Jamie’s Guide To Less Stressful Holidays

Jamie’s Guide To Less Stressful Holidays

Listen... Do you hear what I hear? The distant sleigh bells coming ever closer... the hoofbeats of reindeer...  The inexorably shambling footfalls of shopping mobs...   It can only mean one thing. They're coming. They're coming! They're almost here! Are you ready for the holidays?! Are you ready for the stress that inevitably comes with them? Yes, the

Listen…

Do you hear what I hear?

The distant sleigh bells coming ever closer… the hoofbeats of reindeer…  The inexorably shambling footfalls of shopping mobs…   It can only mean one thing.

They’re coming.

They’re coming!

They’re almost here!

Are you ready for the holidays?! Are you ready for the stress that inevitably comes with them?

Yes, the holidays are coming, and with them, the barrage of assaults against your mental health.

Alongside the images of hot chocolate, children waiting eagerly for Santa, cute reindeer, holly berries, carolers, puppies with red ribbons, snowball fights, Lexuses with giant red bows on them, and diamond commercials urging you to remind your significant woman how much she means to you, you know what else is coming…

Thdoorbustere bloodsport of Black Friday has already encroached so much in the US  that some people race out the door the minute they put down their Thanksgiving forks to stand in the cold, ready to lunge headlong through the gap for deals the minute the doors open. Stores whip shoppers into a fever pitch for weeks beforehand, whispering sweet nothings about doorbusters in their ears. They encourage us to bust down the doors. They subtly, almost subliminally, goad us to abandon our thin veneer of civilization, forget our manners, and brutalize our neighbors, all during what is supposed to be the season of “good will toward men.” I never liked the idea of  Black Friday, but the year someone was trampled to death in a Wal-Mart was enough to make me swear off for life. I haven’t set foot in a mall or major department store on Black Friday since. I’ve already heard stories from this year of brawls and little grannies snatching things from others.

As if that’s not a stressful enough, don’t forget the ” _ _  SHOPPING DAYS TIL CHRISTMAS” countdown, and the ads, pop-ups, commercials, and signs urging you to buy, buy, buy—to keep up with the Joneses and pay later, all to make the Best! Holiday! Ever! For your family! Never mind finding the time! Never mind finding the money! Be aware of it for what it is. Enjoy the “elf yourself” widget. Enjoy the nostalgic Norelco Santa riding his razor sleigh, but don’t let the marketing machine lure you close enough to grind you in its gears.

Despite how harsh and cynical I may sound, I have always loved the holidays at heart, but the constantly worsening stress has made it hard for me to remember that. I had, for a time, kind of given up on a picture perfect holiday. My mom’s got mental health issues she refuses to get treated, and that has made the holidays harder and increasingly stressful over the years. The tree had to be decorated just so, and just so over the years became less like something a family decorated and more like something you’d see in a department store window. When she told me I was decorating the tree wrong, I quit trying to participate in tree-trimming, something I’d loved since childhood. You ought to see my tree now: it’s a shamelessly nerdy, relentlessly cheerful, pop-culture thing of wonder with no two ornaments alike in a riot of sparkling color and music controlled by my Android tablet! I make no apologies. It makes me happy.

The year my kid sister and I surprised my mom with putting up the decorations to save her the trouble and cheer her up, rather than “thank you,” the first words out of her mouth were “did you clean first?” So, feeling criticized and unappreciated for trying to make the holidays special just sucked the fun right out for me.

An earlier boyfriend with an alcoholic mom meant his coping mechanism was treating the holidays as “just another day,” never even considering that, as a couple, we could build our own traditions, leaving our families’ dysfunctional ones behind.

Now I’m with a partner who likes building new traditions, and we’re doing just that. Even though he misses his own family, he understands that the holidays were hard for me, and that I get along best with my blood kin kept at a minimum safe distance. He does his best to make the holidays low stress and high fun for me. In that spirit, I want to share the same concepts for coping until you can forge your own path through the thorny, society-defined thicket of the holiday season. I’m working on my mental health issues. In the process, I’ve learned that what makes me happy is precious and valuable. That which stresses me out or hurts me is not necessarily as important as other people want me to think it is.

It takes time, practice and patience to safely navigate the temptation and stress filled minefield that is the holiday season. Here are some of my tried and true methods for surviving until the sigh of relief that is January.

Mind your money! 

Resolve to keep within your budgetary limits. Anyone who expects more from you than you can afford has forgotten the true meaning of the holiday season and isn’t worth your time. They’re definitely not worth your stress. You’re the only one who gets to decide whether you want to make exceptions. Your own expenses take priority.

If you really like the bargains, you can do Black Friday online to avoid the Mad Max-style fighting, or wait for Cyber Monday. I may gripe about holiday decorations showing up in August, but I usually do start shopping that early so that I have plenty of time to shop gradually rather than trying to scramble all at once with limited funds and time. Which leads to my next point…

Time is Fleeting. Madness Takes Its Toll. Please Have Exact Change.

There is only so much time in the holiday season. There are work obligations for you and the partner or spouse, there are family obligations, there are friends to spend time with. Then you have to think about the whole process of getting to and from those places: are you driving? Flying? Taking a bus or a train? What about working, eating, sleeping, and having time to cook or order food for those events? To say nothing of shopping and wrapping presents! If you have a retail job, that’s twice as bad because you have a grueling, emotionally, and physically draining day before you can even consider any of the other stuff. It is okay to schedule out your time in a way that works for you. If you’re in school you have finals! Do you really need to go driving into the rich neighborhoods to see the light displays? Gather in front of the TV and YouTube the best ones. It’s cozier and warmer at home, and the police will be happier for the reduced traffic problems.

I have a friend I text right after Halloween because she works retail. Her birthday is in late November. If I don’t get together with her right at the beginning of November, I won’t see her until after the New Year. So for years now, we’ve gotten together at a restaurant to hang out, give her her birthday present, hug, and say “see ya next year,” because we both know she won’t have the time or energy until after the holiday rush because of her job. It’s one of our not-quite-holiday traditions, and it works for us.

As time savers go, there are lots of handy to-do list apps. I personally dig http://todoist.com. You can set up organization in whatever manner you like. You can link up with other Todoist users so you don’t end up with three aunties all getting the same toy for the same kid. There are comment features so you can work out details on the fly. You can track packages and set reminders. It even has GPS so you can get reminders to do things when you’re in a certain location so you can make the most of your time management.

My favorite time-saver for when you get invited last minute to some holiday get together or other? Quickie microwave fudge. Stop at the dollar store for a candy dish and a festive ribbon. Sprinkle confectioner’s sugar in the dish and on top of the fudge, and it looks like you went to a lot of work. (But this recipe takes maybe 15 minutes and 15 more to set while you’re showering and dressing.) It’s also versatile. You can add 1/2 teaspoon of whatever flavor extract you like, or stir in marshmallow, or use different nuts than the recipe calls for, so you can be inventive and creative in a short amount of time. Great for when a kid needs to bring something to a holiday party at school because it’s easy to make a huge amount too.

If you want to share gluten free sweets with your friends, family and other loved ones for the  holidays this year (or treat yourself and not share with anyone) but don’t have time to bake, I cannot recommend enough Good Seed Macarons. They’re a dedicated gluten free bakery, and they do mail order!  They’re reasonably priced and have a variety of delectable flavors, plus a handful of special flavors that change every month.  Just resist the urge to gobble down the whole box at one time. Too much of a sugar rush is bad for the stress level too!

Don’t forget to figure in shipping time if you have to send gifts from the web or via the post office, UPS or FedEx!

Ho, the Humanity!

Do you really want to race around the mall at top speed like some dystopian game show contestant fighting over baubles or gesture gifts and risking getting elbowed or a black eye or being trampled over a cheap flatscreen? Do you really want to watch other people act like they can’t recall that the poor souls working the register are human beings? Do you really want to think about how hard it has to be for them to keep the smile on their face while some jerk is blowing halitosis in their face because the store is out of an item on a circular that clearly says “supplies limited,” and they can’t swear back when said jerk calls them every name in the book and then some?  If you must shop, be kind, and do what you can when you can to encourage others to be kind as well.

Above all, remember you do not have to participate in stress.  In our world of  pre-packaged convenience, it is so easy to get frustrated and angry when things go wrong.  It is almost a reflex to take it out on the service person due to the dreaded phrase “the customer is always right”.  No matter how hard your day is, it’s not the fault of any person behind any cash register.  Even if they ask you to get off your cellphone at the register.  They’re human beings deserving of common courtesy the same as you are, so it is not cool to snap, yell, or otherwise abuse anybody. at the holidays or any other time.  Remember, every time you’re kind to someone during the holiday retail rush, the ghost of Jimmy Stewart smiles or something.

If the barista doesn’t give you a bag for the pastry you ordered, it’s not because they hate you and want you to drop your overpriced thematic snowman cookie on the filthy floor and make you starve. Take a breath and think about the real reason.   Their job almost certainly ordered them to save money by not giving out shopping bags unless asked.  So smile and ask — politely –for a bag.

I pretty much declare shopping malls off limits from November 1 to January 15.   I route around them to avoid the traffic snarls they cause because those make other drivers cranky and prone to road rage.  Be aware of it,  plan for it, and keep away from it!

Peer Pressure? Tell ’em to Peppermint Stick it! 

The “kissing under the mistletoe” tradition is usually played up as cute and sweet, but it can be really awkward even for the heteronormative. It can also be sexual harassment. There is nothing wrong with refusing to participate if you feel uncomfortable. There is definitely nothing wrong with turning and walking away from whatever dudebro thinks himself so clever as to put on a mistletoe belt buckle, and then never gracing him with your sparkling presence ever again in this life. Do so with my warmest holiday wishes!

Faced with holiday obligations? For the sake of your mental health, don’t do a White Elephant or Secret Santa unless you really want to; if you can’t afford $25 to get stuck with a bottle of wine nobody else wants when you don’t drink, or a tacky gag gift in poor taste, don’t participate. It’s okay to say no.

Potlucks and get-togethers where bringing a dish is expected? Do not stand for anyone who tries to make you feel bad for bringing a store bought or catered dish if you don’t have the spoons this year to cook your famous super duper dish that everybody loves and begs you to make every year. I’m the type that loves to feed people, but I’m also the type who takes it personally if nobody even touches the dish I spent time and money working so hard to cook. Bringing something I bought prevents hurt feelings if nobody eats it, and I can bring home any leftovers for myself.

Gift-giving concerns got you wracking your brains? Do not give into the urge to make yourself a nervous wreck over a last minute gift. I’m not a fan of gift cards either, but when time is short and you just can’t come up with anything—that is what they’re for. Gas is too expensive to drive all over town trying to find that super-hot-and-impossible-to-find toy when it’ll be back on the shelves in two weeks at a lower price, so even a homemade gift with a clever IOU can work. ComiXology or Google Play gift cards can distract a little one with something to read or watch until that hot toy is back in stock if you still feel like you have to earn that cool relative credit.

Feel free to tell people Elf on the Shelf is not a cute family tradition! Tell them it’s creepy as hell to have a tiny spy reporting back to Santa on a kid’s behavior from a different spot in the house every day, and conditioning a kid to paranoia at such a young age—sheesh, talk about stressful. The Elf on the Shelf is like the Boogeyman’s kid brother who has better PR.

Say it to yourself until you believe it: it is okay to say “no.”  

A Jolly Holiday To All Means To All—That Includes You! 

Dr. Seuss' The Grinch (from the animated special by Chuck Jones)It is okay to practice self-care, and if that means doing things the easy way so you can actually make it through the holidays without wanting to scream and curl up in a ball until after The Game You Can’t Name, you do what you have to do! It’s your body, you’re the only one who knows your limitations.

It doesn’t make you a Grinch or a Scrooge to know your limits and say, “Sorry, I’ve maxed out my holiday merrymaking for the moment, I need time/peace/quiet/rest to recharge.”

Jingled Bells, Jangled Nerves

The holidays are supposed to be the season of togetherness, happiness, comfort, and joy. That’s what society tells us. For many, this is true. But for those who suffer with chronic and/or invisible illnesses, or those who are QUILTBAG, the neuroatypical, the introverted, and so many others—the holidays come with stressors that can turn the holidays from a fun time filled with hugs and favorite foods to a time filled with dread, hiding one’s true self, and swallowing one’s real feelings for the sake of peace…or trying not to buckle under the weight of society’s relentless messages about what “normal” people do for the holiday season of Jesus and Santa in his holiday steamroller (…I mean sleigh).

The Apathy and Antipathy Against the Atypical

Even though society is beginning, in its tiny, grudging way, to accept that there are people who suffer depression and anxiety, mental illness is still treated more as a personal failing than a chemical imbalance a person has no choice about. The CDC says the suicide rates going up at the holidays is a perpetuated myth, and a harmful one, right up there with the one that indicates mass shooters are mentally ill. Even so, that’s no reason to allow ourselves to be subjected to an inundation of stress because “that’s just part of the holidays.” It’s no reason to endure the relatives who say you’re “choosing” to be depressed or just not thinking enough happy thoughts, or to have to sit through one more tirade that the pills are just big pharma making money off your gullibility, and you just need to eat right, get right with God, or take those herbal supplements.

Society is making slow, little steps toward acceptance of gay, trans, and non-binary people, but more often than not, they’re still treated as a joke in a way that is painful to the very real people who live those lives in our world. It’s hard on mental health to have to deal with family who are not ready to be accepting, or worse, who are still openly hostile to people who love differently than the cis-heteronormative way.

The whole “romance at the holidays” angle makes things worse, wrapping the holidays up in popular but cloying tunes about “Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” the concern over whether “Baby it’s Cold Outside” is date rapey or not, the heteronormativity of “Winter Wonderland,”  the outsider-shunning encouragement of “Rudolph”,  the sexism of “Santa Baby”,  right on through to “What are You Doing New Year’s Eve?”! There’s literally no escape from it with classic to contemporary holiday music.

If you need a little warmth in your holiday because your family doesn’t offer it to you, visit YourHolidayMom.com where there are people who share loving messages with LBGTQ people who don’t have family members with whom they can comfortably or safely share the holidays.

The same is true for fat people who are treated as lazy, greedy and lacking self control. People who are gluten-free are treated as fad-following attention-seekers rather than people with a santa_cookiesgenuine medical condition. How ironic is it then that the biggest mascot for the holiday season (at least in America) is a big fat guy, and the tradition for welcoming him is to leave out cookies (or beer and whiskey in some homes)? That Mrs. Claus is portrayed these days as a young sexpot rather than of an age with her husband is a whole other rant about society. It’s okay for Santa to be fat, but shaming everybody else for being fat, at the expense of their mental well-being? Oh, sure.

Then there’s the stress of knowing that in just a week after Christmas comes the new year and with it— resolutions and an entire month of  gym and fitness tech and Weight Watchers ads urging, encouraging, cajoling, imploring, nudging, and pretty much bullying you into losing weight to the point you won’t even want to turn on the TV! Last year, I wrote Weight Watchers several strongly worded tweets about their “Eat your feelings” campaign to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it,” because they were designed to hit someone struggling with weight right in the self-esteem. I’m already clenching my jaw just imagining what low blow they have planned for January 2016.

Don’t comment on a relative’s weight. I guarantee you no matter how well meaning you are, it will hurt. Your fat relative already knows they’re fat; you’re not telling them anything new. Don’t comment on their weight if they’ve lost weight either. It may not be that they lost weight on purpose, or for  a good reason. Try “you look great” instead.

Nobody well-meaning ever seems to realize they’re sending hurtful messages. Nor do they ever seem to consider how hurtful and harmful they can be. I guarantee, any atypical relative has tried all the fads and magazine suggestions before going to the doctor, so these are all old news to them. Your helpful suggestion is neither new nor helpful. If you find yourself about to suggest anything to a relative that you read or saw on Dr Oz, stop. Put a cookie in your mouth before you say something hurtful. Or just say “I love you” instead of whatever you were going to say. Intent is not magic and it does not let you off the hook if you say or do something hurtful.

Most importantly, if you do accidentally do or say something hurtful, apologize and move on.  Don’t get into what you really meant.  Just apologize. Mean it. Say it without defending yourself. If the word “but”  leaves your lips, that’s a  fauxpology. Remember the error so you don’t repeat it, and vow to do better in the future.  That’s really all anyone wants; love, respect, and a sincere effort made out of love.  “Cruel to be kind” isn’t.  Ditch that method.

Holiday Stress Check

Engage in a little exercise with me. Have a seat. Take a deep breath. Ready?

Imagine preparing for the holidays knowing that your family is going to disregard your life, or worse, try to sabotage it out of the “best of intentions.” Your favorite aunt, who knows you’ve lived with your “roommate” for 10 years now, asks when you’re going to find a nice boy and get married, and has invited a nice one to holiday dinner in the hopes you’ll hit it off! Why aren’t you grateful?! She’s put you in an awkward position. She’s put you on the spot. She doesn’t see it that way and won’t understand if you try to explain without telling more than you’re comfortable laying on the table…and if you do take the risk of laying it all on the table, you’re also taking the risk of not only being accused of ruining the holiday but getting disowned from the family for your honesty.

cat suitcaseEnvision packing your bag as your cat stares reproachfully because she knows you’re leaving; knowing that you are probably going to have to find a vegetarian restaurant to stop at on the way to your folks’ place because not one person in your family is going to respect your meat-free diet. Even the vegetables will have meat in them.

Contemplate the stress of having to do a meal’s worth of cooking before you leave while having to pack because you know full well that even though your grandmother and mother have said they understand your Celiac disease, they have, every holiday season since your diagnosis, refused to change their traditional bread and stuffing which you can’t eat now. Worse, that one cousin who said she had changed the recipe, lied and served you gluten anyway because she honestly thought it wouldn’t really hurt and is now crying because you’re in the bathroom being sick and “ruined” her lovely souffle that she worked so hard on! How could you be so inconsiderate!

Picture gassing up the car and taking deep breaths knowing your blowhard uncle is going to dominate the conversation with his extreme right-wing politics, and if you, bravely and proudly devoted to living up to the responsibility of calling out those bigoted relatives, say one single well-researched thing, or whip out your tablet with bookmarked, fact-checked links to prove he’s full of crap, the family will turn their baleful stares on you, ready to blame and shame you for ruining the nice peaceful dinner. Or worse, they’ll laugh at you and condescendingly tell you old uncle blowhard just doesn’t know better. Laugh it off is their advice, while your yummy holiday dinner is threatening to come up from disgust; rage at racist relatives is rough on the digestion.

Try to consider settling into your plane seat to rest during your long, expensive and likely packed flight knowing that you’re going home to a family that’s going to bicker and fight, and try to draw you into it even though you’ve gotten the therapy and found your peace with staying out of it.  Know that you’ll have to spend your whole visit fighting to resist falling back into those old patterns.

Exercise over. Breathe.

holidaystress

Ok, now that you’ve got a knot in your stomach and you feel the shakes and a headache coming on? Make yourself a cup of tea, and imagine yourself typing an email or a quick text that sends the family your regrets. For reasons of your health you can’t make it this year, but send everybody your love, and you’ll call to say hi on the big day—but not during The Big Game. Don’t elaborate. If you say “reasons of your health” and leave it at that, they can fill in the blanks by letting their imaginations run wild: maybe you stayed home to spare them because you caught a cold, the flu, strep throat, mono, SARS, or West Nile virus. They’ll breathe a collective sigh of relief and share a little thank you that you were considerate enough to keep your icky germs away from the family!

If it sounds tempting, but you find yourself gearing up to say “I can’t—they’re my family!” tell yourself it is okay to destress your holidays. Tell yourself it is not only okay to weigh the pros and cons of seeing your parents, cousins, siblings, grandparents, vs. the drama, arguing, bickering, disrespect, micro-aggressions and well-intentioned but inflicted harm they’re going to do to you all because they can’t, don’t, or won’t accept or understand you for who you are, whoever you are—it is healthy! If the cons outweigh the pros it is definitely healthy to stay home or go somewhere else! Your family will either get over their hurt feelings or begin that first twinkle toward the hard realization that you’re an adult who gets to define your own boundaries, and if they want you in their lives, they will have to be a little less “set in their ways” and treat you with a little more respect.

If you still want to consider going home and plan to pack a sanity preserving kit, ask yourself:

  • If you pack the device of choice: will the little cousins pester you to play games on it? Will you be tsked at for saying no? Will the older relatives think you’re bored and lonesome and try to draw you into conversations?
  • If you pack a book: will someone in the family call you rude and anti-social for reading?
  • If you retreat to a quiet corner of the house, will someone in the family call you rude and anti-social?
  • If you pack your favorite music device and a big old obvious set of headphones, can you expect someone to pull them off your ears to try to draw you into a conversation? Can you expect someone to sit down in front of you to talk very loudly and then get mad when you don’t answer because you can’t hear?
  • If you turn on a favorite holiday movie to avoid “the sportsball,” will you get chided. teased or mocked by the rest of the gung-ho sports fan family?
  • If the family wants to go caroling, but pain issues make that a non-starter for you, can you reasonably expect some family member to roll their eyes and tell you to suck it up and take an ibuprofen because it’s Christmas?
  • If you only had dinner but go back for a snack later, can you expect a family member to tease you about it because of your weight?
  • Are there little things from the past that always come up at the holidays with your family? Little things that people bring up “playfully” or “just joking,” but you know they’re really not when they fling those nasty little barbs?
  • Is there going to be pressure on you to find a sweetie when you’ve already found a sweetie the family won’t understand or accept?
  • Is there somebody missing from your family table because you couldn’t bring them because your family wouldn’t understand?
  • Will leaving that person home or not bringing them (or not going with them to their family holiday celebration) cause a fight with your partner?
  • Is a fight with your partner worth it?
  • Are you dressed in a way that’s not you because your family wouldn’t understand?
  • Are you likely to overindulge in food or alcohol or any other self-medicant to blunt the pain of dealing with any or all of the above?

Score: 

0-3 “yes” answers? Your family is pretty well adjusted. I’m envious. Go ahead and visit.

3-5 “yes” answers? Your family is gonna cause a little stress, but maybe enough that you can grin and bear it. If you feel like it. The choice is yours.

5-7 “yes” answers? You are starting to hit a level of stress I’d call dangerous. The choice is still yours.

More than seven? Definite danger zone.  The choice still remains yours, but I’d say you may want to consider spending your holidays away from such a significant source of stress as your family of genetic occurrence. Try spending it with your family of choice.

yulelog

If you don’t have a family of choice, you still have less stressful alternatives. If you’re an introvert, there is no law that says you must spend any holiday surrounded by people. You can stay home and:

  • Do your hair and nails in a way you’ve always wanted to tryDreidel_2
  • Hangout online
  • Go to a movie
  • Read a book
  • Sleep all day
  • Take as long a bubble bath as you want and refuse to feel guilty!
  • Do the laundry—nobody’s gonna be doing the laundry on The Big Holiday Get Together Days.
  • Write in your journal, or write poetry, a novel—anything goes!
  • Try a new hobby you’ve always wanted to try—there are YouTube videos for everything nowadays!
  • Try a new recipe that’s sounded intriguing. You can even Instagram it and giggle if the results turn out badly or crow proudly if it comes out great!
  • Blast your favorite “I hate Christmas” or “I prefer Hanukkah” music, or whatever music you feel like, since after listening to holiday music in every store for a month, you might not want to hear another jingling bell or the name Rudolph again for another year.
  • Do any other thing you’ve always wanted to do

The Friend Zone is a Zone for Friends

festivusIf you have friends who also aren’t going home for the holidays, you can do what a dear friend of mine does every so often. She throws what she calls an “Orphan’s holiday.” It’s a potluck dinner for friends, and friends-of-friends, who don’t have local family, or who, like me, don’t have blood family they can tolerate in close proximity for long.

She supplies the turkey (or the crablegs or the roast), and everybody else brings a dish they are proud of, even if the table ends up with multiple dishes of mac and cheese or five pumpkin pies. Everybody shows up with their dish in those EZ Foil containers, and we eat off sturdy paper plates with plastic flatware so the host isn’t stuck with cleanup. It is considered polite to label the dish if you have put any ingredient in that someone might be allergic to, like nuts, or gluten. Alcohol is welcome, and there’s no judgement for anyone who chooses to partake or not. The party starts around 2 in the afternoon and goes until people stop showing up with food.

It’s a lot of fun, because not everybody has the same food traditions, so you get to sample a lot of dishes you might have never seen at the holidays before. You also get to see interesting variations on dishes that are familiar, but have a spin on them you’ve never seen. I’ve come home inspired more than once to step up my own mac-n-cheese game!

Sharing is Caring

If you’re in a good enough position, you can donate food, or money to those less fortunate.  If you’re not comfortable giving money you can buy gift cards to fast food restaurants and give them out at a homeless shelter or orphanage.

If you’re not in a position to donate material things, you can donate time if your situation permits. If you can’t stand up in a soup kitchen, you can sit in a children’s hospital and read your favorite comics to children or read books to senior citizens who have no one to visit them for the holidays.

Putting the Geek in the Holidays

If you want to keep it geeky, there are several religious superheroes who have holidays to celebrate. Just for starters:

  • Muslim Kamala Khan celebrates Ramadan (which does not always occur close enough to Christmas to be analogous but sometimes does).
  • Jewish Magneto, Sabra, Ben Grimm and Kitty Pryde all celebrate Hanukkah (though Kitty is okay with going secular for the sake of her friends).
  • Christian Nightcrawler and Daredevil celebrate Christmas.
  • Wiccan is Pagan and celebrates Yule.

I know for a fact that Marvel and DC have holiday ornaments if you want to geekify your low stress holiday. I have a Storm ornament for my tree that another dear friend sent me as a gift. My mother has tried in more recent years to give me geeky gifts since she’s realized I am never outgrowing my comic and cartoon interests, but she has never given me a gift that I treasure as much as that ornament. Just goes to show that family isn’t necessarily all about your genetic connection.

Indulge Your Inner Child 

If you want to indulge your inner (or outer) child in front of the TV for your stress free holiday, some clever person beat me to the punch and compiled a list of Holiday Superhero cartoons and live action movies and TV series episodes on IMDB.com. I’d especially recommend Justice League: “Comfort and Joy” and Ultimate Spider-Man: “Nightmare on Christmas.”

If you haven’t seen Netflix’s Daredevil or Jessica Jones,  treat yourself to a binge. With the good geek shows on hiatus for the holidays, it’s a perfect time to catch up and clear off the DVR!

Then of course, there are the old classics: The Grinch, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the old Rankin-Bass animated Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town if you’re feeling like old school traditional holiday animation. There are more holiday-themed movies and cartoons of every genre from sci-fi to comedy to horror than you can shake a cinnamon stick at. Go chestnuts!

Fan of fanfiction? There’s an annual tradition from fanfic writers to fanfic writers called Yuletide, where writers gift each other stories, often holiday themed and sweet.

kwanzaa-candles

Hail The Winter Festival of St. Mark Downs!

December 26, aka Boxing Day. I’d still avoid the malls, because of the returns. But you can get great bargains on lights, ornaments, wrapping paper, and bows for next year. The same applies to ornaments, decorations, and lights. I have even occasionally run across the perfect gift for someone to go in the closet until next year on the 26th.

Those Secret Santa and White Elephant gifts, if you must participate, are best purchased on the 26th too. I actually made a single dad cry happy tears because I gave him a cheesy holiday cookie jar and a roll of Pillsbury cookie dough so he and his son could bond over baking cookies. That cost me less than $20 and the heartwarming feeling from his sincere thanks is with me to this day!

All the non-perishable cooking stuff for a holiday feast is on sale. All the hot sellers that didn’t sell out will be on sale. All the cookies and candy and yummy foods from your favorite shops will be on sale. All at ridiculous discounts! Make room in your freezer!

Auld Lang What Now?

Oh, and New Year’s Eve? Cook your favorite meal or order your favorite meal, and stay in. It’s the worst night for drunk drivers, and staying up past midnight is overrated unless you’re younger than 12 years old. If you feel like going to bed, go to bed. The Times Square ball doesn’t look much different coming down year to year, and it’s not like you can’t DVR which ever musician you want to watch freezing their butt off in New York or shaking it in LA and watch when you feel like it. Is it any less fun to watch fully rested? Screw the countdown. Double screw the cis-heteronormative tradition that says it’s bad luck if you don’t have anyone to kiss when the clock strikes twelve. There’s also a tradition that says what you’re doing when the clock strikes 12 will set the tone for the whole year, so if you’re relaxed and dreaming contentedly, that’s not a bad note to strike!  To say nothing of being safe at home while all the drunk drivers are out trying to prove they aren’t the loose nuts behind the wheel.

So home for the holidays doesn’t have to be the only way to spend them. Stressing over shopping and decorating, untangling lights and avoiding fights is not the only way the holidays have to go down. You have choices. Make the ones that work for you, and don’t let anybody make you feel guilty for doing it

Readers? Any ideas to share with our family for avoiding the societal pressures and stresses of the holiday season?

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