Making Winter Holidays Your Own
by Anna Brentwood
December 15, 2022
Since moving to Oregon from sunny California, even 20 plus years later, I barely tolerate the winter tunnel season of gray. The sunshine all but disappears. Everything turns darker, moister, colder and meaner. My solution to avoid the winter blues has evolved to simply this…
I give myself a semblance of control by doing all I do but creating, planning and looking forward to the holidays too.
Maybe naked landscapes, de-icer, shivering or having to dig your vehicles out of the snow doesn’t bother you but to paraphrase a few lines from the Book of Creation—“If on the first day, light was separated from darkness; the second, the sky; the third, dry land and plants; on the fourth the sun, moon and stars,” then I say somewhere in that great Universal plan, holidays were created because we humans need cheerful things to look forward to.
Many holidays have foundations in religion, but they have become something more, things we can make our own. For example, Christmas = the birth of Christ but to me it’s more about childhood memories: family, friends, Santa Claus, lights, elves, reindeer store displays, eating, drinking, giving, sharing and laughing. Growing up, we didn’t celebrate Christmas but when I married, we did and it became a new adventure for me to expand, learn and create our own family traditions. We also celebrate Hanukah/The Festival of Lights, an eight-day holiday I make into one rife with tradition and history acknowledging every people’s right to be free by lighting candles, sharing family meals, special foods, games and stories. Then there is Valentine’s Day, a holiday sometimes slandered as one invented to sell cards and candy, but at base, it’s one day, about love so I figure it’s a good day to find a way to show or tell the people who matter to you that they do.
When winter comes and you’d rather hibernate, hunker down by the television, read by the fire, enjoy a cup of tea or hot chocolate in hand, eat lots of soups and stews, tackle those inside projects neglected all year (all fine things to do), even if you aren’t as keen on holiday’s as I am, perhaps consider rather than remaining seated in vacuous ordinariness or past misery—grinch— *cough, cough, dip in and put your own unique spin on creation because…
There is much to be said for finding something cheery to celebrate that can make a very ordinary day—extraordinary.
To qualm my own inner grinch, I start by making lists. I pin delicious new recipes I want to try all year. My skill at organizing/planning/prepping has evolved from frenetic last-minute shopping to thoughtfully acquired gifts at sales, sometimes as early as August. I wrap as I go along, so it’s not too much all at once, and I start decorating my house right after Thanksgiving. November, I refresh my holiday playlist and start baking to the music then stocking the freezer with everyone’s traditional favorites. I’ve learned not to get carried away making too many different things because everyone gets bombarded with sweets, and the goal is no leftovers!
I recommend taking a look at your August calendar. Map out a schedule that will allow you to pace yourself through the next five months. Make a list (sticky notes, Pinterest, or a visual map). Clear a space or get a big box to put things in. If you know who you want to get things for and happen upon something they would like at a great price, get it, tag it and check it off your list. Whatever I can do ahead I do, and I don’t beat myself up if I don’t get it all done. No matter how much time one puts into planning, always allow for a last-minute detail you can’t control; though with some early planning, you will lessen the stress on yourself. As for décor, for anyone just beginning their household I recommend starting light. Eye store displays, colors, themes and items you like but wait and purchase things when they go on sale for the next year. Hitting the after-holiday clearance sales with an eye for long term is a great way to save money and slowly build up your holiday collection.
Sure, it’s work, challenging and tiring, but I find, depending on one’s level of involvement, celebrating isn’t only a way to be creative, it provides the opportunity to do things for the people I love, people I appreciate more as I age, and I know it seeds memories for a lifetime, because I sure cherish mine and I know my children and grandchildren cherish theirs.
I promise doing something others will enjoy from your efforts provides its own reward.
Take one bite. One step. One minute. One hour. Generate an idea, a plan, a list.
Do you—yours, and start. When it all seems too much and it will, rather than let it break you, break it down. After all, how does one eat an alligator? One bite at a time.
Anna Brentwood writes historical fiction. She is inspired to write about interesting characters whose lives take them on journeys we can all enjoy and perhaps learn something along the way. This former suburban Philly and California wife, mother, doting nanny of three lives in one of Oregon’s wild, enchanted forests in a log home that includes a sassy collection of Flapper memorabilia, her ex-Navy Seal hubby, a menagerie of creatures that once included wolves, coyotes and a hawk. Currently they harbor two very pampered French bulldogs, one ornery parrot and outside a variety of birds, squirrels and chipmunks. Learn more about Anna at her website.