Next week is Thanksgiving Day. Many of us will gather around a table with family and friends to celebrate and be thankful. The table will be filled with traditional holiday food of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, green beans and whatever your particular tradition adds to the festivities of the holiday.

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season. At least for me. I know some begin with Halloween, but for me it is Thanksgiving. Holidays can be the best of times and the worst of times.

The best of times because it provides a day to set aside our normal work day activities to gather with those we love and share a day of celebration. Food, games, puzzles, football, and parades are often hallmark activities of these days. And then of course, preparation for Black Friday shopping if you are into that sort of thing.

The worst of times because it stands as a reminder of all that has gone wrong in our families and with our friends. Holidays are some of the loneliest times of the year for many people. Obligatory visits with people we no longer know or understand, strained conversation around a table filled with food no one tastes — or worse yet, sitting alone –all these are hallmark activities for some on these days.

I have experienced both extremes of the holiday gamut, but the bad experiences seem to stand out to me.

The first year my husband and I were married we were entirely alone for the Christmas holiday. His parents had gone away and my parents lived 2000 miles away. We were alone. I remember we put a puzzle together while I roasted Cornish game hens. The butter ran over and filled the house with smoke. A friend came to play games. He said it was awful in the house. He took pity on us. We went to his parent’s home to play games.

A few years ago, I planned to go to Montana just before Christmas to be with my mom after a major surgery. I was leaving on December 16 and on December 15 we were involved in a T-bone collision that totaled our van. I flew to Montana the next day and spent a week with my mom. Every day I developed another area of stiffness. I was miserable. Flying home on the 23rd, I arrived just in time for what should be great holiday celebrations. I hadn’t had time to shop for a Christmas dinner, we needed to get another vehicle, I was exhausted. We had sausage and sauerkraut for Christmas dinner. I hated it.  That isn’t what you are supposed to have for Christmas dinner. It so overshadows that year’s holiday that I have a hard time remembering how much fun we had sledding in the fresh snow on Christmas Eve or going to our first ever midnight Christmas Eve service.

We have had many more great holidays than bad, but to be honest, the holidays have been rough for me. For many years I struggled with depression that began after Thanksgiving and continued through the month of December. I missed making cookies and candy with my mom and sisters. I missed going to Mom and Dad’s on Christmas Eve. I missed my family.

One year I realized that I was cheating my husband and children out of wonderful memories by focusing on what I was  missing. I knew I had to change my thinking. Here are a few of my holiday survival tips. I hope they are helpful to you in someway.

  1. Maintain proper self-care… Keeping your regular routine of exercise and mediation/quiet time will help you to stay grounded and happy. This week has been unusually busy for me. In order to thrive rather than just survive this week, I set an alarm to get up earlier than usual so I had time for my morning routine.
  2. Maintain an appropriate bed time…there will be so many opportunities to stay up late to socialize, make it a priority to get good sleep more days than not. You will be a much happier, healthier you.
  3. Choose food wisely…my friend, a dietitian, said there are good, better and best food choices. It will be especially beneficial to your overall well being if you try to maintain best food choices as often as possible. I love a good party, but I know my food choices are most likely going to fall into the “good” category at a holiday party. I try to make better and best choices as often as possible the rest of the time.
  4. Set boundaries and say no more often…most of us can’t go full speed all the time – not even for a short period of time, like the holidays. Know what you can do and feel great about setting boundaries that protect not only your health but your peace of mind.
  5. Develop holiday traditions…something like cutting and setting up a Christmas tree can be a special family time, especially for children. Thoughtfully choose what traditions you want to pass on in your family and go at it with gusto. For many years we ate our Christmas Eve dinner on a sheet in front of the tree. After opening gifts, the kids loved it if we all slept in the living room. We have many good memories of “pizza on the sheet!”
  6. Hire someone to clean your house…if you are having a group over, it might be a worthy investment to have someone come and clean for you. This is one of the holiday prep tasks that can be especially taxing and can easily be done by someone else. Alternatively, if you love cleaning but don’t enjoy grocery shopping, check out Shipt. It’s a new shopping service available in some areas. You give them a list and they bring your groceries to you.
  7. Bake in moderation…It’s so much fun to bake holiday goodies but the reality is, it takes a lot of time, it adds to our holiday weight gain and can be one of the stress-inducing tasks we put on ourselves during the holidays. This might be one area that can be scaled back and still enjoyed on a smaller scale. If you love to bake, considering giving plates of goodies to neighbors or friends. For years we had a neighbor who did that for us and we loved it.
  8. Volunteer with a community organization serving holiday meals…this is a great way to enjoy the holiday while giving back to your community. And if it looks like the holiday might be a little lonely, it also provides a group of people to help enjoy the day.
  9. Plan simpler meals…I can get completely crazy planning a holiday party. Every new recipe looks like one I ought to try and I drive myself nuts with the complexity of new ingredients and techniques. A simple meal of tried and true recipes allows you to enjoy friends and food without losing your mind. If you are a master chef and new recipes are no big deal, then go for it. But for most of us, simpler is better. Last year I chose to go with a simple Thanksgiving Day menu. I didn’t try new recipes for anything. It was so relaxing and I was amazed how absolutely delicious everything tasted.
  10. Let others help…you don’t have to be a superhuman in the kitchen. Allow your guests to help provide the food whether it is a full blown meal or just an evening cocktail hour.

Paul said in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

Holidays can be the best of times or the worst of times. May your holidays be filled with joy overflowing and peace beyond understanding. Let them serve you; you don’t have to serve the holiday.

Until next time…

May the Lord bless you and protect you.

May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. 

Numbers 6:24-26

2 Comments on “Thriving the Holiday”

  1. Great reminders about holidays. It often feels lonely as we gather without the extended family. But as you pointed out, the focus should be around the here and now and not cheating ourselves and those around us of really great memories!


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