The holiday season is traditionally a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration. For many, it's a time to create cherished memories with loved ones and uphold age-old customs. However, as we navigate an ever-changing world with evolving personal needs, beliefs and boundaries, there's a growing movement to rethink traditional holiday celebrations, especially if you and your loved ones don’t fit the traditional mold or like the idea of how holidays “should” be celebrated. Perhaps you don’t get along well with your nuclear family and would rather not spend Christmas with them, or maybe you feel like certain traditions or customs relating to Thanksgiving or New Years Eve are outdated and don’t reflect your current values or beliefs. This is when it can be valuable, even essential, to redefine what the holidays mean to you and start to craft unique traditions that honor your individuality and respect your limits. In this blog post, let’s explore the importance of embracing new holiday traditions as needed, as well as ways you can practice customizing holidays to better meet your needs.
The first step in normalizing new holiday celebrations is to break free from societal expectations. Traditions are beautiful, but they should be adaptable to accommodate diverse circumstances and personal preferences. It's perfectly okay to embrace different ways of celebrating and find what works best for you and your loved ones. It can be important to set boundaries with others and level-set their expectations too to reduce guilt or pressure to celebrate in a certain way.
If you’re ready to break free from the norm, consider the following strategies and perspectives when re-thinking your holidays.
- Prioritizing Mental Health
The holidays can be a stressful time, especially for those dealing with mental health challenges. You may be grieving the loss of a cherished loved one and the idea of celebrating without them brings up a lot of pain. Or you may be totally overwhelmed with work and other obligations that the idea of piling on endless to-do’s relating to gift giving and traveling to see loved ones sounds like more than you can reasonably handle right now. It's essential to normalize self-care during the holiday season. If large gatherings or excessive socializing are sources of anxiety or triggering in any way, it's perfectly acceptable to set boundaries, limit your commitments, or even spend some quality time alone. Your mental and emotional health is a top priority.
- Reimagining Holiday Traditions
Creating your own holiday traditions can be a liberating experience. Consider what truly brings you joy during the holiday season and tailor your celebrations accordingly. It might mean volunteering, pursuing a hobby, having a movie-marathon, ordering take out, or taking a vacation instead of adhering to traditional customs. By reimagining your holiday, you're taking control of your happiness.
- Embracing Diversity
In our increasingly diverse world, it's essential to acknowledge that not everyone celebrates the same holidays or observes them in the same way. As our ideas of what constitutes family evolves as well, this may mean bringing friends or other loved ones in who don’t celebrate in the same ways as you. Normalize understanding and respecting various cultural and religious traditions. This can also open the door to incorporating new elements into your own holiday celebrations, making them even more meaningful and inclusive.
- Breaking Away from Consumerism
The pressure to overspend during the holidays can be overwhelming. Part of normalizing non-traditional celebrations involves breaking free from the consumerist culture that often surrounds these occasions. Consider alternatives like homemade gifts, experiences, or charitable donations that align with your values. It can help to proactively communicate your wishes or expectations to loved ones as well before the holidays hit, like letting your mom know you don’t want her to buy more than a certain number of gifts for her grandchildren this year, and would rather plan an experience for the family together instead.
- Communicating Your Boundaries
Effective communication is key to establishing your boundaries during the holidays. Openly discuss your needs and expectations with friends and family in advance of the holidays. Let them know what you're comfortable with, whether it's reducing the number of guests at your gathering, outlining the amount of time you’ll plan to spend with them this year, or avoiding certain topics of conversation.
- Finding Support
It's essential to find like-minded individuals who support your non-traditional holiday choices. Seek out groups or communities that share your values and provide a safe space for discussing your experiences and challenges during this season. This can help build community and also alleviate some of the guilt or pressure that may arise if people are unhappy with your choices or boundaries. Like-minded companions can understand and validate your decisions, even if some people won’t.
Embracing your own custom holiday celebrations allows you to express your authentic self. You're not bound by the expectations of others, enabling you to celebrate in a way that aligns with your values and beliefs. It's essential to let go of the guilt associated with breaking from tradition. Remember that it's your holiday, and your choices are valid. Lastly, cultivate gratitude for the ability to create a holiday experience that aligns with your authentic self. Gratitude can help you find joy in the smallest of moments.