Hello friends! It’s that time of year, and I thought I’d pen a quick holiday post. I don’t usually write a holiday post unless it’s something about traveling, but I thought maybe this year I’d write some words of encouragement. Man, this year has been ROUGH! But what I find is when things are rough and downright bad, good rises up. And with all the yuck and bad stuff we’ve witnessed this past year, so much good has happened as well. This gives me great hope, you guys. We’ve seen ordinary people do the extraordinary hard work of their calling, and folks, the world is changing because of it. I’m so thankful to know people, who despite difficulties, despite setbacks, despite heartbreak, just keep going and doing wonderful, amazing acts of kindness. It’s humbling, that’s for sure.
So I wanted to write a bit about the holidays because sometimes the holidays seem like they are a part of the not so good stuff. I’ve spoken to so many people who, for various reasons, dread the holidays. I think we can thank Hobby Lobby and other retailers and their overly zealous Christmas decorating in October for that. This is where the pressure can start, right? Like stores are reminding us: CHRISTMAS IS COMING–and there ARE EXPECTATIONS!! AHHHHHHH!!! It makes you want to run screaming into the desert. I get it. I’ve been there more times than I care to remember. The holidays can bring a terrible storm–waves of panic and depression that find us and wash over us crushing any Christmas spirit we might have had. Why is that?
I think part of the problem is we get these ideas in our head of what Christmas is supposed to look like. And when our holidays don’t look like the ones we see on TV or in the movies, then we think we are missing out. When that dreamy ideal of spending the holidays with our loved ones, or for those of us who are single, that special someone, doesn’t quite happen or when we know it’s not going to happen we get all twisted up in our emotions and then we end up feeling downright awful. There’s a line in “When Harry Met Sally” (one of the greatest movies of all time, btw) where Harry tells Sally: “The holidays are coming up.” And she replies: “Yeah, a lot of depression; a lot of suicides.” This line is so funny because they are at a wedding where they are supposed to be celebrating, and they are both stuck in their mutual despising of first, each other, and second, of celebrating anything. And this is how it goes, right? When we think our celebrating, or what we do during the holidays doesn’t look “right,” we begin to focus on what’s going wrong. It’s so easy to find ourselves here. We’ve got LOTS of commercials reminding us what we lack.
I have spent my holidays in lots of different ways. I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving at a luau in Hawaii with friends. I’ve spent Christmas day sitting in an airport, waiting on a delayed flight, just me and some mice–not kidding here– I’ve got videos to prove it. I’ve watched fireworks on New Year’s eve in Hong Kong, and have sung carols in the desert–all of these NOT the Hallmark channel version of the holidays at all. And while there are times, sure, I wish for that picture perfect family around the Christmas tree holiday, that’s not happening for me now, or maybe ever. So what then? Should I be sad about what I’m missing? Should I just keep myself in perpetual mourning for a holiday celebration I might never have? Friend, please. Just stop. No way! Life is too short, too precious for that nonsense. So here’s what. If you are worried about what your holidays might look like this year, think about this:
Does your holiday look like grace? Are you going to share what you have with others? Even when we didn’t have very much, we would find ways to share with others. We would make Christmas cookies for the neighbors, invite people over for pizza and old movies, have a games night. Take a treat to someone elderly who is alone. Buy someone’s coffee for them on a busy morning. Let someone go ahead of you in line on Christmas eve. See? It’s not that complicated. Grace.
Does your holiday look like mercy? Are you going the extend a hand of friendship to someone who is different from you? Will you be more tolerant of differences as the holidays approach, or will you insist that Christmas is the only holiday worthy of celebrating? Sure, by all means, share your celebrations with others, but don’t think that if someone doesn’t embrace your “Merry Christmas,” that it means we are all doomed. Let’s celebrate our diversity and learn something from each other. Mercy.
Does your holiday look like forgiveness? Ahhh, yes. This is a tough one, isn’t it? I think sometimes forgiveness is a sticky business because we confuse forgiving with “making up.” When we forgive, it is an act we do for ourselves. We are not absolving the person who wronged us. No. We forgive so we don’t become bitter and consume that poison that is sure to eat us up. Forgiveness is an act of our will to let go of anger and frustrations for ourselves. When we give forgiveness, we gain our freedom.
And finally does your holiday look like love? If there is one thing our world needs more of it is this. L O V E. Man! Do we need it!! And you know what? You can show love in so many different ways. Like the things I’ve listed here in this post. If you are doing those things, friend, you are showing love. Because grace, mercy and forgiveness at their cores are tied to love. Love on each other, friends. Love each other HARD this year.
So, if you are worried that your holidays don’t look “right”, I think if they look like any of what I’ve mentioned here, you’re going to be just fine. Because ultimately, the holidays aren’t about what your tree looks like, or what kinds of gifts you buy, or even who you are with. The holidays are about mindfulness and reflection…seeking to be the very best version of ourselves so we can show the world that love still wins. And there is no amount of money or stuff that will ever surpass love. Because love, dearest friends, is freely given, and it is available to all.
Have a joyous holiday, friends! Embrace it all!! Annnnd, if all else, fails, you can make this festive sangria. I promise you at least your beverage can taste like Christmas!!
Till next time,
Happy Holidays Sangria:
- 4C of apple juice (I just used the bottle kind)
- the peel and juice of one large orange
- the peel and juice of one lemon
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- about a cup of cranberries (fresh and mash them with a fork or halve them so the juice comes out)
- 1 tablespoon of whole cloves
- 1 or 2 star anise (you can leave this out all together if you want, but I love it)
- 2 tablespoons of sugar or honey
Heat all of this on the stove for about 15 or 20 minutes. Let it boil down a bit. Then cool and strain it. I had to strain twice. But it depends on what you like. Pour the mixture into a large pitcher. Add one cup of orange liqueur of choice. I used Cointreau, but Grand Marnier works just as well. And one bottle of good, crisp white wine like Pinot Grigio or Savignon Blanc. Stir together. Get a large wine glass and add ice and sliced up fruit (I used fruits that made the base of the sangria–apples, oranges, lemons, cranberries and add a sprig of rosemary). The rosemary looks like a tiny Christmas tree, and has an earthy taste. Pour in the wine mixture to about 3/4 full and top off with soda water. I swear you guys, it’s like Christmas in a glass. Cheers to a memorable and festive holiday wherever you are!! <3