Posted by Sue on Aug 2, 2013
Flipping through a magazine this week I was startled to see an ad for an ornamental Christmas tree. You know the sort: plastic 3-foot evergreen covered with Birds of the World. Someone’s idea of holiday spirit. But it wasn’t just the tree that startled me. It was the presence of a Christmas advertisement in July. It’s one thing to see red and green adorning the drugstore aisles before Thanksgiving; but in August?!?
Besides the cooling reminders of snowflakes in the middle of a heat wave, does thinking about the holidays while perspiring into our iced tea offer us anything constructive?
When I wait until the holidays are banging on my front door, the stress I feel kills the possibility of joy. Still several months away, Thanksgiving, New Year’s Eve and everything in-between look almost tame; not like the ferocious beasts they become by mid-November. From this distance I see that I am able to shape those special days in ways that increase, rather than decrease, their meaning.
One way to ease the holiday stress is advanced planning. While I can’t carve the Thanksgiving turkey in August, I can bake and freeze those persnickety Christmas cookies we love to decorate (and eat). I can’t write the whole holiday letter, but I can start, even if it’s only addressing the envelopes. And I can’t anticipate those last minute, “just right” gifts, but I can start a list and maybe even make or buy a few presents.
So find yourself an air conditioned café and order up some hot chocolate to get yourself in the mood. The idea isn’t to decorate every last cookie by August 1st, but to make plans, do what you can and take some of the stress off the November-December rush.
Here are some questions to get the juices (or eggnog) flowing:
1) What are the three most important qualities that define “Holiday Spirit” for you? What events, foods or activities enhance these qualities? Are there traditions that simply cannot be overlooked? Which traditions have run their course and can eliminated?
2) Who is on your gift-giving list? Jot down gift ideas. Can any be purchased now? Do any of your vacation plans afford an opportunity for holiday shopping?
3) What holiday meals will you be hosting? Flip through holiday planning books for ideas. If you have freezer space, are there foods that can be prepared in advance, easing the last minute frenzy?
4) What spaces need to be cleared for holiday guests or celebrations? Can that work be started now? How will you maintain the space once it’s cleared?
5) Finally, what will you do for yourself to maintain a sense of internal calm and peace? It’s all too easy to give ourselves away with the rest of the gifts.
So perhaps Christmas (or Hanukkah or Quanza or Solstice) in August isn’t all that bad. The time you put into planning now may be the best gift you get under the tree (even if it’s not covered with Birds of the World).