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10 Holiday Traditions That Help Beat the Season’s Blues

Finding joy in the holiday season is easy with these new traditions

A Christmas Paradox

This is a tricky time of year. For many, it is a time of joyful reunions, happy anticipation, and sweet holiday traditions. For others, it is a time of stark inequality, veiled depression, and complicated family dynamics. We all have demons buried deep within us, and for some reason, they seem to rise to the surface during the Christmas season when there is a general expectation of, if not joyousness, at least happiness.

You are supposed to be excited about the holidays and your family holiday traditions. You are supposed to look forward to Christmas. It almost feels like there is something wrong with you if you don’t. I know you’ve felt it. I’ve felt it, too. Life is complicated. As unique human beings with our own stories, histories, and traumas, we are allowed to have our own experience, even if it doesn’t jive with the perceived notion of how we are supposed to feel. While this is true, most of us still yearn to embrace the holidays even if only for our children and loved ones.

No parent want to be the reason their kiddos hold back holiday cheer. No lover wants to bring take the wind out of their partner’s Christmas cheer. So how can you be part of the joy and embrace holiday traditions, even when it doesn’t come naturally?

The following are some tips for overcoming the not-so-uncommon holiday blues and creating new holiday traditions for all to enjoy.

How to Change Tired Family Holiday Traditions & Experience a Merry Season

Drinking, eating, and unwrapping presents, are some common holiday Traditions. Now, I’m not saying anything is wrong with any of these traditions, but for many, these traditions have pitfalls. Some have unhealthy relationships with relatives that they feel forced to spend time with. Some are battling addiction. And some, are struggling with body image and eating disorders. There are a million things that can make usual family traditions feel really hard.

Perhaps it’s time to trade the tired, old family holiday traditions for some new ones. If you aren’t sure where to begin, the following are a few ideas.

10 ideas for new holiday traditions

Spread the True Spirit of Christmas

Many suffer from an overabundance of…well, an overabundance. Some might say, “That’s not a problem, that’s just the spirit of Christmas!” True enough. Especially in this country. But if you are against that idea perhaps turning your attention to the spirit that drives us to open our hearts, help our fellow man, and generally try to make the world a better place will help.

Instead of verbalizing your sense of distaste at things like blatant commercialism and bringing everyone down, consider focusing your efforts on doing good. Make online donations to worthy organizations like Heifer, Doctors Without Borders, and Habitat for Humanity. You can even put them in the names of your adult relatives and loved ones.

The Gift of Experience

Talk to your friends, family, and loved ones in advance. Let them know that you are working on finding ways to embrace the spirit of Christmas and that this year you’d like to do things a little differently. When asked what you want for Christmas, tell them to give you gifts of experience with them instead. Gifts of experience can come in the form of an IOU, or gift certificates to concerts or plays. Think long hikes, bike rides together, or a date for cooking a meal with each other.

Get Involved & Give Back

The holiday season is the perfect time to volunteer. Find a local soup kitchen or nonprofit that is in need of help throughout the season. If you have small children, have them help you go through the home and gather old toys and clothes, and useful things for donation before Christmas Day comes. This way, receiving won’t feel as gluttonous. Because, believe it or not, you too deserve all that you receive…even when it comes wrapped in pretty paper and bows.

Destination Christmas  

This one is simple – travel for the holidays. That’s right, celebrate the holiday someplace other than home. If you can’t afford to go overseas or someplace luxurious, drive to a nearby cabin or beach house. You can keep it as simple or excessive as you like.

Your Presence is a Gift

Visit a local retirement home. Go room-to-room with candy canes, or some small treat to share. There are plenty of places where people feel detached and forgotten during the holidays. Visit one of them.

Escape the Masses 

John Muir said, “Into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” Sometimes nature can provide us the peace we can’t find within ourselves. Get outdoors. Start an annual Christmas hike or walk through the neighborhoods and view the lights. If it is too cold, go on a drive and check out your area’s lights and decorations. I guarantee this will soon become a favorite annual tradition.

Spend Time with Friends  

While much of the holiday focuses on family, don’t forget to spend time with those who bring you joy throughout the year. Carve out time for your chosen family, and work them into your holiday traditions. Friends are family too.

Take Advantage of The Time of Year

One of the great things about the holiday season is the once-a-year opportunities. Once a year cities bring the darkness to light with events like traditional tree lightings and zoos and gardens decorated in light shows. Along with light shows, there are annual plays and ballets and events that are well worth taking in again and again. Why not take advantage of the plethora of rich events and activities designed to bring joy to everyone, regardless of which holidays they celebrate if any at all.

Save a Dime

You hate the commercialization of the holiday season, I get it. But if like so many other folks, you find yourself pinching pennies at the end of the year, Cyber Mondays, Black Fridays, and all of the price slashing that goes on this time of year, offers an opportunity to get some of those things you actually need an astoundingly low price. Why shouldn’t you make a tradition of doing some personal shopping this time of year?

Take Time To Take Stock

This time of year, things slow down and even shut down over the holidays. Take advantage of the lull and use it to reflect and take stock of the year you are leaving behind. Sit with you loved ones and share good memories from the year. Talk about what went wrong and what you think you can do better in the new year. Give gratitude to the ones you love for all you shared. Break out your favorite holiday cocktails and give cheers to one another, the year past, and the year that’s before you.

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Annette Benedetti
Annette Benedetti
Annette is a writer, editor and photographer from Portland, OR. Her work appears in a variety of publications including Bust, Red Tricycle, Motherly and Domino. When she’s away from her desk she can be found teaching women yoga at wilderness retreats, exploring new cities across the states and hiking the trails at Mt. Rainier—one of her favorite places on earth.
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