Halloween is over. All the costumes and decorations have been moved off shelves to make room for, you guessed it, Christmas. The Hallmark Channel is already featuring Christmas movies, and a local radio station has a countdown on their website to when they will go “all Christmas, all the time” (November 18, by the way).
To some of us, this is a welcome thought. To others, it is annoying. And to many, it is depressing. So, to help you understand your holiday emotions, I have a question… Is your mask on?
I’ll give you a hint – I don’t mean the Superhero mask from Halloween. Rather, I’m referring to the mask we contort our face into which makes us look like we have “holiday cheer.”
I recently had a person in my office and the conversation arose about the upcoming holiday season. It took her a minute to say it, but she finally blurted out, “I hate the holidays.” And guess what, she’s not alone! Many dislike the holidays. For some, it’s because of grief and for others, it is hurt from the past. Yet others hate all the hype and the busyness. Still others don’t like the credit card bills which come in January. So, if you’re not feeling holly-jolly about the holidays, here are some suggestions to help you through.
1. You’re Not Alone
First, here’s what I want to say to you if you feel this way: “It’s ok, you are normal. You can take off your mask.” There are things we can do to make the holidays better, maybe even a little enjoyable. Don’t feel guilty for your genuine feelings. You are not the only one.
2. Give Thanks
Instead of complaining about what you don’t like, try to be thankful for what, and especially who, you appreciate. Then, take it one step further and express that gratitude. Maybe your gifts, if you decide to give any, are expressions of thanks. Take the spirit of Thanksgiving and carry your gratitude throughout the whole season. Find a way to say “thank you” every day.
3. Meaning Matters
I have a collection of stuffed Christmas bears. My children tell me those bears will be loaded up and taken to Goodwill when I’m gone. Most of them are just cute bears, but a few of them were given to my family back in the 80s by a good church friend who recently died. That’s where the collection started. So those Santa Bears have special meaning to me. What has meaning to you? What gives the holidays, or your life in general, meaning? Focus on those things.
4. Ask Questions
Questions are one of our best tools. (I used several above.) We can ask questions of our family: “How can we make this simpler?” We can ask questions of ourselves: “Why does it bother me when all the decorations are up?” We can ask questions of God: “What is my place in this situation?” Questions are a tool to help us gain clarity in our mind and in our relationships. Don’t assume – ask instead.
5. Practice Patience
Be patient with those who are like the local radio station: All Christmas, All the Time. And, be patient with yourself. Whether you love or hate the holidays or are somewhere in between – it’s okay. You are normal and you can find some peace and some joy in the midst of whatever the season throws your way.
6. Check Expectations
Many people are disappointed because the holidays (or any day) didn’t provide what was expected. Our lives won’t likely end like a Hallmark Channel movie just because Christmas comes around. What do you expect? What do others expect of you (or do you think they expect)? Make all expectations realistic. Beware of hidden expectations.
Mark Ellingson, Altru’s Pastoral Care Manager, has lived in the area for around thirty-five years as a local pastor and chaplain. He is married to Betty, a speech pathologist supervising in schools such as Hillsboro and Central Valley. They have five children and a couple of grandsons. Mark and Betty enjoy living in Grand Forks. Mark plays tennis, fills in at local churches for vacationing pastors and enjoys writing on his personal blog, Thoughts of a Hospice Chaplain.