The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year?
Let’s start with a thought experiment. Think back to a time in your childhood, maybe between ages five and twelve, when you were the pinnacle of holiday cheer. Think of the ways you would get into the Christmas Spirit. Every year, when the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade would come on TV and the air would nip at you when you went outside, you were swept up in the excitement of the holidays. Imagine the smell of cinnamon and pine and gingerbread. Remember the dazzling lights that decorated the houses in your neighborhood. Maybe there was a grumpy neighbor or family member who, sour throughout most of the year, sweetened up once the bells started ringing. Perhaps you counted down the 25 days until Santa arrived, and you watched all the movies you could get your hands on, hoping to catch a glimpse into how he pulled off his miraculous feat in just one night! As Christmas Eve approached, did you celebrate with family, or at church, or with friends? Did you stay up all night and wake your parents up? What Christmas songs did you love to sing? And how excited were you when you opened your eyes and realized that Christmas morning had finally arrived?
Now, contrast that with your experience today. Does the sound of holiday music make your ears bleed? Do you stand in line for Sears on Black Friday, hoping that this year’s deals will fill the bottomless existential pit deepening in your gut? Have you been dipping your cup into the spiked eggnog a bit too much? Does Christmas seem like just another day?
The truth is, that as we age, time does move faster and our experiences just aren’t as exciting anymore. Here’s the good news: There are ways to get more Christmas Spirit. Let’s get some.
1.) Do Something Different
Most articles on “how to get into the Christmas Spirit” will tell you to do the same routine you’ve been doing since you were a child. Watch the old movies, bake cookies, sing Deck the Halls. Well that’s all well and good, but they’re WRONG. Sure it’s not a bad idea to do all of the Christmas things you know and love, but as research now shows, the reason that things grow mundane and forgettable as time goes by is because they are routine. To slow down time and bathe in Christmas cheer, you have got to shake things up a bit.
Studies show that it is through novel experiences that we form new memories, live in the moment, and look back on times fondly. So this year, it’s time to try something different. If you’ve never been one to put up lights around the house, maybe this is the year. Have you always wanted to act? Go try out for your town’s local production of A Christmas Carol. Even if you get casted as a townsfolk in the background with no-speaking lines, you’re guaranteed to meet new people and open up a whole new world of possibilities. Maybe you’ve always wanted to sing, but you’re worried your voice is awful? Go join some carolers. You’ll have fun and no one actually listens to them anyway. Go play in the snow, learn how to ski/snowboard, sled down a slop, take cookies to the nursing home, volunteer your time with a family member you don’t know well or for a charity that could use your help. Whatever you do, do something different.
Yeah, yeah, yeah…meditation is so in right now, I know. But whether you’re a regular practitioner, someone who has fallen off their regular schedule, or a person that’s always been interested – there’s no better time than the holidays to meditate. A lot of people would report that their stress and anxiety levels go through the roof once St. Nick comes knocking. Whether you’re meditating to relieve tension or to be more present for the festivities of the season (it works for both), just get started. I’m not going to prescribe any particular method to meditate because that would require you to read more instead of taking action. Read one article on how to meditate or download a free app, and get started. It doesn’t matter that you’re perfect, it matters that you start.
The purpose of meditating, is to strengthen your attention in the present moment. Before you know it, it’s going to be December 26 and you’ll ask yourself where the time has gone. Mindfulness practice can be done as traditional sitting meditation, or it can also be done in a more active way. This year, as you wander through the different seasonal landscapes, take a second to notice everything your senses pull in. How does that cup of hot cocoa really smell? What does the snow sound like as you gently crush it with your feet? How does hugging a loved one cause you to feel? By anchoring yourself in these sensations, you pull yourself back out of your head and into the only second you can enjoy: the one happening to you right now.
3.) Help Somebody Out
If you’re reading this, you’re probably privileged enough to have a little extra time and resources on your hands. No matter what holiday you celebrate (or don’t), it’s important to recognize that the root of these traditions come from a place of generosity, inclusivity, and spreading light in a world that can sometimes be so dark. Christmas spirit is human spirit, and there is no better way to be filled with it than to help someone in need. Maybe you volunteer at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. Maybe you actually take the time to have a conversation with the man begging on the street, who has been passed by a thousand faces that refuse to even make eye contact with him. Maybe you’re interested in donating to charity, adopting a family that’s fallen on hard times and buying their Christmas gifts for them, or even reopening your heart to a family or friend you with whom you have had a falling out. We all want to experience more and be happier, but the quickest way is by first giving what you have.
4.) Engage in All Your Favorite Traditions
Here we get into what most other articles and post will spend all their time advocating: Do what has gotten you good and (Christmas) cheered up in the past. Watch movies, drive around and see the lights, listen or play holiday music, eat gingerbread, blah blah blah. Only this year, try to remember the first tip: do something different. When engaging in your favorite traditions, remember that it’s never too late to create some new ones. Maybe you see a live performance of a Miracle on 34th Street instead of watching it at home, or you invite your friends over to see who can build the greatest gingerbread house instead of creating one just within your household.
5.) Use Your Imagination
Lastly, I admit that this article does not offer much in the way of specific activities to boost your Christmas spirit. But who is the lazy one? If you are scouring the web for numbered and bulleted advice on how to play “Pin the Tail on the Reindeer” or “how to have fun during the holiday season”, maybe you’re not exercising your idea muscle enough. You already know who you are and you already know what you like. Take the things you love and change ’em up a bit, try something new, and stay present. If your Christmas seems to be magic-less, try a bit harder. Believe in Santa, wear something outrageous, act a fool, go make snow angels, tell someone you love them. Your life is only as magical as you make it.
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions that never fail to get you in the spirit?? Let us know in the comments below!