Ah, December…. the month of diversions and distractions. There are holiday preparations and decorations and celebrations. Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, and New Year’s Eve serve as diversions from the darkest time of year in the Northern Hemisphere.
There’s also the winter solstice with the longest night of the year signalling the start of winter. For some, it’s time for a goddess blessing to celebrate the return of the sun.
For a fulfilling retirement, attaining a perspective on December holidays contributes to sanity. All of us want to commemorate holidays that are special in our lives — but, as we grow older, it’s natural that we change how we think about holiday celebrations and adapt traditions to meet changing circumstances.
Taking a simpler approach
The weeks leading to the holidays create an air of urgency as ‘Christmas chaos’ develops. Lists of what needs to be done get made and revised during the last few days to incorporate what has to be accomplished.
The holidays, especially for women, involve extra work which is difficult when everyone is already stressed with coping with life’s day-to-day necessities. Habits and deadlines are disrupted in the search for a perfectly ugly reindeer sweater, a candy cane apron, lovely plaid bows, or a silly Santa hat.
The irrationality of many of the holiday traditions, especially when a large percentage of the population can’t claim a good religious reason for celebration, supports the argument of taking a simpler approach.
In our family, Christmas is the most important celebration in December. I’ve changed some of my habits to manage the December distractions.
Less decorating. Despite living on a street where many neighbours hire professional decorators for fantastic lighting displays, our house sports only the installed pot lights in the soffit. No outside lights, no wreaths, nor urns of greenery as these were donated when we down-sized in 2016. As for inside decor, Christmas plants, candles, and garlands on the fireplaces should suffice. Christmas placemats and napkins and towels are easy to put into circulation. The only ‘over the top’ decorating is that there are two Christmas trees (one upstairs, and one downstairs) because we spend time in both areas of the house.
Less entertaining. Since moving, most of the people I hang out with choose to have holiday lunches or dinners at an outside venue. Going to a special restaurant or golf club with festive decorations and good food is easier than entertaining at home. Potluck lunches and dinners have gained in popularity. There is still the December distraction of decorating sugar cookies with my grand-daughter despite the bits of coloured sugar that spread throughout the kitchen — and adjoining rooms!
Less shopping in malls. Despite revolving Canada Post strikes in late November and early December, online shopping works! Because I grew up on a farm in a remote part of Saskatchewan, I learned to shop for clothes and gifts from mail-order catalogues. Online shopping isn’t much different — just easier and faster! The bonus comes from avoiding the endless repetition of canned music, the crowded parking lots, and the urge to buy unnecessary ‘stuff’.
Less cooking and baking. Big box stores sell perfect candy and chocolate so why try to create such edibles from scratch? Instead of making homemade jams and jellies for hostess gifts, I buy interesting jars of preserves at local Christmas markets. When two people are sharing Christmas dinner, isn’t a small roast of lamb more realistic than an over-sized turkey? And who needs the calories of dozens of rich desserts? I’ll still bake a West Indian black fruit cake, brew homemade ginger beer, bake Tourtieres, and prepare a batch of shortbread — just because these are my favourite foods of the season.
Changes in family traditions. Two years ago, our son and daughter-in-law suggested that it was time for them to have Christmas in their new home. Initially, it seemed strange to contemplate not having family in our home but it made sense that traditions should change. Going to their home on Christmas Eve for dinner and a sleepover allows us to delight in watching our grandchildren wake in the morning to see what Santa brought. Later, my husband and I leave the boisterous ‘action’ to come home and cook a relaxing dinner while everyone else goes to visit our daughter-in-law’s family. It works.
December holidays bring an array of distractions. Every reader will have traditions that have evolved from religion, or habit, or paganism. My wish for each of you is to find December holidays to celebrate — diversions and festivals that are congruent with your values as the year draws to a close! Merry Everything!