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What is the Essence of the Holidays for You?


Dear Friends,

I’m going to talk “friend to friend” with you right now.  Because, our expectations for the holiday season have gotten wayyyyy out of control.  We have this crazy notion that everything has to be Pinterest Perfect in order for the holidays to be successful.

Well, trying to have a Pinterest Perfect holiday season is just too stressful.  And it will never happen.  But we can have a perfect–with a lower case “p”-peaceful holiday season if we let go of our unrealistic expectations.  In this blog post, we’re going to get real about what the essence of the holidays means for you.

What is the Essence of the Holidays for You?

It’s time to get out your journal.  Get a cup of tea on nice china and find a quiet place where you can get your thoughts down on paper.  There are no rules in how you go about answering the following questions.   Use your preferred way of brain dumping–words, images, concept/mind mapping, etc.  The idea is free thought without any mental editing as we dig down through the layers of “shoulds” and get to the “essence of the holidays” level.

  • What does the holiday season currently mean to you?
  • Describe your favorite childhood memory about the holiday season.  Why is it your favorite?
  • Outline your least favorite childhood memory about the holidays.  Are you still replaying it?
  • What is your favorite adult memory?  Who is with you in this memory?
  • Explain your least favorite adult memory.  How could it have been different?
  • What is most important to you about the holiday season?  Why do you think this is so important?
  • Within the boundaries of your real life, describe an ideal holiday season.

Letting Go of Unrealistic Expectations

In my Magical Pony Land, I am able to recreate my childhood holiday experience. 

I come from a big church-oriented family.  The holidays were filled with analyzing the Sears Christmas Wishbook catalog (and fighting with the siblings over who saw the coveted toy in the catalog first), parties, cards, concerts, baking, decorating, a stack of holiday LPs on the stereo, and the fun of buying “the perfect gift” on my very limited childhood budget.

But you know what?  I’m not a child anymore.  And I don’t really live in a Magical Pony Land.  My life has changed a great deal in the subsequent 50 years since those memories were created.  No matter how much I’d like to, I simply can’t recreate the past.  I can’t bring my father or grandparents back to life.

However, I can honor what the essence of the holidays means to me.   For me, the essence focuses on both the mystical aspect of the season along with gratitude for the positive memories created over the years with family and friends.  The small Christmas tree we put up in our cottage is hung with memories, not perfection.  The faded decorations I inherited from my grandparents still get places of honor and connect me to them.  And the music I listen to (starting sometime in July, much to the consternation of The Mister), varies between the mystical when I’m in a contemplative mood to mid-century popular singers and bands.

Be Gentle With Yourself

All day long, we are bombarded with the messages that we have to be perfect in order to be successful.  Our default thinking is that if that dinner didn’t turn out as expected, it was because we did something wrong.  Right?  And not the possibility that the new recipe we were trying really was not very well written.  It is time to let that kind of perfection thinking go.

This week’s Peaceful Season challenge is to focus on enjoying the essence of the holidays for you rather than the unachievable Perfect Holiday.  In what ways can you honor the essence of the holidays for you while also letting go of the need for the Pinterest Perfect holiday?

To your fabulous, essence-filled holiday season,

Dr. Julie-Ann


Image:  Sears Christmas Book, 1956, courtesy of Harry Anderson| Isabel Santos Pilot on Flickr.com

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  1. Thank you, thank you, Julie-Ann, for those wonderful words! I am in the midst of getting my house ready for Thanksgiving and hoping that everything will be close to perfect when I know full well that as soon as the 3 babies come through the door no one will know if I ran the vacuum or not. Haha! You are right about Pinterest. It is inspiring but at the same time it can make us feel a little inadequate. I love your idea of thinking about the memories and the essence of the holidays. That is what is truly important and what creates the heart-warming memories we all hold dear.

  2. Thank you Julie-Ann. We nearly alwyas have that sort of holiday. This year will be hard as now my mom & my dad are gone, but we plan to share the love of our children, grandchildren & great-grands !

    But, it is good to be reminded that we DO NOT need a perfect holiday, just a memorable, loving one.

  3. You’re quite welcome, Nancy! And, babies seem to suddenly change everything, don’t they?

  4. You’re welcome, Kim! One thing I’ve noticed in my studies is how simple the “old-fashioned” holidays were in comparison to today. I’m not sure when we moved away from the “less is more” mentality and into the “just one more thing” mindset.

  5. You’re quite welcome, Molly! It is hard when just one parent is gone, but both leaves an emptiness. But, as you mention, yours is going to be filled with the love of children, grandchildren, and those great-grandchildren. That is a total blessing!

  6. Julie-Ann, that is so true. In the “old-fashioned” days there was a “less is more” way of life. And that is the reason why people remember the special ornaments on the tree or the pretty Nativity set that was displayed. There is a beautiful little book called A Cup of Christmas Tea by Tom Hegg that speaks of this. Very sweet!

  7. It simply isn’t possible to return to the kind of extended-family event we used to enjoy, so I DO keep it simple. When I lamented that I wouldn’t finish an afghan before the event, my daughter pointed out that making the afghan was a celebration in itself. I love that thought! I also remind myself that it’s not over when it’s over. Our holiday celebrations should bring us joy in the New Year.

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