Keeping your zen during the holidays…

Pencil sketch by author of

Pencil sketch by author of

‘Tis the season of peace, joy and love…and 101 things on the must-get-done-before-Christmas list. The holiday season brings a feeling of warmth and love that spreads like a happy contagion amongst us. But competing with those festive, happy molecules is a barrage of go-go-go messages.

Go make this the best Christmas ever. Go get this present and that present for this person and that person. Get it right so there are smiles and happy memories for everyone. Ready the house for guests. Stock the pantry. Fill the house with the scents of Christmas baking. Schedule in concerts, parties, and get-togethers. Make sure your list is complete so you only have to do the 30 minute find-a-parking-spot-at-the-mall game once (or twice, or…). Try not to go slowly insane as the same Christmas carol loops endlessly around and around in your head.

Getting tangled up in all the To Do’s and tarnishing the joy of the holiday season is a trap that one can easily fall into. Search the internet using the words “stress” and “Christmas” and you will find 101 articles. My quick search revealed an entire website dedicated to the topic () as well as a government funded website with an article produced in consultation with an anxiety recovery center ()

So, why is it that a season known for the word combination “peace, joy, and love” has taken such a wayward turn into Stressville? What are we trying to create?

If you ask someone to recall a childhood Christmas memory, my guess is that the vast majority (who celebrate Christmas) will have one. Their eyes might light up as they share a memory that has been transformed into magical, mythical proportions. Or the light will diminish, as fragments flood back from an anything-but-happy Christmas.

So is that what pulls us in? Are we trying to re-create something we once had? Are we trying to give that same magical experience to our children (or the child in us)? Or are we trying to make up for something we never had? To give ourselves/our children something better?

The more the past pulls us in, the more tightly we hold on and the more stressful it becomes. The more in the past, the less we are in the present where the good stuff happens.

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” — Thích Nhất Hạnh

If we are so busing trying to orchestrate the perfect Christmas, it is easy to miss those unscripted, unplanned little moments that often become the Christmas memories we remember. When I think of a warm Christmas memory (and I have been blessed with many of them), what is it that I am actually remembering? Did all the To-Do’s get done to make the perfect Christmas? Or did Christmas feel “perfect” because of something else?

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”–  Bob Hope

When we get caught up in all the glitz and glitter, trying to create the perfect Christmas it is so easy to miss all the little moments that are happening around us. Those every day moments are like gifts wrapped in plain brown paper: if you are so busy looking for bright packages of perfection, you can miss them. What if we slowed down enough so the hidden gem in each moment could be found? If we paused long enough to unwrap the brown paper and find the gift within?

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why it is called the present.” — Alice Morse Earle

“We’re so busy watching out for what’s just ahead of us that we don’t take time to enjoy where we are.”– Bill Watterson

“Be happy in the moment, that’s enough. Each moment is all we need, not more.” — Mother Teresa

“Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas.” — Peg Bracken

2 Responses to “Keeping your zen during the holidays…”

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  1. says:

    It is so easy to get tangled in The To-Do’s. Another great post Diane with an important message for this time of year.

  2. Loreen Graw says:

    I have distinct memories of my childhood all started the day of Christmas eve. Brothers or pa going out to the bush to cut down the (us) waiting at home for it to arrive. setting it up.. had specific ideas of how to do this. decorating the house..this was more or less decorating depending if Marcy was home since we did most of this not mom. Then came out the nuts, Japanese oranges, candy. then mass either at midnight (or close to it) in the early days, earlier in the evening as I got older. and then waking up in the morning to open the 2 or 3 presents we got. Diane, a very big part of Christmas day for me was looking forward to and the arrival of your family to our home for Christmas dinner and evening of cards and playing.
    (Diane, I don’t know if you know this: your family’s visit to us was always a highlight for me in the days you came over to anytime in the year. I remember the anticipation and then finally! your arrival.)
    I’ve tried to capture some of the magic of Christmas in our family..have done so only a little. When my kids were little we did have some traditions..sort of..but since coming from such a large family, and almost no extended family around here, things were very different. We still get together, and look forward to it, but sometimes, esp before the grandbabies were born, I just wanted to go off somewhere else….and skip the family thing. I always stayed and it always worked but the same magic was never quite created. soo.. I am grateful for the magic that my childhood Christmases were..and it is what it is now too. xoxo Loreen