It was Thanksgiving in the U.S. a few weeks ago.  For me, and I’m guessing for many of you, it was an unusual day.  As someone who has celebrated with throngs of relatives my entire life, the quiet was a new experience.  But a good day emerged out of the strangeness, one filled with reflection and gratitude.

During a long walk after a minimal but delicious midday holiday meal, I stumbled upon a realization that stopped me in my tracks.  This year, with its volatile ups and downs, is no accident.  This year is a bridge from where we were to where we’re going.  This year is leading us toward new territory.  This year is asking us to ready ourselves for the journey ahead.  Pow!  

With that as the backdrop, I thought about the upcoming holiday season.  Here are the questions I posed and some musings on each:

There are two overarching themes for me this holiday season:  1) giving myself permission to feel whatever I’m feeling; and 2) creating space by letting go of what no longer serves and keeping that space open to welcome the new.

  • What is the essence of the holiday season for me?  If I set aside media-fueled images of perfection and reflect on what makes December special, I feel the holiday spirit in my heart and with my senses.  The aspects that bring me joy are connecting with those I love, giving to others, expressing gratitude, creating special meals, enjoying the winter weather and relaxing in the glow of the fire.
  • How will my relationship with the holidays change?  In the past, there have been immovable boundaries:  office holiday parties, set celebration times with family, holiday traditions, etc.  Expectations have shifted from customs to safety.  Visits with loved ones will be in smaller groups and on different days.  For me, this comes as a relief as I can focus on being present and spending quality time.
  • How would I like to welcome the new year?  New Year’s is my favorite holiday because it feels like receiving the gift of a clean slate.  Since I opt for quiet celebrations at home, the change will be minimal.  I’m planning on preparing and enjoying new dinner and cocktail recipes by the fire, while engaging in conversation about the past year and the one on the horizon.

For the first one, I’m holding an intention to welcome whatever feelings arise, name them (sad, disconnected, joyful, etc.) and just let them be without attaching emotion.  I know this is easier to write than to do, but I see this as a chance to deepen my daily journaling and meditation practices.

For the second, I’ve created a game of sorts called Advent Clearing.  It’s a take on the Advent calendar, where each day in December leading up to Christmas a little surprise is revealed, such as a piece of chocolate.  My intention is to turn the season of giving into a season of giving away by clearing a space in my house for one hour each day in December.  As incentive, I’ve already scheduled a pick-up with the local veteran’s association on December 15th and 31st and posted a calendar in my office to keep track of my progress.  I will report back in my next blog post.

Lastly, I think a little sparkle is much needed this year as well, little glimmers of sweetness and beauty.  I’m looking forward to a month of small daily rituals I enjoy (coffee in bed before sunrise, an inspiring book, midday walks in nature) mixed with simple activities that capture the holiday essence (a playlist for the new year, decorating with natural elements like fresh pine, helping those in need).

I’m wishing each of you a little sparkle, too.  May you experience a bit of ease and beauty as this unusual year winds down.