It has been a tumultuous year- the COVID-19 pandemic that won’t end, an extremely polarizing US election, the completely devastating wildfires that beg for our action to avert the climate crisis, the continued murders of Black people by the police and the subsequent global movement for racial justice, the politicization of wearing a mask, the loss of many great change-makers - I mean, this has been a hell of a year.
We have now arrived at the holiday portion of this ride.
What could go wrong?
Well...let’s not poke that bear.
Instead, we'll offer seven tips for the holiday season and hope the bear stays in hibernation:
1. Grandma, you’re on mute.
Let’s be real - COVID isn’t going to press pause for the holidays. And while trying to teach your grandparents how to use Zoom can feel like teaching a monkey to do a math problem, it’s also the kindest thing you’ll do this year.
Do it for the people that you love...and for the people you don’t like all that much...
because at the end of the day, we’re all in this together, and we’ll only get through it by coming together.
I recommend flashcards with directions to help the grandparent...or the monkey.
2. You don’t have to go into debt trying to prove you love someone.
I love giving gifts. It’s one of my love languages. I want the people in my life to know how much they mean to me. But spending money isn’t the point, and a gift isn’t necessarily some expensive material thing.
Your time is a gift. A home-cooked meal is a gift. A game night with the family is a gift. A card is a gift. You can show the people in your life that you care without breaking the bank or racking up credit card debt you’ll spend the next 11 months paying off. Consumerism has poisoned the holiday fun, but huzzah! We can choose not to participate in the drive to debt.
Make holiday cards filled with ooey-gooey love notes and mail them to everyone. Bake some holiday goodies and leave them on doorsteps (because again, we’re in the middle of a pandemic). Sit by a fire and tell your favorite stories. Play a game or two with the kids. If you live alone, set up some virtual dates to craft together.
The Grinch was right. The holidays don’t come from a store. We don’t need to spend crazy amounts of money to prove anything.
Love is really all we need. Cookies don’t hurt, though.
3. If you shop, shop small.
Bezos might be sitting pretty on the billions he made during the COVID pandemic, but the mom-and-pop shops are barely staying afloat. If you can realistically afford to shop for gifts this holiday season, consider shopping small - small businesses, local restaurants, Etsy shops, and local artists and craft-people.
Purchase class passes to your favorite gym or fitness studio. Buy gift certificates from your favorite bakery to stuff in a stocking or two. Share good music or give the gift of voice or guitar lessons by your favorite local musician. Connect with a local financial coach or life coach and see if you can pre-pay for a session for a pal. Check out your local independent bookstore for new reads. Head to a farmer’s market for the ingredients for a home-cooked meal. Find a local housecleaning service and pay for a good deep clean for the exhausted healthcare worker or teacher in your life. Most of these small businesses offer shipping or curbside pickup so you can shop safely too.
Bezos has enough money. Let’s invest in our communities this season.
4. You don’t have to participate in any holiday tradition that leaves you broke, overwhelmed, or exhausted.
This one bears repeating aloud. Say it with me now... You don’t have to participate in ANY holiday tradition that leaves you broke, overwhelmed, or exhausted.
Can’t afford to participate in a gift exchange? Cool.
Holiday dinner at Aunt Susan’s house always turns into a brawl? Skip it.
Find decorating exhausting? Your space is beautiful as is.
Attending religious services with the family and feeling drained after? Pass.
Over any holiday tradition? Create your own.
There are no rules to this thing called life. Choose what feels good to you this holiday and do that.
5. Don’t spend time with people who are bad for your mental health - even if they’re related to you.
We don’t all win the family lottery. We don’t all strike romantic relationship gold. We’re not all sitting on a pot of friendship treasures. And the holidays are often an excuse to spend time around some not-so-great folks.
It’s not worth it, y’all. Let boundaries be the gift you give yourself this season.
6. If someone comments on your weight, eat them.
Uncle Fred: “Looks like you’ve put on a few pounds, huh?”
You: “I’m going to put on a few more once I get you buttered and roasted, Unc.”
Bare your teeth and hiss for effect.
Can we normalize NOT commenting on someone’s weight? A person’s weight is a completely irrelevant part of the conversation, unless the conversation is with a medical professional. If Uncle Fred happens to be a doctor, the Zoom holiday call is still not the appropriate place to discuss the matter.
Don’t point out weight loss or weight gain. We are a society full of eating disorders, chronic illnesses, and body image relating to self-worth. Find something else to say, and be kind to each other.
But if all else fails, break out your knife and fork ;-)
7. Jingle all the way to whatever brings you joy.
The holidays are hard every year. This year is compounded by social distance, loneliness, fear, and exhaustion. Find things that bring you joy and hold on like hell.
It could be singing a Christmas carol and dancing in your living room.
It could be eating a slice of pie for breakfast.
It could be making a yule log dessert.
It could be a walk in the cold air.
Whatever it is, no matter how small or silly it seems, find your joy.
Be furiously, unabashedly, indomitably joyful this holiday season - even if it’s only for a moment or two. We could all use a little bit of jingle and joy this year.
Grab your bells, let’s jingle all the way.
Here is a list of some of our favorite small-owned businesses:
Welcome Wellbeing - Acupuncture, Alexander Technique & Wellness | NC-based
Poeta Goddess - Art prints, calendars, notebooks & stickers | Indigenous-owned & made
Permacrafters - Online sustainable living courses
Indigefemme - Handmade earrings and stickers | Indigenous-owned & made
Handewa Farm - Organic hand-raised hemp products infused with CBD oil for health and beauty | Indigenous/Black owned | NC-based
Boomerang Bookshop - mobile bookstore | NC-based
Freehand Market - Ethical and eco friendly home, gift, and women's boutique | NC-based
Xalish Medicines - Plant Magik + Earth Medicines | Indigenous-owned & made
Green Dreamer Podcast - 2021 Planners | POC-owned
Simply Clean Housekeeping - House cleaning services
Wallflour Bakery - our favorite baked goodies! Gluten-free & Vegan options
Rise & Flow - Black-owned yoga studio
Yoke & Abundance - One-on-One coaching for Women
Dame's Chicken and Waffles - Southern friend perfection meets sweet European decadence | NC-based & Black-owned
Hope Magick - Healing Medium available for virtual readings
By The Brook - Handcrafted Tempeh | NC-based