There’s mental prep work for the holidays?!
That’s a hard yes Maybe it’s just because I’m an introvert. It’s easy to make checklists and recipe books and get physically prepared and scheduled for the holidays, but it’s a little less cut-and-dry to get emotionally ready for the season.
To be honest, this post is inspired by breaking my own rule this year – no Christmas music before Thanksgiving.
I had this sudden, distinct feeling that if I didn’t start thinking about Christmas RIGHT NOW that it was going to fly by and I was going to miss it. I think it’s because I have 3 1/2 children, so there’s rarely any down time to do verbs like savor, enjoy, relax, immerse, absorb. (True confessions: I just had to look in a thesaurus to come up with the word “absorb.” Preggo brain!)
So I turned on the Christmas music a few weeks early and I’m loving it. New normal.
This doesn’t have to limit itself to the Christmas 24/7 radio station. Seek out other holiday music you enjoy – sacred music for Thanksgiving or Christmas, Hanukkah music (I like the Maccabeats and Barenaked Ladies for some out-of-the-box Hanukkah tunes), or just “winter” music (“I Wish I Had a River”, etc.)
Music has such a profound effect on human emotions. It also has strong memory ties (much like scents) that can whisk us away to another time, other people, other Christmases.
Personally, I heard “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming” and was transported back to being a child in my home church. I used to play the piano for Christmas services, did duets with my vocally-talented sister, played for the church choir… and those were great years. I spent such time practicing that Christmas spirit came naturally. I was back in the frilly Christmas dresses with the patent leather shoes, up in the church balcony, playing piano by candlelight.
There are certain songs that remind me of putting up the tree growing up – silly ones like “Santa Claus and Popcorn” and “Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey”. I played my Mom’s Christmas records constantly while taking my sweet time setting up the tree. I was the only one in the house who hauled out the records, ever, and also the only one who enjoyed putting up the Christmas trees (time-consuming, scratchy work, that) but it was always my personal time of reflection and preparation. That trimming of the tree has become more of a family fiasco now, so it’s healthy for me to listen to the tunes and sit quietly with myself before the chaos begins!
Many people say the holiday season is “stressful.” Is there anything more stressful than being disorganized and up against a deadline? (Being naturally very disorganized, I think I have some expertise here…)
Every year I try to get one aspect of the holidays more organized. One year, I streamlined and simplified my wrapping schema. One year, I nailed down my definite recipes and decided to always take the same dish to the same event. One year, I started keeping really good track of gift ideas, purchased gifts, and wrapped gifts to avoid the last-minute scramble upon finding someone got missed. I printed out and laminated all of the inserts for my Advent calendar, so every year I just need to get them out and put them in their numbered doors, instead of reinventing activities every December.
Now with all these simplification and organization tools in place, I can come home from a shopping trip with a gift, quickly record it, and put it away to wrap later. I know what I need on hand for baking, and when to start baking, and how much (so I’ve completely put it out of my mind until the day I need to begin, written in my planner.)
They’re traditions for a reason. They make us feel secure and happy and nostalgic. (Secret: They’re also EASY! Because you do them every year!)
Traditional food means easy menu planning and grocery shopping.
Traditional decorations mean easy set-up and storage.
Traditional activities mean keeping the season alive for your kids without having to get too creative.
They put our minds at ease – kind of an ultimate hygge! – because they’re familiar and comfortable. We know what to expect, and that we will enjoy it (even if the enjoyment is because it’s a corny tradition from childhood.)
Whatever that looks like for you. As an introvert, that means I get out my Christmas coffee mug, turn on some Christmas music, and settle in with a Christmas movie or just watch my decorations sparkle in the darkness. This is really centering for me amidst the potential chaos of the season (let’s be honest: ever day is a little chaotic around here.) Sometimes I have to get up extra early or stay up pretty late to get these quiet moments in the dark, but they’re worth it to really steep myself in the holiday spirit.
If you’re an extrovert, this likely looks like get-togethers. This can start early, with Friendsgivings already taking place in the weeks before Thanksgiving. Keep these things casual if you wish, meeting for a holiday snack or a movie night, and enjoy the preparation for big events like company parties and New Year’s extravaganzas. Picking out new outfits, planning meals and decorations, welcoming guests from out of town… the opportunity for social engagements this season is prime!