friends online via video chat or leave them videos with friendly chatter (so basically what I do) to watch whenever they feel lonely. Other nice things to do around this time of year: Go gift shopping together (preferably in thrift stores because it’s more of a treasure hunt), make music, have a themed RPG evening, crafternoons and of course joined baking days. Which brings me to the next item on the list.
- Bake. Or make wassail. Anyway do something that makes you place smell yummy and festive. Try out new recipes to maybe wow your family with during the actual holidays, make comfort food (or comfort booze – given that you’re of legal drinking age, of course), experiment with spices – cinnamon and cardamom and allspice are seasonal favourites of mine – and fruit – everything that goes into a traditional christmas pudding, citrus fruit and of course apples – that make you feel cozy and home and maybe just a bit in the mood for the season.
- Get outside. I get it, it’s cold, it’s probably wet and it’s grey. There are dozens of other excuses, too, but you can either keep complaining or just get off your hindquarters and just leave the house for a bit. And I’m not only telling you this, but also myself. Electrical light (which is needed most of the time here in the Northern hemisphere at the moment) is just no substitue for natural light, fresh air is one of the most reviving things there is and there’s nothing to make you appreciate your central heating more than coming home after a walk in the cold. Take in the raw beauty of hibernating nature, the bare trees, the crystals your local frost fairies have left on fallen leaves and naked stalks, the rippling of icy water or even the light reflected on a frozen surface. If you have snow, even better.
- Get yourself a present. Or two. Is there something you wanted all year but never dared to buy because it’s a little more expensive and you couldn’t justify it for yourself? Now’s the time. When better to give yourself something than after almost a year of stress and hardships and at the end of the dark? Celebrate it. Buy it, wrap it, and place it at the end of your bed or under the tree or wherever you place gifts (or even better, have someone place it for you) and unwrap it on a special day – be that the Solstice, Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve. Display it so you can see it and be happy about it. It’s not a shame to be happy about material things, as long as they truly make you happy and are not just substitues for something that would.
- Research. Maybe the kind of holidays you’ve been disliking so far were just not for you? Maybe you should switch Santa for the Christkind, Krampus or Befana? Maybe you’re not that kind of person and the Holly King (or Queen) or Sol Invictus is more to your liking. Maybe you actually want ten days of Newton instead of a tree. Or how about Saturnalia? And maybe all you need to celebrate is the astrophysical fact that the Earth has made it around the Sun yet another time. Find the holidays you like or make up your own, but find the time to celebrate, and – most importantly – don’t spoil other people’s holidays (also here’s a nice post to get you started on your very own brand of midwinter celebrations) . Which brings me to my last item on the list:
- Go with the flow. If you don’t celebrate and somebody wished you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Joyous Kwanzaa or Blessed Yule don’t berate them. Don’t snap at them. Don’t look at them as if they’d just done something despicable. Say something along the lines of “you too”, because this person is most likely to wish you no harm but simply a good time. If you want something more neutral wish people “Happy Holidays” because most people have the time off (and wishing them good tidings isn’t the worst thing).
Don’t be rude. And if someone is rude to you during these days: smile. Be nice. Maybe they hate the holidays. Maybe they just don’t have anyone to celebrate with. Maybe they’re stressed because they work in retail.
Don’t be a jerk. We’re all on the same lump of dirt in the vast void of the universe, and that lump has made it through another year, despite our efforts. Isn’t that reason enough to celebrate? And maybe some of the festive spirit will rub off on you after all.
I hope I could give you some inspiration as to how to make the best of this season. I personally wish for a loud, fun Yuletide with my blood and chosen family with lots of delicious food and a bonfire and cheesy TV specials and therefore I wish you the same. And of course a great time leading up to the holidays, whatever yours might be.
(P.S.: That’s our yule tree this year on top of the post, the first ever in our new place!)