How to make sense out of senseless holidays so that you genuinely enjoy December

by Tania Gerard

Holidays are the epitome of anachronisms. Especially those strategically scheduled at the end of the calendar year. 

It feels like nothing else is important to other people. That you are expected to joyfully be part of celebrations that have no content for you, that even clash with your ideologies; that trigger your stress levels to the ceiling and test your breathing techniques. Five weeks that leave you broke and broken.

The avalanche starts with Halloween 

Even if you don’t have small kids around, Halloween involves at least a trip to the store and a few rounds of the “trick or treat” recitation. If you are a committed person, you might even ask what their costumes are.

If you happen to have kids, you will deal with everything between their terror to walk the ghoul populated streets, to the frustration because you didn’t quite get Belle’s hairdo and they look like Cinderella. Even worse, the treat or trick stroll tests your mammalian instincts in a way that every corner cranks up your fight or flight response.

When you get home, you feel so tired and helpless that you start eating candy -yes, you eat about ten pieces before realizing you gave up sugar last year and you are in the midst of a sugar rush.

After the four days it takes you to recover from the obscene amount of sugar you devoured and cleaning all the candy wraps in your driveway,  your family and friends start asking you about your Thanksgiving plans.

And there you are: basting a turkey, buying last minute pumpkin pie, holding a glass of wine while you recite your meditation repertoire in front of your very opinionated aunt, or just hiding under the table pretending to look for your contact lens.

Could you use a delicious idea?

Delicious ideas? Download this post as a PDF and get a BONUS worksheet to record your thoughts

Enter your name and email address to download the PDF version of this post and a BONUS worksheets to record your thoughts.

(think of it as a mini coaching session)

When your 7-year old niece approaches you with a complete rendition of The First Thanksgiving, you tenderly look at her, thinking how hard is to let go of these sweet childhood stories and face a world of violence and invasion.

Before you know it, you have double or triple booked the next three weekends of your life. You scatter your social life efforts between fundraisings, ugly sweater parties, and drinks with friends you only see this time of the year.

And, of course, you need to buy a tree -or look for the one hidden in your garage. And decorate it, of course! Your inner decorator starts an argument with your outer very stressed person: should we just get the job done or try to create something interesting this year?

As you admire your masterpiece, your cat takes flight and smashes it. As always. So you just pick it up, shake the remains of those silver ornaments, and walk away.

You even try to fit in some memory making occasions, like hot cocoa and marshmallows with your kids/spouse/ex-spouse/parents, and a little chat with the friendly neighbor who bakes delicious cookies.

December 24th finally arrives. You look at yourself in the mirror, trying to muster all your energy, hoping you will make it through the night in one piece.

As every year, you wonder why can’t you just buy prepared food instead of engaging in the 6-hour endeavor of cooking for ten. You catch yourself ruminating on the long list of alternative activities you could be doing.

Could you use a delicious idea?

Delicious ideas? Download this post as a PDF and get a BONUS worksheet to record your thoughts

Enter your name and email address to download the PDF version of this post and a BONUS worksheets to record your thoughts.

(think of it as a mini coaching session)

When your 7-year old niece approaches you with a complete rendition of The First Thanksgiving, you tenderly look at her, thinking how hard is to let go of these sweet childhood stories and face a world of violence and invasion.

Before you know it, you have double or triple booked the next three weekends of your life. You scatter your social life efforts between fundraisings, ugly sweater parties, and drinks with friends you only see this time of the year.

And, of course, you need to buy a tree -or look for the one hidden in your garage. And decorate it, of course! Your inner decorator starts an argument with your outer very stressed person: should we just get the job done or try to create something interesting this year?

As you admire your masterpiece, your cat takes flight and smashes it. As always. So you just pick it up, shake the remains of those silver ornaments, and walk away.

You even try to fit in some memory making occasions, like hot cocoa and marshmallows with your kids/spouse/ex-spouse/parents, and a little chat with the friendly neighbor who bakes delicious cookies.

December 24th finally arrives. You look at yourself in the mirror, trying to muster all your energy, hoping you will make it through the night in one piece.

As every year, you wonder why can’t you just buy prepared food instead of engaging in the 6-hour endeavor of cooking for ten. You catch yourself ruminating on the long list of alternative activities you could be doing.

By 5, you function on autopilot

You are about to lose the glass and just start drinking from the bottle when the same 7-year old niece starts telling you about the service she and her family attended that morning and why Christmas is a day to fill your heart with love and peace.

When you see her smile, you wonder if she will have the same questions you did, and make the same decisions you made when you became a free thinker.

As the last guest leaves, you crawl to the couch and indulge in three episodes of Westworld while you shed tears from pure exhaustion.

It is not that you hate being with all these people. 

You genuinely love some of them.

But it feels scripted, forced.

It is not that you hate being with all these people. 

You genuinely love some of them.

But it feels scripted, forced.

Why would someone declare that this is "the season to be jolly" when it seems to be the season to be even-more-evidently-divergent? 

People expect things from you and your schedule. Even worse, YOU expect things from you and your schedule.

And your energy. 

And your budget.

And your self-control and your ability to not slap people.

When New Year’s Eve finally arrives, you fuel the night on liberal amounts of chocolate and champagne (or soda, your liver can only take so much alcohol), and promise yourself you will not, WILL NOT go through this ever again.

At least until next Halloween.

Dance with Deer

The most frustrating part is trying to understand all the role-playing involved. You know people who squeal with delight as they set up the lights and the Christmas tree? 

The ones who park the car on the street only to have enough storage room for their Halloween decorations?

The ones who have a clear plastic box labeled “Ugly Christmas Sweaters” in their closet?

These people find meaning in the Holidays. Something about the winter rituals speaks to their soul and gets them going throughout the year; the promise of celebration is a fair reward for whatever effort they made, for the ordeals they worked out.

But what happens when you can’t find meaning in any of the Holidays? 

When you do not practice any religion to support them? 

When you have a philosophical or ideological conflict with their contents?

What happens when you have had to sever your relationship with your family just to step out in the world as who you are and not as they wanted to be?

What if this particular year is your first Holiday season after you divorced your spouse or moved to another country?

What if this year your life crumbled into pieces and you are experiencing this mix of pain from the loss of it and excitement for the freedom you earned?

What if you just got back from working for an NGO and feel nauseous in front of all the food and toys and stuff people produce?

No one asks you if you want to be part of the celebration; they just assume you will join. They don’t even consider the possibility that you might have a conflict, doubt, or feeling about it.

Forgive them; it's not them. It's evolution.


The normal thing is to be normal.

Remember that.

Not as a verdict, but as an explanation.

Uprising means risk. 200 thousand years ago, rebellion meant isolation. Isolation, in most cases, led to death.

Humans are hardwired to comply with social expectations. These expectations form a structure for their behavior. The structure offers them predictability, security, something to envision during hard times.

Celebrations especially, mark the passing of time, explain change and loss. It is not a coincidence that many of these occasions happen in winter. Western culture harvests during the fall and retreats in the coldest months.

Retreat lowers energy use. Shelter keeps humans and animals safe from predators. Companionship helps us not to despair during the longer and colder nights when anything could happen.

Winter holidays have their origins in the hope of surviving until next spring. In fear of what lies in the dark and not knowing if our resources will be enough to protect us from it.

Feeling inspired?

download the PDF version of this post
+ BONUS worksheet to record your thoughts.

(Hey, You Deserve a Present!)

Even now, as the Holidays feel like an 8-week long shopping spree with screaming people pulling your coat, those who play “normal” and comply with social expectations assume you will adhere too.

And there is nothing you can do or say, that will make them understand why you won’t. But you don’t need anybody’s permission or approval to decide how you want to experience the Holiday season.

Feeling inspired?

download the PDF version of this post
+ BONUS worksheet to record your thoughts.

(Hey, You Deserve a Present!)

Forgive them; it's not them. It's evolution.

The normal thing is to be normal. Remember that. Not as a verdict, but as an explanation.

Uprising means risk. 200 thousand years ago, rebellion meant isolation. Isolation, in most cases, led to death.

Humans are hardwired to comply with social expectations. These expectations form a structure for their behavior. The structure offers them predictability, security, something to envision during hard times.

Celebrations especially, mark the passing of time, explain change and loss. It is not a coincidence that many of these occasions happen in winter. Western culture harvests during the fall and retreats in the coldest months.

Retreat lowers energy use. Shelter keeps humans and animals safe from predators. Companionship helps us not to despair during the longer and colder nights when anything could happen.

Winter holidays have their origins in the hope of surviving until next spring. In fear of what lies in the dark and not knowing if our resources will be enough to protect us from it.

Even now, as the Holidays feel like an 8-week long shopping spree with screaming people pulling your coat, those who play “normal” and comply with social expectations assume you will adhere too.

And there is nothing you can do or say, that will make them understand why you won’t. But you don’t need anybody’s permission or approval to decide how you want to experience the Holiday season.

To Grinch or not to Grinch? 

Making sense of the Holidays is to understand that this is a personal and very private task.  

It is an act of ultimate honesty: you need to put into words your true feelings so you can decide the best possible way to experience the season.

Nobody is there to judge but yourself, so it works better when are open to anything you discover.

There are several questions you can ask yourself to make sense of the Holidays:

Why do you want to make sense of the holidays?

Open your journal, turn on your brutal honesty mode, and write down at least three reasons why you need to find meaning in the Holidays -either as a whole concept or just one of the many dates involved.

These reasons will help you decide if this exercise is worth the effort. Let me explain: making sense of a situation (in this case, the Holidays) is critical to be capable of finding value in it.

Personally, I cannot participate in an event I don’t find valuable, but I do know people who can function in duty-mode and willpower themselves through any situation. They might not enjoy it, but they don’t suffer either -pretty much like going to the dentist.

Bear in mind that whatever you find will lead you to a decision.

After you are clear about your reasons to be in the quest of making sense of the Holidays, ask yourself:

Do you want to participate in the holiday celebrations? 

All of them or just a few? Maybe only one?

If you decide that you don’t want to participate in a specific celebration, what are you going to do when people invite you to join them? How will you use that time?

Have a plan in place. It doesn’t need to be detailed, just enough to offer your decline in an elegant way.

“Thank you, Uncle Steve, I booked a hike since August, and I’m looking forward to spending New Year’s Eve admiring the stars.”

"I signed up for a Christmas Eve reading challenge, and whoever finishes "War and Peace" before midnight wins a coat. Thank you anyway."

Depending on your relationship, you can even try to explain them:

"Thank you mom, this year has been very stressful, and I'd rather stay at home and rest during Thanksgiving. I love you; please love me by understanding. You can tell your guests that I had to work."

Conflict is the catalyst for change.

It can be the force that transforms elements and changes the state of matter.

But conflict for its own sake builds walls that interfere with healthy relationships.

Conflict is the catalyst for change.

It can be the force that transforms elements and changes the state of matter.

But conflict for its own sake builds walls that interfere with healthy relationships.

Ask yourself why don’t I want to participate? And assess your answer. You can stay away from judgment by being curious, and what you discover can give you information about your needs.

If you decide that you can be part of one, some or all the celebrations, what is your reason?

What part of it is attractive enough? Is it meeting your people? Is it the food? Is it anthropological interest as you examine people’s behavior and rituals from different cultures? Is it the presents?

What is the beauty that you can see?

What tiny bit of the occasion can you use to find meaning and relevance?

As you decide what element of the Holiday season catches your interest, articulate it as a “press conference statement.” Here are some examples:

I will participate in the celebration of Christmas because I enjoy discovering the gift that will make my people happy. Seeing their faces when they open their presents makes me think of the love I feel for them.

I will participate in the celebration of Thanksgiving because it is my only chance to see all of my friends before all of them travel home for the Holidays.

I will participate in the celebration of New Year’s Eve because I am glad this year has finally ended and I feel hopeful that I will experience more peace on the next one.

I will participate in my family's Hanukkah because it reminds me of the hope I felt when my mother told me the story in my childhood, and I need this hope at this moment of my life.

Write one or two statements. Not more.

They will become your Holiday Mantras: every time you feel you are starting to feel frustrated, or desperate, or wondering what are you doing at this party, come back to your mantra. Whisper it. Go to the bathroom and use it for a self-talk.

The good thing about the Holidays is that they only happen once a year.

You get to choose what you want to do and what they mean to you every year.

Maybe,  this will be your Season to be (Curiously) Jolly.

Ready to Write Your Holiday Mantras?

Enter Your Name and Email Adress to
Download this Post in PDF plus a BONUS Worksheet to
Help You Make the Best of This Holiday Season

How do you feel about the Holidays? Share your thoughts!