A Gift for Ourselves – Rethinking Holiday TraditionsDecember 9, 2019
My Darlings, please enjoy this wonderful article by Paula Marie Usrey. Paula founded Boomer Best U to promote positive aging and to fight age discrimination. In this article, she speaks about rethinking traditions during the holiday season to focus on what is most meaningful to us.
Shortly before Halloween, Costco and other retailers started promoting their holiday merchandise. As hard as I tried to ignore it, I felt mounting anxiety as I thought about the additional shopping, cleaning, and cooking I would be doing during the next couple of months. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy opportunities to get together with family and friends during the holiday season. But I also know that as women—and especially as women over fifty—we take on more of the work required to create that ‘holiday magic’ our families and friends so enjoy. This led me to rethink some of the traditions my family practiced to make the holidays more meaningful.
Rethinking One Long-Standing Tradition
Many of us grew up seeing our mothers and grandmothers busily assuming most of the holiday preparations, regardless of whether they worked outside the home. Even as we entered the workforce, sometimes working fifty or more hours a week, we continued to follow in our mothers’ footsteps. We felt compelled to nearly single-handedly create the perfect holiday experiences for others.
The additional work around important family occasions stems partially from the cultural belief that women are best suited for, and more willing, to assume the ‘emotional’ labor that tradition has prescribed. Whether partnered or single, women have generally continued to perform the majority of domestic chores in our culture.
For those of us who have attempted to be superwomen, taking care of everything and everyone, we’ve only hurt ourselves. I’ve gotten sick during the holidays, countless times over the years, because of the added stress and lack of sleep. As I’ve aged, I’ve asked myself why I thought I needed to do everything. So much of what I was doing wasn’t important to my family and friends.
Perhaps it is time for those of us who felt we needed to be superwoman to step back and ask what is really important. The past couple of years, I’ve been rethinking traditions and replacing them with what is most meaningful for me, and for others. I am inviting you to do the same. By doing so, I believe we can give ourselves an important gift during the holiday season. We can take care of ourselves by re-evaluating which holiday traditions are most important, by delegating to others, and by setting aside self-restorative time. Here are some suggestions for getting started:
Re-evaluate Holiday Preparation Habits
Some of the extra activities we take on around the holidays help to create important memories and traditions that we don’t want to be lost. For example, when I started making my chocolate cherry bourbon fudge, family members asked me to keep making it. I’m willing to take the time to create my annual fudge because it is something that is appreciated. However, there are numerous items I’ve cooked and created over the years that no one cares about—yet I’ve dutifully prepared these dishes and treats that have gone uneaten. This is wasteful and makes no sense at all. If you have spent way too much time baking and cooking during past holidays, perhaps re-evaluate how much of that work really matters.
Another holiday habit might include the greeting cards that we faithfully send to others over the years. At one point, I realized my husband and I were sending out over 50 cards during the holidays. (Guess who did most of the addressing and actual labor?) Now, we mail no more than five cards. For other greetings we wish to send, we use an inexpensive, animated card service.
When it comes to shopping for the holidays, I have also re-evaluated some of my habits. I no longer spend fruitless hours trying to find ‘perfect’ gifts. I believe the most important ‘gift’ I can give family members is to listen to them and to support them in ways that they value. Yes, I will continue to exchange gifts with others. I am learning, however, to ignore advertising pressure that encourages us to spend too much money on meaningless items. According to a 2019 WalletHub survey, over a third of gift recipients plan to return items after the holidays. Interestingly, the most desired gifts were gift cards. While this may seem unconventional, in rethinking holiday traditions, why not let someone choose the gift they most desire?
Don’t Hesitate to Delegate
When I was young, I remember having family gatherings at my grandmother’s house. She prepared everything in advance. No one could appreciate how much work had gone into the family gathering we all enjoyed. Even though my grandmother was a homemaker, I suspect she would collapse onto her bed after these events. She didn’t ask for help, and I don’t think she got a lot of help.
Whether we are retired or still have careers, it makes no sense to work ourselves into exhaustion. Although I no longer work full-time, I realize that allowing others to help not only makes my life easier, but also makes others feel good about their contributions. As I prepare for family gatherings in our home, I also keep in mind how other family members can help. Sharing preparations for gatherings is truly a gift for ourselves and makes these events even more enjoyable for everyone.
Set Aside Quiet Time
According to the WalletHub survey, the one gift that most people were more willing to pay extra for was simply ‘peace and quiet.’ When we are busier than usual, it is even more important to find a bit of solace. Making time to take a brisk walk or a light jog can do wonders for our stress levels and offer us some quiet time. Alternatively, finding a peaceful place at home to meditate or do some yoga can also help restore our energy.
Some of us may already walk, jog, meditate, or practice yoga to manage stress and enjoy some peace and quiet. When we feel overwhelmed, however, we cut from our schedules the very activities that can help restore us. As we rethink holiday traditions, one of the most important gifts we can give ourselves this season is to unplug from all the busyness and soak in quiet, restorative time.
What are your thoughts on ways we can take better care of ourselves during the busy holiday season?
Paula Marie Usrey founded Boomer Best U to help promote positive aging and fight age discrimination. She has also given a TEDx presentation on how to live your best life at any age. Paula recently retired as an Associate Professor of Communication from Umpqua Community College.
For further tips on how to prepare for the holidays, you may enjoy this post:
How Preparation Can Save your Holiday Sanity
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