Some people really enjoy the holiday season and do lots of decorating, baking, shopping & wrapping, sending out cards, and what-not. Some people hate it and do it anyway and become stressed to the max.
I gave up sending Christmas cards years ago...I think a phone call to out-of-towners and a personal visit to those nearby is so much better.
I have decorated less and less over the years. Last year was just candles in the windows and a wreath on the door, with a few special sentimental treasures on the mantel. It takes less time to do, takes up less space to store afterwards, and adds a little bit of festive without being overpowering.
Gift giving is at a minimum, which means no trips to the mall, no fighting crowds in stores or on the road, and no angst about what to get and will they like it. Also, no more staying up until midnight wrapping presents. The grandkids are older and appreciate money to go towards what they really want. DH and I either split the cost of a nice large item for the home or the cost of going away for a long weekend.
We've started a tradition of going to NYC for Christmas that I really enjoy. There is no place like the Big Apple that creates a more warm Christmas spirit. Last year we visited the 911 Memorial on Christmas Day and it was a very touching and spiritual experience for me. The following day we took a liesurely carriage ride in Central Park. Christmas is the most relaxing, unhurried time you'll ever experience in the city. My niece and her fiance just moved from Atlanta to Manhattan last October and we're going to enjoy a traditional Christmas Eve dinner with them, complete with homemade pierogies from my Slovak Russian heritage
I have baked less and less over recent years. All those different cookies on a huge platter were nice, but way too much. Less is definitely more when it comes to things like that. Better to indulge in moderation because it tastes so much better when it's not served up with a side of guilt. This year I'm limiting my baking to some white chocolate apricot scones to take to my niece's (which are delightful with coffee or tea).
My mom, my dad, and my sister have passed. I miss their physical presence this time of year and their spiritual presence is felt more strongly. It's hard not to visit the past to relive the happy moments I had with them. It's okay to visit if it's brief and warm, but lingering there too long makes it much too sad and unpleasant. I have to move on and appreciate the here and now. I have to focus on what I have, not what I have lost.
I am constantly changing as each year goes by; my hope is that I am evolving in a positive direction. I crave simplicity. I enjoy an uncluttered life. I don't need much - it's my wants that get in the way sometimes. I am working on taming my wants....it's a spontaneous compulsive thing when I want something. it's purely my childlike ego that feels it deserves this and that. I find that it passes if I just stop and take a deep breath instead of compulsively reacting to a momentary desire. So often I have purchased something I thought I couldn't live without, only to later toss it aside. It eventually would make its way into the yard sale. Having "things" gives temporary pleasure, but it's a never-ending stream of desire, like a bottom-less pit that never gets filled to the top. The more it continues, the less satisfaction is derived from it. It's exactly the same with food. In my experience, constant eating tends to dull my pleasure center. It takes more and more to make me feel satisfied. I feel it's better to eat enjoyable food and eat less. Ha! Much easier said than done, but I believe it to be a practice that can be acquired by mindfulness. Mindfulness in eating is not an easy trait either. My hope is that through meditation and continual awareness of all things that surround me I will be able to become more mindful in eating as well.
I chuckle to think back on all the years I would write out my New Year's Resolutions. The phrasing may have changed, but the two major themes were always losing weight and saving more money. They were the same year after year after year. Then I finally gave up on resolutions. I believe it's better to have daily intentions. A new practice I am working on is to start each morning writing out my intentions for that day. The very act of writing it out increases the chances of following through. Whatever comes to mind is okay. It can be something productive, something fun, something relaxing, or a combination of all these things. The point is to contemplate and plan the day such that it's a day of deliberate creation. The one thing we don't have an over-abundance of is time. Using the minutes wisely becomes more and more significant as we age. The older I get, the more I get a sense of how very fast time passes. Each day is a gift that must not be wasted.
I'm happy that I have transitioned from the hectic pace and disliking of the holidays to the now serene and simple holiday traditions. I used to say "I can't wait for the holidays to be over" and I would be relieved once January 1 arrived so things could get back to "normal". Now I feel tranquil as I cherish each moment of the day and do what gives me joy instead of what I feel is expected. I can fully immerse myself in the spirit of love, giving of oneself to family & cherished friends, and experiencing an ever-flowing appreciation of all that is. I now can say that I love the holiday season and feel more peaceful than ever during this time of the year, which continues to carry on throughout all the days that follow.