Managing Holiday Expectations

Do you tend to get more down as the holidays approach instead of happier? Do the holidays mean more stress and exhaustion in an already busy schedule?

I enjoyed Christmas in Thailand, a predominantly Buddhist country. In Thailand only Christians celebrated Christmas. It wasn’t diluted by the non-Christians’ celebration of some meaningless holiday. And there wasn’t the hustle and bustle of a more consumerist approach to the season.

But with any holiday there is that possibility of adding on more activity to an already busy schedule. And in the busy-ness it’s easy to get less sleep and more irritable. So what to do?

Holidays are often impacted greatly by expectations – especially differing expectations within a family, or even internal expectations we have of ourselves. I have to fix food for guests. I have to get gifts for those being celebrated. The house should look nice. We need to all be together, whatever it takes to make it happen. And the clincher – we should all get along together with peace and joy and love in our hearts!

That’s a tall order! Here are a few tips to get through the upcoming, or any, holiday:

  1. Talk with each other. Get together with family, roommates, teammates, to talk about what you each expect, re: traditions – what would make the holiday special, what things would be hard that you’d like to avoid if possible. Be open and clear with each other. Don’t start to negotiate at this stage, just give opportunity for each voice to be heard.
  2. Find the common denominators of what would make the time special. Think outside the box. Maybe start some new traditions, especially if past traditions of your home culture aren’t available.
  3. Show respect for the desires and anxieties of each other. “What a lovely activity that would be. Sure wish there was some way to make it happen.” Don’t just immediately say, “Well that can never happen.”
  4. Remember that listening to each other and valuing each other in the discussion can, in and of itself, be stress relieving and affirming.
  5. Agree on what kind of time frame will be set aside for the celebration. Put it on the calendar in ink! Make sure you mark out any preparation time needed as well on the calendar. Try to be realistic!
  6. Remember perfection is not the goal. Celebration, time together, enjoying one another’s company are what are really important.

May you have a peace-full celebration of the incarnation.

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