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A Gift for Ourselves – Rethinking Holiday Traditions

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. 

rethinking holiday traditions give gift of time

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 Holiday 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 rethinking holiday traditions to identify which are most important, by delegating to others, and by setting aside self-restorative time. Here are some suggestions for getting started:

  1. 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?

rethinking holiday traditions in the kitchen

This holiday, consider which preparations are worth doing? Which can be delegated?

  1. Don’t Hesitate to Delegate Holiday Traditions

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.

  1. 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.

rethinking holiday traditions to include quiet time

Try rethinking your holiday traditions and give yourself the gift of peace and quiet.

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 are rethinking 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? Please share in the comments!


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.







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December 12, 2023

Entertainment, Holidays, Passages After 50, Relationships, Self Care

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  1. Maeva says:

    Thank you! Excellent article! We all need to hear this.

    • Paula says:


      Thank you for taking time to respond. I appreciate it.

    • Chris Kissel says:

      I’m reading this article as I enjoy some quiet time for myself. I’m traveling for the holidays. I chose this year to do minimal Holiday decorations and enjoy all the ones I that others have put up. 🎄❣️

      • Susan Good says:

        A girl after my own heart. Sharing and appreciating others decoration is as important as putting up our own. Enjoy the experience. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Warmly, Honey

  2. Linda says:

    Love love love this article. Thank you thank you thank you! I am not alone.

  3. Maria Davies says:

    This really resonates. I was the one doing everything & not accepting help, consequently exhausted after every holiday meal. I’ve learned though. Now I gladly accept help, eliminate dishes no one cares about & take time for myself.

  4. Bobbi Neufer says:

    I would adore getting the recipe for your delicious sounding fudge!

  5. Gayle Gallagher says:

    I miss the family gatherings, I find this year very hard . The uncle and aunts have passed, cousins children have married, start their traditions and gone from 30 people to 10. Feel left behind, forgotten. Have invited people outside of family, found people have plans with their family. This is the first Christmas Eve my husband and I will be alone. Planned a nice dinner and midnight church. Christmas Day I entertain, not like it use to be. I guess I’m feeling sorry for myself, missing the memories. We never had children, puts you in a different spot. I’m trying to start new traditions , not working so well. Don’t forget the people you love when planning celebrations, they may need to be included.

    • Susan "Honey" Good says:

      I answered your situation on Ask Honey, my advice column on HoneyGood.com two Thursday’a ago.Did you see it. Happy New Year. Warmly, Honey

  6. I have longed for a quiet trip to a historic town with Christmas flavor to avoid doing all the work. So, my body and soul are telling me to rethink the work. I plan to give each person a recipe and ingredients for Christmas dinner prep. I find that the hard part is the thought and planning involved.
    However, it is a wonderful time to get together, so we will share the load.

    • Susan Good says:

      Great gift idea. Enjoy the planning because you are right it is a wonderful time to get together and, you are fortunate that you will have others share the load. Happy New Year. Warmly, Honey

  7. Kane Lime says:

    What a nice post! Thank you so much and I am really looking forward to reading more and more articles from you.
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