This year gave us some harsh lessons…about social distancing, the deep inequality that remains entrenched in society, and the fragility of democracy.
With so much to be learned from this year, I found it fitting to write an uplifting article about everything I learned from this year’s holiday season.
1. Holiday Traditions Hold Value
For some reason, traditions were heavy on my mind this year. This was the first year I imagined and got excited for the Christmas traditions I will start with my eventual future family. Whether it be caroling, decorating a tree, writing holiday cards, or going out to see Christmas decorations, traditions separate this time of year from any other.
Most importantly, traditions reinforce values. Family, love, gratitude, and cheer, for me, are what the holidays are all about. If you pay attention, one or more of those values are reflected in every Holiday tradition we hold dear.
This year, I became intent on choosing holiday traditions that would reflect my dearest values. I even wrote an article about why holiday traditions are so valuable to me.
In the article, I detail how one of my favorite holiday traditions is reaching out to express love and gratitude for all the meaningful people in my life. Towards the end of last year, I was in a horrible mental state. Simply by engaging in this practice of expressing love and gratitude, the self-pity and loathing I felt was replaced with my typical holiday cheer.
I felt a similar thing happen this year when I was engaging in my tradition of sending holiday cards. I spent 13 hours straight (save for a two-hour nap after the 8th hour) writing the personal notes. Then I spent a few hundred dollars and about five hours just to get all the materials I needed to send. Mind you, I was dealing with long lines, a store that had messed up my photo order, and the typical stress of Christmas shopping. Then I had the seven-hour process of stuffing, licking, and writing addresses on each envelope. I actually had to push back a road trip I planned because I didn’t properly plan for how long the holiday card process would take. Yet, somehow, I found myself in an immensely joyful mood during this ungodly long, expensive, and meticulous process.
Maybe it was the Christmas music I was blasting; maybe seeing my hilarious Christmas “family” photo over and over had me in such high spirits. But honestly, I think engaging in a tradition that reflected such meaningful values caused me to ignore all the annoyances and be cheerful and appreciative at that moment.
2. Treat Yourself
After I spent that ungodly amount of time and energy, sending out those little gifts to everyone, I was able to go on the road trip I had planned. I went to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park, two beautiful places on my bucket list. It was the perfect way to have a quick getaway to shift my focus inward from having it on everyone else.
Treating myself in this manner gave me time to focus on the things about myself and my life that I appreciate: the zest I live my life with, the awesomeness of living in a place in proximity to so many awesome places, the two jobs that have allowed me to afford such a trip, and the high level of health and vigor that I’m fortunate enough to enjoy.
Although I believe this season is all about giving and selflessness, I was reminded of the importance of giving back to oneself. Spending energy uplifting others needs to be met with energy spent uplifting ourselves. For me, that meant interacting with the natural beauty of the world, getting some worthwhile workouts that I’ve been missing out on amid gym closures, and knocking things off my bucket list.
The way you treat yourself is probably different than me. But whatever treating yourself looks like, make time for it. Make sure you give yourself some of the love and appreciation that fills the air during this special time of year.
3. Experiences > Material Items
Despite my profoundly festive nature, the Grinch and I share at least one thing in common: we both hate the consumerist co-opting of Christmas.
When I went on my national park road trip, I saw many families there, and it made me think more about how I would treat my eventual family. I realized once my future children get a certain age, I won’t buy them items for Christmas anymore. Instead, I will provide them with experiences.
The road trip I took was a gift to myself, and honestly, I can’t think of a material item that I would have preferred in its place. I mean, the only thing I can think of would be an RV, but that’d only be so I can use it to have more experiences.
Most people forget the toys they received on holidays. Most people lose the fondness they once had for material items they’ve yearned for. But experiences like traveling, skydiving, and amusement parks stick with our memory much longer; they tend to remain as valued as ever.
Also, experiences are more valuable than material items because they can teach us lessons in ways material things can’t (unless that thing is a book).
Travels offer us lessons about other cultures and our own. Camping can teach us lessons about nature, society, and appreciation. These lessons stick with us for life while material items have faded into nothingness.
During my road trip, I learned to be more active in making plans and taking advantage of the fantastic opportunities and places surrounding me. I was inspired to create more holiday plans and experiences with my family. Lastly, I was reminded of the importance of getting out of our bubble and viewing things from another perspective. This lesson crystallized when I noticed my highly popular ugly Christmas Lakers sweater isn’t as popular outside of Los Angeles.
4. Don’t Expect Family To Appreciate Things The Way Others Do.
This one is sort of serious and sort of silly.
Serious because many people might be born into a family that doesn’t accept the very thing that many others might love you for. It’s a hard truth, but an important one to come to terms with to have a sense of inner peace.
And I say it’s silly because of the way I found this out this year when my family opted to roast me, instead of offering thanks, once I gave them their Christmas card. After others offered so much love and laughter, I was disappointed at the lack of appreciation for my fervent festiveness, warm words, and hilarious humor. Yet, I know my family hops on any opportunity to roast, so it’s all in good fun, even though it wasn’t that fun for me in that moment.
I wasn’t really sure how to end this article. So I guess I’ll just say I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. Also, I wish everyone a Happy New Year, hopefully, one without as many harsh lessons.