Ah, the winter holidays. That glorious time when hopes and wishes override past experience, when the forgetful again envision the season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s as a Hallmark flick, bright with good cheer and glad hearts. In your mind’s eye, you see Grandma baking pies in the kitchen, Mom and Dad wrapping presents in the bedroom, and the kids and Grandpa adding ornaments to the brightly-lit tree.
Top off these sugar plum delights with a blanket of fresh snow covering the lawn, and your Norman Rockwell painting is complete.
Then, reality takes a hand.
Grandma and Grandpa are stuck in Miami International, forced to camp out overnight in the airport lounge and cursing like sailors the last time they phoned you. Four-year-old Timmy thought it might be amusing to help the cat climb the accessorized tree. The twins are squabbling in the den over the remote, and your teenager sits sulking on the sofa, jabbing at her phone. Your spouse is sick in bed with the flu, and you’re so stressed, you cut your finger slicing oranges for your special festive cider.
As the song goes, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”
If this script sounds familiar, if your holiday dreams are getting clobbered by reality, it’s time to make some adjustments. Here are some tips that may help.
Take a deep breath and revamp some of your plans. You don’t need to “lower your expectations,” as people might tell you, but you can anticipate minor disasters. If you’ve recently had the den re-carpeted, for example, you might want to forgo that cranberry punch you were planning for your New Year’s Eve party.
Simplify your celebrations. If you’ve invited family and friends over for a meal, clean the house, add some extra toilet paper to the bathrooms, and then stop worrying. Ditto on the menu. Give your Martha Stewart complex a vacation and stick to a few basic dishes and beverages. Remember: The company’s the centerpiece of the party, not the food.
Minimize PTSD, or post-traumatic shopping disorder. Instead of giving individual gifts to large families, for instance, assemble one present for the entire crew. My grown children all have a boatload of kids. The result? I decorate a cardboard box with wrapping paper for each family, stuff them with grocery store treats for both the adults and the children, toss in a few books, and I’m done.
Get some rest. One of the greatest physicians in the world, Somnus, the Roman god of sleep, offers his healing services free of charge. And if you find yourself dragging through the afternoon, as weighted down by fatigue as Marley’s ghost was with chains, take a nap. Even a short snooze can often refresh you, as if someone had taken an eraser to that fretful mind and wiped away your cares.
Be of good cheer. Whether you’re a natural Pollyanna or you have to push hard to keep a smile on your face and some bounce in your voice, whether you’re the host or a guest, be gracious and kind to those around you. Laugh, listen to others, and keep your temper in check and your manners polished. The last thing a holiday get-together needs is a grump, particularly this winter when so many people are afflicted by inflation and fear. Don’t be a Scrooge.
And speaking of Charles Dickens’s Scrooge, let’s bear in mind his words from “A Christmas Carol:” “Reflect upon your present blessings—of which every man has many—not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”
There it is, the hearth that holds the fires of all our cold season holidays: gratitude.
Cheers, good readers.