Yesterday at work, while I was braving our godawful restrooms, I overheard two women talking about the holidays. I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but acoustics carry in that place and they were hardly making an effort to keep their voices to a dull roar. As I squeezed past one of the women to get to the sink, she said to her friend “I just can’t get into the Christmas spirit this year. I’m so lost on what to get my daughter. I’m just going to give her $200 on Christmas morning and she can do whatever she wants with it.” To my surprise, her friend thought this was a fantastic idea, and the pair left me in peace to finish scrubbing my hands clean.
I already went on a short rant about gift giving last week, so I’ll spare you a recap. I will say that simply handing over some cash to a relative, especially a close relative like your child, is hardly the way to get into the holiday spirit if you’re not feeling it this time around. Instead of giving up and relying on the bare minimum to get you by, why not try…..
Saying Merry Christmas to more people, strangers or friends. It’s simple, easy, and doing it with a smile almost forces you to get in good spirits about the upcoming holiday. Not enough people say “Merry Christmas” anymore; I guarantee you’ll thrill the anti-Happy Holidays crowd, and in turn make yourself happier.
Don’t overspend/stress about gifts. This is advice I need to take myself, as I’m almost always stressing about getting enough gifts for everyone. Putting too much emphasis on how much you spend and/or how many things you get for each person in your life is a surefire way to murder your spirit. If a friend or family member is going to be offended because you didn’t spend enough or get them enough, they aren’t worth any gifts at all.
Stay away from the crowds! Do your grocery shopping during odd hours, DO NOT GO TO THE MALL, avoid rush hour as much as you possibly can, and try out smaller shops instead of braving the pit of hell that is Walmart. Nothing can get you angrier than being stuck behind the gaggle of old ladies while you’re just trying to pick up some eggs and a gift card. Avoidance will make you happier, regardless of the time of year.
Scatter decorations so you’re always around something Christmas related. Put a candy cane in your car, get a small wreath or bows for your office, and go to town at home. Do whatever is comfortable for you and fits your personal style. I can’t help but be in a good mood when I’m home and we flip the lights on, illuminating our tree. It always serves as a personal reminder of how magical this season can be.
Nog it up. Egg nog tends to magically appear around Thanksgiving and then vanish into the new year as mysteriously as it arrived. Even when it’s only my husband drinking it, just seeing it on the table and glimpsing the bottle in the fridge makes me feel spirited and excited about Christmas. There are endless choices for brand, flavor, plenty that come with alcohol already mixed in, and countless recipes online.
Go to church. This one doesn’t work for me anymore, but I can recall many times in my past where a few hours with youth group, doing secret angel gift exchanges and spending time together was one of my favorite pastimes during the month of December. Going to mass is also a great reminder about why we celebrate Christmas (for you religious folk).
Volunteer. When I was living in Connecticut, I did a lot of volunteer work at a home for disabled men, the elderly, at a soup kitchen/homeless shelter, and a few other places around my city. Doing so not only makes you more appreciative, it’s incredibly rewarding to know that you were able to help someone and brighten their day, even if it was only for a few moments.
Turn on some music. Holiday music that you enjoy, that is, as the music pumped through speakers in stores can have the exact opposite effect on your mood. The rock version of Mr. Grinch always puts a smile on my face. And then there is this. I dare you to not smile.
Make some cookies! If you have kids, make sure they are heavily involved. If not, bake some up for yourself and your favorite people. Decorate with icing, get fun cookie cutters, and have fun with it. If you’re more skilled than I, go for a cake, a pie, or whatever other dessert you associate with the holiday season.
Do an early gift exchange. My husband and I exchange one gift on Christmas Eve, which is a pretty common tradition. But why not exchange a gift now? Giving and receiving early will hype you up for Christmas morning by giving you a little sneak peek of what is coming. It’s always fun for me to try to choose a great gift for my husband to open early as well (although sometimes challenging when it’s wrapped and I can’t quite remember what it is).
Don’t be a loner! If you’re lucky enough to have family close by, spend time with them. If not, get together with friends. If that isn’t an option, volunteer work as referenced earlier will put you in close contact with others. Or go shopping and make it a point to smile at a stranger. Being alone is the worst way to get into the spirit, so surround yourself with people, spread some joy, and have a Merry Christmas!