The most wonderful time

A holly-jolly holiday

December 13, 2016

The holidays are an interesting time of year. On one hand, they’re (hopefully) filled with nice memories of time-honored traditions. On the other hand, they’re also filled with stress. Lots and lots of stress, due to overly-crowded shops, delayed or lost packages, new family dynamics to work within, and jam-packed streets with drivers that make ample use of their horns and middle fingers. Fa-la-la-la-laaaaaaa, la, la, la, HOOOOOONK! The most wonderful time of year, indeed.

On the day after the Thanksgiving holiday — which has become a holiday in it’s own right; and one that we vehemently avoid — I took a break from preparing for our second celebration of the holiday to call my bank. We were dealing with an overdraft issue, which was due to a large bill going through at the wrong time, and I wanted to clear it up so I could spend the day enjoying my family instead of stressing about money. I was put on hold while a guy looked into the problem, and could feel my chest getting tighter. It wasn’t enough that I was dealing with a stressful dilemma, but perhaps most noteworthy, was the recording being played at me, encouraging me to get the financing I need to really make the holidays count.

Fast forward to that morning and my inbox was filled, but filled with messages of DEALS AND STEALS! SALES TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE! THE BEST. DEALS. EVER. As I sat on hold with my bank, my breath shortening with the repetitive loop of icky persuasive marketing, I got angry.

My 80-year-old Mimi (who would probably want me to add, for the sake of clarity, “just turned” in front of that number) sat in my living room, waiting to continue our holiday preparations. Our time together had been hijacked, and my mood changed in a matter of seconds. The issue resolved itself, but it took some time (and a glass of champagne) to get my head back in the game — the game of family, celebration, and food.

Our meal consisted of dishes my family has been bringing to the Thanksgiving table for years. So, not only do they come with memorable tastes, but also important stories. As I listened to that stupid recording, and spiraled into a dramatic tailspin of financial what-ifs, I was overwhelmed by the extent to which our traditions and memories are being overtaken with stressful exhortations to get out there and BUY MORE STUFF!!! You know, to make the holidays count.

A few days later, I went to work in my inbox and decided to look for messages that didn’t focus on the consumerism side of the season. I wanted to read something about traditions, family, or helpful ideas for keeping my stress levels at bay. I found one email that kind of, maybe fit the bill.

So I got it in my head to start a list: A list of ideas on how to avoid feeling like a frazzled jerk come December 24, and, instead, enjoy the less obvious pleasures of the season. Then I got it in my head that maybe you want a list like this in your head, too? Either way, I hope this is helpful.

A (starter) list for a Holly-Jolly Holiday:

1. Make a playlist of the holiday tunes that make your stomach flutter, and listen to it with as few distractions as possible. I’m sad to admit that it’s rare for me to fully immerse myself in music anymore. And music holds the potential for recovering so many memories. For the record, my list would be anything from the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s A Charlie Brown Christmas or Ray Charles’ The Spirit of Christmas.

2. Make a batch of hot-chocolate to go with item number one or to accompany a good book.

3. Walk around your neighborhood in search of holiday lights. Or, drive around after dinner to explore other neighborhood displays. Growing up, my dad loooved to drive around to see holiday lights. I still feel warm and sweet when I think about it. (And those are exactly the kind of feelings I’m going for this season.)

4. Make holiday treats with your family or friends. If you’re feeling especially athletic, get some tins, fill them with some of those treats, and pass them along to friends or neighbors.

5. Have some fun planning your holiday menu! It’s fun to bring tried-and-true dishes to the table year after year, yes, yes. But, it’s also equally nice to bring new tastes and cuisines to the table. Get the whole family in on the planning so there’s a dish for everyone.

6. Make your home into a Winter Wonderland. You might chuckle at my use of Winter Wonderland (or the word chuckle, for that matter), but go with me here. There’s something about waking up in a chilly house on a dark morning, with only the glow of holiday lights showing what’s what in the room, that feels sentimental and, I don’t know, magical. You could make your own decorations, to boot! Cut out snow flakes! Make paper chains! Or popcorn chains!

7. Pick out your favorite holiday movies and have plenty of family/friend movie nights. Bonus points for massive floor palettes, boozy eggnog, and gingerbread cookies. My brothers are champions of The Festive Movie Night, and always have a solid line-up of movies for us to watch this time of year. It’s fun! And carefree! It gets us in the holiday spirit!

That’s all I’ve got for you, but, hey, I think it’s a good start. And, maybe you have some things to add, too?

Here’s wishing you a holiday season filled with good people, good times, and minimal exposure to middle fingers. Thanks for being here.


  • Susan Conway

    Well…this motivated me to add some festiveness to my home and my activities! Listening to Christmas music now and I’m going to bake some cookies!!

  • Food for the holidays is traditional in my house. We go with the same meal every year but we love it.

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