When the relatives begin to arrive for the holidays, we’re glad to see them, but sometimes feel like the aliens have landed.
We wonder, who are these people, what are they doing here, and what do they want?
Rather than slipping back into our own threadbare patterns and traditions, perhaps it’s time to have alien holidays. Alien holidays offer totally new experiences, lessons and traditions.
We can begin by inviting guests to take their shoes off as they enter our house and offering them bright-colored socks. These will serve as a constant reminder that these aren’t the usual holidays. Each time they notice their socks, our relatives will perk up a bit. And, when they head back to their home planets, they will have their special socks to remind them of this outrageous holiday.
We can still have a turkey, but we should put something quite wonderful inside of it—a surprise that nobody would expect. Be creative, creativity reminds people that life is exciting.
If we want, we can color eggs for Christmas, or include a little bowl of chocolate-covered ants strategically placed so that everybody has the opportunity to try them. If we want to really stretch our limits, we can make the ants ourselves.
Here are some other suggestions for creating an outrageous holiday season—may they be of benefit!
In the face of habit and tradition, people trance out. Interrupting these age-old patterns helps people wake up, show up and connect with each other.
The holidays are the perfect time to go against the flow: have a little mindful mutiny and have the best time ever. It’s never too early to add a whole bunch of novelty to life.
Whether you are traveling for the holidays or staying home there are ways that you can take remind yourself that life is grand.
When we’re traveling, it’s worth noticing where our feet are; they are wherever we are, while our minds are often elsewhere. When it comes to our current location, our feet know best.
I thought I was headed to Panama for Thanksgiving week.
I was flying standby. Well, actually I wasn’t flying at all. Sure, I got through security without extra degradation. Certainly I made it to the gate, early as always. My car was parked, paid for 11 days. But I quickly discovered the downside of standby.
I’m not sure what the numbers were on the first flight I missed but the second flight they were asking for volunteers to give up their seat for $260. They needed two volunteers. I was number 18 on the standby list. My chance of flying was roughly the same as commandeering a goose that happened to be heading south to make room for me on her back. I think the plane actually sat nine people.
My goose was cooked. And I also discovered that the next day, Sunday, was even more tightly booked, as was the rest of the week. So the visions of Panama dancing in my head were a fantasy that was not going to happen.
I have to admit I felt a little tricked, philosophically challenged, and amused at the same time. I looked around at other standby passengers; they appeared poised to spend long hours in the airport—passively. As some of you know, that’s not my style.
A bit confused, perhaps stunned, and without the little wing pin the pilot gives kids on my lapel I headed home. I had overpacked for one day at the airport—but, I had quite a journey.
Now, after two days relaxing at home, I am headed back to the airport. This time it won’t be standby; it will be a first class ticket to Panama. Maybe I’ll actually be flying, but I’m not that psychic, so it’s impossible to tell. “Outlook uncertain” says that best of all lucky eight balls, my mind.
To all of you who will be traveling for the holidays, I wish you great journeys. But even while you are traveling it is great practice to be exactly where you are. Hanging in a big metal bird over Omaha munching peanuts isn’t one bit better or worse than cuddling up by the fireplace. When it comes to being present, it is exactly the same!
Many of us take our homes for granted. The holidays are a perfect opportunity to have a fresh look at them. Before company descends on the place, we can spruce it up—file that stack of bills or last year’s Christmas cards, or throw them out. Paint that molding, or coax the dust out of the back of the cupboards. Throw out anything in the refrigerator with an expiration date before the year 1999.
Heck, making our home a bit more conscious is a great gift to ourselves for the holidays. Fix that broken shoe lace, throw out that chipped dish, notice anything that grabs your attention and, if it fires off negative thoughts, change it, get rid of it or do whatever is necessary to have your home feel like a safe fairy tale home.
Set aside a small wall in a less travelled part of your house, and bring in a supply of paint samples from the local hardware store; then invite relatives to express themselves with paint and little brushes on that wall.
Nothing says holidays like Uncle Nick’s bad breath, Cousin Mary with her strong political opinions and Bill, who drinks too much, is a bit too loud and can’t keep his hands to himself.
No other species that I know of remains connected to relatives for a lifetime. But we do, and so we might as well learn to make the most of it. The cure for the age regression, immaturity and traumas that relatives often inspire is presence.
If we’re with Mom, Dad, kids or friends in the moment, the past can’t attack us and turn Thanksgiving or Christmas into the impromptu therapy session from hell.
Let these people be who they are, and remain open and curious about that. Heck, some of them might have grown since the last get-together—and we might have too.
Never—and I mean never—use your first response when a relative says or does something that might hook you, tear you out of the moment and take you to your defensive worst self. Instead, observe. Notice what they said and your response to it. Behind that first response is another and another; wait patiently until there is something more fun and less abrasive than boiling Uncle Pete in hot peanut oil. There is no need to react when you can feel and use any and every stimulus to bring you more presence.
Enjoy the company of these odd people as though they are aliens just arrived from another planet. Could be that some of them are.
There is nothing more alien or radical than being present.
Presence makes the holidays, or any day, warmer, softer, more real and rewarding. Embrace what is and you can’t go wrong. Love yourself and others just the way that you all are—and the way that you aren’t. You won’t need that third piece of pie to numb yourself out, and you just might discover that the ways that you have changed and grown since the last holidays inspire the best holidays ever.
Enjoy. Celebrate. Then send them all back to their own planets!
Author: Jerry Stocking
Editor: Toby Israel