Let me ask you:  if there were no such thing as Thanksgiving or Christmas, would you be taking those days off to visit family?   Would you have booked your tickets for a family vacation to the beach 2 months ago?  Or would you be signing up to serve hot plates at the local shelter that day, donating $ to help the homeless, less fortunate, wounded veterans, elderly, or orphans? 

Holidays DO provide a service to us and it’s up to us individually to separate what we need from this holiday, and what we do NOT need in order to make the best of it.   I know a lot of people who do not celebrate commercial holidays (ever) and it’s been insightful to hear what they say about their reasons for avoiding them altogether.   So I have put the Pros & Cons together for those of you who do celebrate holidays, regardless of your religion or belief system:

PROS (how you can make the most out of holidays):paleo chocolate chip cookies

  1. Reconnecting with loved ones

  2. Remembering and honoring loved ones who have passed

  3. Taking careful inventory of non-material gifts in your life

  4. Giving thanks and practicing gratitude is a great way to shift your mind and relieve stress

  5. Greater awareness of the gifts & love you receive each day

  6. Awareness & compassion for those who are less fortunate

  7. Opening your heart to those who are less fortunate

  8. Being reminded and reminding others that you/they are loved

  9. Reflecting on the year behind you is a good way to refocus on your dreams and goals

  10. Taking a break, getting time off from routines

Here is a list for you to begin striking out from the “norm”.  This is the crap that gets us all into trouble; whether physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual… this is what destroys the holidays and sends us on a stressful spiral of binge eating, restless planning, debt consuming, excuse-making, self destruction.

CONS (How you completely ruin the opportunity of “holiday”):

  1. Shopping lists for parties, dinners, traveling

  2. Mile-long Christmas gift lists for kids & loved ones

  3. Cussing each other out over who blew the fuse hanging lights on the roof

  4. Running people over to get a discount on Black Friday

  5. Pinning 329 dessert, pie, cake, crumble, muffin, torte recipes on Pinterest

  6. Swearing you will not gain those 5lbs again this year (while doing the above)

  7. Saying the phrase, “Well… I can’t NOT eat my mother-in-law’s pie”

  8. Saying the phrase, “eh… whatever… I’ll get back on track NYE”

  9. Convincing yourself you cannot survive the holidays without egg nog, Vodka, and gingerbread… because… afterall… that’s what it’s ALL ABOUT!

  10. Putting everything on the credit card

  11. Clearing out the Target holiday decorations aisle… then spending hours each week decorating

  12. Sheer panic on getting all your cards to the USPS on time for Dec. 24 delivery

  13. Standing in ridiculous lines at the mall

  14. Children screaming on Santa’s lap

  15. Minivans with reindeer antlers hooked up on the front laying on their horns over parking spaces

I can’t lie and tell you that I have not spent my entire life (almost) completely caught up and enthralled in the consumerism of holidays.   Christmas is my favorite time of year, for so many reasons, but I used to think I couldn’t get the most out of it unless I had a freaking Christmas tree in every main room of the house, colored lights strung inside and out, music, candles, food and feasts… you name it.  I had to assign some kind of “tradition” to every aspect of the holidays that I began to totally miss the whole point.  If everything is stressing you out like it did to me a couple of years ago, then it’s time to step back and ask yourself what you really do believe about the holidays.  What do they mean to you?  What is the most important?

Here’s the deal… you do not NEED to bake a thousand cookies.  You do not need to buy everything on the list, be on time, dress up, pose for the camera flawlessly, and put reindeer antlers on the damn cat.   You don’t!

If you miss your friends, call them.

If you need time with family, take the day (or week!) off!

If you have been feeling selfish, then go do a quick drive-by the homeless shelter to get a peek at how many people are standing in line for a warm bed tonight.  Not on Christmas or New Years.  Tonight!