November 23, 2011

Om for the Holidays. ~ Liz Kitchens

I was shopping for Halloween decorations in the “seasonal” section of a big box store and experienced a mini electrical jolt when I rounded a corner to encounter a wonderland of Santa sculptures, nativity scenes and light bedecked Christmas trees.   Halloween definitely elicits a few horrors.   I must have seasonal amnesia.  I truly forget each year (and I’m currently in my 58th) how early stores begin featuring Baby Jesus with a light bulb in his head on their showroom floors.  (This was late September) My husband, son, and I,for years have had a bet as to when the first signs of Christmas would appear (kind of like the star over Bethlehem followed by the Three Wisemen).

Now, let me be quick to say, I LOVE CHRISTMAS.  When I contemplated converting to Judaism in my former marriage, I was perfectly willing to celebrate Rosh Hashanah and spend the day fasting in quiet contemplation on Yom Kippur.  However, giving up Christmas was out of the question.   As women, though, we are particularly prone to feeling responsible for holidays and special occasions.  It’s déjà vu all over again as we face the prospect of endless shopping trips for perfect presents and food for feasts.  We will make the annual pilgrimage to our attics, climbing rickety ladders retrieving ornaments, strands of burned out lights, and ceramic Santas.  Garland and gifts gradually take over guest rooms (Where will the kids sleep when they return home from their fall semester? After all, aren’t they the reason we engage in these rituals every year?).  We will watch Miracle on 34th Street for the 34th time up to our elbows in cookie dough and wrapping paper. We often spend money we don’t have in pursuit of an ideal nestled into our memories leftover from Christmases past. Sometimes those memories don’t match the reality of the frenzy inherent in the festivities.

Perhaps we just need a reminder to help us escape from the stress and schedules even for a second or two and re-discover the playful side of this colorful holiday.  I know my brain gets tired of checking off the incessant to-do lists.  Let’s try envisioning a different kind of holiday, one that might not feel so harried.  It helps to have a visual mantra reminding us to approach the holiday with a more playful attitude.  I know what this symbol looks like to me…it’s my Yogi Santa.

A couple of years ago I created a polymer clay Santa seated in a lotus position on a yoga mat. It now lives with the rest of my Christmas collection most of the year.  I smile each year unwrapping this whimsical art piece.  Yogi Santa reminds me to kick back a little and breathe through the frenzy of the holiday festivities.

What about you?  Are you satisfied with your winter holiday traditions?  Should you think about imagining a different kind of holiday, one that might not feel as harried?  What would your ideal holiday look and feel like?

Why not try Santa’s 12 tips for celebrating an ideal holiday.  While these may be Christmas focused, they apply to any religious tradition or special occasion.

1.   Color Your Christmas. Forget those boring white lights.  Color is a lot more fun and adds a sense of delight and playfulness in keeping with the spirit of the season.

2.  Hang Out With Friends. Save time and space for friends and loved ones during this holiday season.  Those will be the cherished memories long after the decorations have been stowed back in the attic and the re-gifted presents returned.

3.   Do Traditional Things. Trim a “real tree” not an artificial one.  It helps make the holiday more authentic.  I know it’s kind of a pain wrestling the tree into its stand and making sure it stays upright.  Real trees certainly have their share of imperfections, but they can serve as a reminder that things aren’t supposed to be perfect.  Besides they smell so good.

4.   Go on Vacation. Ok, so this idea may be far from traditional, but sometimes you might just need to use the holiday season as an opportunity to take a much needed vacation.   Even if Christmas or Chanukah is about family, sometimes one needs a break from family.  Going away provides just such an excuse.

5.   Enjoy Others’ Traditions. There is Chanukah, Ramadan, Quanza, and Boxing Day.  Christmas isn’t the only celebration occurring during this season.   Surely you have a Jewish friend or two.

6.   Sing Holiday Songs. After all, aren’t  carols some of the only songs we know by heart?  I know that is true for me.  Singing tinsel tunes just puts me in a better frame of mind.

7.   Eat Forbidden Foods. We diet all year long.  Christmas calls for a vacation from dieting.   And don’t feel guilty.  (OK, so just don’t eat the whole pie)

8.   Give to Others. Let generosity be your guide during this holiday season. (That does not necessarily mean, however, overindulging your children)

9.   Breathe. Relax and breathe in the midst of the frenzy and festivities of the season.  (And while you say you don’t have time, taking a yoga class or two will help you with the whole breathing thing)

10.  Enjoy Your Family. Pause amid the Christmas chaos and spend precious time with those you love.  (My Dad died this year.  I’m thankful I spent Christmas Eve with him last year and many years before).

11.  Ask for Toys. Don’t let the kids get all the toys; ask for a few for yourself.

12.  Toast Yourself for Living Through the Past Year. Toast yourself for living through one of the worst economic years in our history.

Whatever your spiritual tradition, may it be colorful, fun, and filled with goodness.

Liz Kitchens is a Claywriter who enjoys writing in clay and sculpting with words.  Her own blog can be found at here and is entitled “Be Brave. Lose the Beige.  Be Brave. Lose the Beige encourages Lady Boomers (and any others who will listen) to introduce more creativity, fun, and joy into their busy lives.

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