I know I've been tantalizing everyone with hints of some big news on the blog-front, but the holiday season has definitely knocked the wind out of me, as previously stated, so I think I'll save my surprises for the new year, and focus instead on the present here.
And presently, we're all surviving holiday season. I say surviving because that's how it sometimes feels at least on my end of things. As I mentioned before, part of our holiday stress actually has to do with circumstances. The other day I was trying to explain our Solstice/ Christmas/ Joulu -scene to someone and their reaction (as a fellow introvert) was something like "That sounds horrible!"
Which it isn't. But it is, shall we say, "challenging". Without going into too much detail, as it is sacred to us and a little secret, some of you may remember that our community does a Long Dance on Winter Solstice. This means that we stay up from sunset to sunrise (and well beyond), dancing, singing, making merry and doing ritual. While it's just one night, there's a lot of preparation involved, from practicing dances, to work parties, meetings, mask-making for Charlie, costumes, cooking, Solstice presents and so on. It takes up much of this month.
There's a whole day before when we're hustling to get ready and another afterward when we're pretty incapacitated.
Next we celebrate Christmas Eve, or Finnish Joulu with our Island family, before heading down to be with Charlie's family on Christmas Day. The days in between are, of course spent hustling for those two celebrations.
So lots of loved ones, lots of celebration. Also a lot of work.
Add to that that this year and last, since Charlie became a partner in his new business this is their absolute busiest season.
We try to make most of our presents, or find them used and even though we try to keep them to a minimum, with this many beloved family and friends that adds up quickly. Decorations, food, holiday cards…all that makes this season merry can also add to the stress. So here are some of my "holiday hacks", or survival tips to get you to merry and bright. I'm certainly in need of some reminders these days.
1. You can't do everything. So do the things you love the most. I know that for me personally, I always have about a million ideas; for gifts, for crafts, for cooking, for surprises. Pick a couple of things, do them and do them well and be proud of your accomplishments.
2. Lower your expectations. Boy, is this ever the season of heightened expectations. For yourself, for others, for the amount of fun we're gonna have and memories we're gonna make. Just today, when I finally got around to sending my holiday cards (better late than never, right?) I realized that it was probably not likely that I would be able to send them to all friends and family. Instead, I'm going to send my more faraway folks a really good Christmas email with pictures and stories of our year. I'm likely not going to bake ALL of the Finnish Joulu goodies, but maybe just one, or two kinds? I'm definitely not going to be able to make as many presents as I would like to, but I'll definitely make some.
3. Presents ≠ Love. If you're at all like me, you love giving gifts. If I had the means and the time, I'd probably gift our two hundred closest friends each Yule-time. However, like I said, we try to keep it within certain confines. Mostly we give handmade things, often food, sometimes books (books are one of the few things I feel okay about buying new because I like to support their authors), however our rule has become more and more that we do not panic-make or buy gifts.
If the right gift doesn't come along we're not going to get something half-assed just to show we care. A card is good, a letter in long-hand better, a charitable donation works, our favorite subversive magazine has kick-ass holiday subscriptions… Whatever it may be, it's important to remember that our gifts are not a measure of our love. Which is why Charlie and I often don't get each other gifts, or if we do they're something we know the other person needs, or is planning to buy, or something cheap we'd get for them anyway (Charlie got me chocolate this year and I already ate it.). I also stockpile gifts and gift-ideas throughout the year, writing down potential book recipients and things I could make.
4. Say yes when you can, but don't be afraid to say no. This is particularly important to me this time of year because while I'm more than happy to complete everything I've committed to, somehow I always end up shouldering a fair number of other people's chores as well, or helping people when they ask for help. It's really hard for me to say no when someone needs my help and some people definitely take advantage of that, thinking that since their request is so small there shouldn't be a reason why someone couldn't help them, and not realizing that theirs is one of ten emails, calls, or small favors. Which is another thing about expectations in this season: consider what kind of burden your expectations place on others. I think that would ease a lot of the old gift-giving and general holiday stress.
5. Consider ends and means. It's good to keep reminding ourselves why we do these things. I love our Solstice and am happy to go to work parties and organize endless rehearsals. I love all of our family and want to share this special time with them. I feel lucky to have them all in our lives. The actual celebrations themselves are fun, loving, bright affairs. The minute the end result stops feeling meaningful and good for all involved, trust me, I'm gonna be out of here.
6. Go all in. If you're doing any of these holidays, then get into to it and take joy in it. If we're just going through the motions might as well skip it all and catch a good movie and some Chinese take out.
But for now, let's celebrate!
Holiday hacks? How is your holiday season going? Is your Yule Merry, Your Solstice Joyous?
ps. It's proabably gonna be all holiday posts all the time for me from here 'till Christmas, 'cos nothing else noteworthy is happening in my brain, or life, hahaha!