Friday, November 20, 2015

Holiday Madness

There is change in the air.

Halloween is nothing but a distant memory and the American Thanksgiving Holiday and Christmas loom in the not-so-distant future. Decorations, candy, and tempting gift items are appearing with rapid regularity on the store shelves. In the blink of an eye, it seems we’ve hit the holiday season running.

I don’t know about you, but I already feel as though I’m behind.

But why do I feel that way? Why should I?

It’s partly a media and retail driven frenzy—buy more, spend more, how can you have your holiday without this particular bobble mode. The entire world goes crazy for about seven weeks or so every year.

In spite of it all, I absolutely love this time of year. I love everything about the holidays—the food, the music, the pretty lights, the decorations that have been in the family for years, and the time spent with family and friends.

So why is it that when the holidays arrive most of us are too tired to enjoy it?

Expectations! We all have such high expectations, encouraged by television advertising. We feel that everything has to be perfect or that the holidays are ruined.


Some of the most memorable holidays I’ve had are the ones when I didn’t have that much. You remember what’s really important at a time like that. It’s your loved ones and friends, having a roof over your head and enough groceries in the cupboard. Not everyone has that.

The holidays are about the people you share it with, not the stuff. Start some new traditions this year to replace the economically challenging ones that may have outlived their usefulness. And go back to basics.

There are lots of simple and inexpensive gifts you can give--a bottle of inexpensive wine (sometimes you can get mini-bottles of wine for under $5), some homemade cookies or cake, a gift certificate for the movies or the local coffee shop. If you’re crafty, you can knit socks or scarves or even a sweater. Lots of thrift stores have bags of yarn, donated by someone who never finished their particular project. You get the idea.

I made homemade chocolates for the first time in years and will be distributing some small tins of those as presents.
My mom makes and gives away cakes every year. (We all tell her we don't care if we get anything else as long as we get our fruitcake. Yes, my mother makes the best fruitcake in the world.) It’s hard to go wrong with a gift of food. There is so much company coming and going over the holidays you can share the box of chocolates you might not particularly like, or offer guests a glass of wine from the bottle of red you’ll never drink.
Other than food, I like to give gift cards that give someone an experience—an afternoon at the movies, an evening at a coffee shop, a dinner out. Folks really appreciate gifts like that. Plus, they don’t have to find a place to store an unwanted present after the holidays are over. Face it, we’ve all gotten something we don’t like. It ends up in the back of the closet or going to the local thrift store, or worse, re-gifted to someone else who will do exactly the same thing. I shudder to think how often some presents make the rounds.

If even that is financially challenging, maybe you can give someone the gift of time.

In the crazy world we live in, I’m sure some family members or friends would appreciate that more than anything. Invite your sister, mother or girlfriend over for an afternoon of cookie baking. You’ll have fun and have a ton of baked goods to share at the end of the day. Take an afternoon and spend it with your spouse, significant other, or kids. Chose activities that don’t cost money. Go to a park. Take in a tree-lighting ceremony. Window shop  at the mall without buying anything—okay, maybe a hot chocolate at the food court, but that’s it. The idea is to spend time with that person. So turn off the computer and the cell phone and relax and enjoy.

And do something for charity. Pick up an extra can of tuna and drop it in the food bank bin at the grocery store, volunteer somewhere, drop your coffee money for a week into the Salvation Army kettle. You’ll be glad you did.

The holidays are meant to be a joyous time. Enjoy them!

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