During our holiday season, families gather and practice their traditions of giving thanks, giving gifts, and wishing one another a happy new year. When the nights are long and the days are cold in the northern hemisphere, we spend more time together. Putting up decorations and colorful lights adds luster to the home. Family gatherings are intended to be loving and fun. Being mindful of our gratitude boosts our feelings of contentment. Feasts and gift exchanges are meant to be joyful. Throughout the holiday season we remind one another to be of good cheer.
However, it is not uncommon to hear grumbling about the holidays. People who are very busy wrestle with the need to accomplish even more. Some people suffer stress around expectations connected to gift giving. Some fret over feasts and family gatherings that break down into dysfunctional episodes, or simply don’t measure up to unspoken high hopes. Some people with limited financial resources become painfully aware of lack. Some wealthy people feel guilty about being well-off while others struggle. People who are not feeling merry may notice that emotional condition more acutely in the season of joy. They may imagine others to be extremely happy while they are not. People without immediate family, or a person far from home, may feel more alone at this time of year.
Unfortunately for some, holidays for giving thanks, giving gifts, and setting goals for a happy new year are a source of stress. Some believe that this season, intended to be one of love and joy, has been distorted into a time of high expectations, guilt, disappointment, and commercial profit.
If you suffer additional stress during the holiday season, I humbly offer a few ideas to help lighten your burden. When we change our beliefs, everything changes. What if we acted as if every day is a holiday? Would we be more grateful for our bounty – for the simple gift of this breath? Would we gather the family? Would we ask the folks at the table to tell us something for which they are thankful? Could we let go of expectations that cause stress by letting any meal be a feast? When we are grateful, every day is Thanksgiving Day.
What if we gave gifts to each other every day without a reason? What if we defined gifts in a new way? What if we received the gift in a smile, a hug, a phone call? A gift could be reading, writing a poem, singing together, drawing a picture, or dancing. A gift could be inviting a friend over for dinner. The list of gifts is endless when we stop thinking gifts cost money and come from stores. What if we viewed our conversations as gifts? Will you give the gift of listening today? Love is the greatest gift we give to each other and to ourselves. Give love each day and every day is like Christmas Day.
What if we celebrate the arrival of each day as if we are beginning a new year? In this moment we have the power to make change happen. What if we make resolutions toward better habits right now? The calendar is not in control of when we begin anew. Every moment gives us a chance for a new beginning. What if we remember that now is the only moment, and we celebrate the present? Life is happening in this moment, in this singular breath. Every day is New Year’s Day—let it be fun, let it be filled with inspiration.
Perhaps you don’t celebrate these specific holidays. Do you practice other holiday traditions? What makes a holiday different from any other day? Find that answer for yourself, then do your best to practice your holiday beliefs every day. Why do we behave differently on holidays? Do we allow our seasonal traditions to be loaded with extraordinary expectations? Can we let it go? The power to change our holiday habits is within our control. What if we lived as if every day is a holiday? What if we cherished all acts of kindness and loving moments with friends and family as the most valuable gifts? Would our world transform? Would we live in peace on earth with good will toward all?
Let’s give thanks and simple gifts of love today. Let’s decorate with light from the inside out, right now. Let’s savor this day – this moment – as we remember that only now may we begin again. Today, to the best of our ability, let’s remind one another to be grateful and full of good cheer. After all, today is a holiday.