Tis the Season

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Does anyone else sense that something is different about this holiday season? We all know that Christmas and the winter holiday has become very over commercialized. For some time now, it has seemed that stores have pushed the season up. This year seems different to me.
It seems as though the season is early, but it’s the people and not the commercial establishments that are off to an early start. I notice on social media that lots of folks put up a Christmas tree before Thanksgiving. Now, there are no rules about when to put up your tree, but it does seem a bit early. Driving home from my daughter’s house on Thanksgiving evening, I noticed several houses that had their tree shining and decorated, on display in the window for the world to see. Quite a few houses had holiday lights trimming the house.
What’s this all about? I have a theory that we are craving the joy that comes associated with the holidays. We are all out there looking to “make spirits bright.” I’m hopeful when I see this if I’m even close in my analysis. It seems like we’ve all been at each other’s throats this year, and anything that serves as a distraction from that can’t be all bad.
As an optimist, I look for the good in things. I am usually excited about the holidays and the end of the year. I am a firm believer in our ability to change course and reinvent ourselves if we’re unhappy with our current situation. I love the end of the year. The new beginning. Starting over and pledging yourself to new resolutions.
Some people are more cynical about the holiday season. I know that there are lots of people that are lonely and unhappy at Christmas time. Emotions run high, and patience seems to be in short supply. We’ve all had someone cut us off and give us the finger during the holiday season. It seems to be more unsettling when you’re in a holiday mood.
Is anyone else experiencing this sensation of people pushing the holiday? Are you striving for that warm feeling yourself? What’s different about this year?
2017 is my first year in a long time without having to be in a retail environment at Christmas time. I enjoyed sleeping late the day after Thanksgiving. Not having to be somewhere at 5:00 am is something to be thankful for, to be sure.
I know I’ll be making more posts about the end of 2017 as the month continues. But, you know, I thought I’d just get started early. I wish you and your friends and family a beautiful holiday season and end of the year.

– Cat

Keeping Christmas in My Heart

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I love the quote written by Charles Dickens in his famous book, A Christmas Carol.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.  I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.  The spirits of all three shall strive within me.  I will not shut out the lessons that they teach”

Most of us are familiar with a movie by the same title.  My husband, Iain, is a big fan of this movie.  I should say “these” movies, because he watches various interpretations during the holiday season.  He likes the older versions, and loves the Disney one, with Jim Carrey in it as Scrooge.

We watch a lot of holiday movies at Christmas time.  The old favorites, Holiday Inn, and White Christmas, are always watched in the run up to the big day.  We like some of the newer ones, too.  Polar Express has become an annual tradition. We’re guilty of tuning into the Hallmark Channel for the smoochy Christmas movies.   A Christmas Story, and my favorite, It’s a Wonderful Life, are usually reserved for Christmas Eve.

We’re not big fans of the “Bob slashes his best friends to bits on Christmas Eve” movies.  Some of the comedies that are Christmas themed are too cynical for us.

But, getting back to A Christmas Carol.  It isn’t really religious, but instead deals with having a kind heart and a good spirit.  This is the part of Christmas that I try to keep in my heart.  It’s about being charitable, empathetic, and connecting with other people.

I feel like this is the part of the holiday that has faded over time.  We all acknowledge that Christmas is over commercialized, but how do we balance that out?  So many things can be distracting this time of year. The calendar fills up fast, and everyone’s busy.  With all the thinking, planning, organizing, spending, partying… how can we keep Christmas in our hearts?

I think that so many people feel emptiness this time of year, when we forget to pause and reflect.  If you are religious, Christmas is a great time to think about your relationship with God.  Allowing yourself to be strengthened by prayer can definitely have a positive effect on your feelings about the season.

If you’re not Christian, you may still be religious or spiritual.  The end of the year is prime time for reflecting on your faith.  A renewal of your dedication to your chosen religion, a reset once a year, can’t hurt… and will most likely help you cope with the holidays.

If you don’t believe in a God, or a higher power, use meditation  to help you clarify your values and beliefs as the year ends.

Consider making these commitments to yourself over the holiday season.  Don’t beat yourself up if you get overwhelmed.  Refer to the quote above.  Scrooge says he will “try” to keep it all the year. He isn’t perfect and neither are you and I.

Merry Christmas!

Happy Holidays!

– Cat

This Year, Give Yourself More Meaning

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I’ve seen some posts from people lately reminding us that not everyone is filled with cheer at the holidays.  Some folks are grieving for loved ones who are not here to celebrate with us.  Sometimes, it’s a long distance separation that puts a damper on the holidays.  Lack of resources may leave some people frustrated and fed up.

We call this the season of miracles.  The Christmas message is one of hope… Glad tidings, if you will.  We tend to romanticize Christmases past.  When you contrast those memories with todays realities, you can feel profound disappointment.  Remind yourself that it’s like comparing Summers as a kid to Summers now.  Like comparing Saturday mornings eating cereal and watching cartoons with grown up Saturday mornings.   I’d like to share some things that I’ve found add deeper enjoyment to this time of year.

Whether you are Christian, or not, you can gain an understanding of Christmas, and its symbolism, by reading the first four chapters of the New Testament in the Bible.  These constitute the “gospel” of Jesus Christ, and tell of his birth and the first part of his life.  This may be Holy to some, and merely interesting to others, but will help you reflect on the point of it all.

Shop within your budget.  Don’t kill yourself with credit card bills the first of the new year.  I’m not telling you this because I’ve never done it.  I used to do it quite a bit, but since I stopped, Christmas is a lot more enjoyable for me.  By all means, buy gifts for those you love, just don’t take out a loan on your 401k to do it.

Do at least one or two “Christmasy” things.  There are a ton of feel-good holiday movies on television this time of year.  If you are lucky enough to have a light display nearby, go have a look.  We try to take at least one trip to our favorite garden center, to see the model Christmas train display.  I know that some of you get annoyed by carols of the season.  I like to sing along.  I do get funny looks at the grocery store, so sometimes I turn it down to a hum.

Don’t let the pressure get to you.  Sometimes, I think it’s easy to feel responsible for everyone having the perfect Christmas.  Like so many other things, just do your best… and don’t stress!  My friend, Amy, would recommend that you pause and take a few yoga breaths when that happens.  It may seem corny, but she never steers me wrong with that.  If you’re so inclined, it’s a great time for prayer and meditation.  Those efforts can also have a calming effect when you’re needing to press pause.

It doesn’t matter if you’re gathering with a big family, or doing Christmas on your own this year.  Remember to be kind… to yourself and others.  Be thankful for Christmas memories.   Be emotionally present for this year’s celebrations.  And look forward to what’s coming up in the New Year. It’s going to be great!

– Cat

 

All I Want for Christmas

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Emotions run strong for a lot of people during the holidays.  A lot of anxiety centers around getting people just the right gift.  Along with that goes the pressure to spend a lot of money.  This will supposedly prove how much the recipient means to gift giver.  Sometimes, this expectation is there, whether you can afford it or not.

I’ve scaled back quite a bit from my younger days.  What I’ve found out is that shopping early with a plan and a budget makes the holidays less stressful.  What I’ve also learned is that it’s the same Christmas.  It doesn’t matter if you spend $50 or $500 per person.  The enjoyment of the holiday is the same.  Except that you don’t have the January hangover after the December spending binge.

I cringe when I see young people at work fretting over buying a $2000 bag, for someone who they’ve been dating a couple of months.  It’s sad when we have to buy someone a gaming system, and a ton of games to prove our love.  A big screen TV always screams I LOVE YOU!

I think what bothers me the most are the car commercials.  Just about all the auto manufacturers that run these this time of year.  I know you’ve seen the Lexus with the red bow on it.   This is so disheartening.  It’s a small percentage of the population that can afford to buy a brand new luxury car for a Christmas gift.  Sure, some people can do it, but should they?  Why do car companies have the nerve to put this kind of pressure on people?  It’s sad, in my opinion.

Where does the Christmas spirit figure in here?  What does this holiday even mean anymore?  I’m sticking to my strategy.  I’m thinking about the person I’m buying for.  I’m considering their interests and their passions, and buying each person on my list a heartfelt gift or two.  I’m not breaking the bank, or going into debt to do it.  I shouldn’t have fall into financial trouble for anyone to know that I love them.

I hope you find something fun to do together, see some cool Christmas lights, and have a nice meal with loved ones.  I have a friend that hands out purses filled with personal items to homeless women on Christmas morning.  That’s her tradition.  I’m not that awesome, but it warms my heart to know she does it.

The holidays are hard for folks that have lost someone.  Don’t feel awkward about giving them a hug and some encouragement.  It’s a rough time of year for lots of people.  You don’t have to buy them a luxury car, just shine a little of your light on them, so it’s not so dark in their life.

– Cat