Just mention the sentence “It’s that time of year…” to people and you can expect their eyes to respond two ways: with twinkling or rolling. There are always going to be those people who start playing Christmas music while the rest of the family is still digesting Thanksgiving dinner and those who would prefer to slam the door in the face of carolers who dare knock on their door. This year, as I listened to friends who complained about being “too busy” with invites to holiday parties or sulked about not being able to afford the presents they desired, I was thankful for a few lessons I learned from traveling.
Do what you want to do, not what you’re supposed to do
If you dread addressing stacks of cards, skip it this year. If you would rather wear bright purple instead of red or green to the holiday party, feel free. If you want to sing “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” in the shower every day then by all means, belt it out. Every family has their own traditions and you don’t need to embrace all of them anymore than you HAVE to see every monument in a major city you visit.
Spend some quality time on each other
I remember the first year I spent Christmas away from my family. I was living in NYC and they got me exactly what I wanted that year – a brand new iPod! But after calling home and passing the phone around the room over dinner, that little electronic device wasn’t much comfort towards pangs of homesickness. When I look back on that night the overwhelming emotion I remember was loneliness. The following year I saved up my frequent flier miles and booked a trip home. I remember the excitement I felt at being in my pajamas in the living room on Christmas morning and couldn’t for the life of me tell you what I unwrapped from under the tree.
Know when to splurge and when to sacrifice
Sure we’re all on a tight budget but every once in a while living in the moment outweighs the cost. The year my brother and I woke up to bikes in the living room I doubt if I noticed the bags under my parent’s eyes, but years later hearing how long it took them to assemble them continues to warm my heart. I once broke the spending limit on a Secret Santa gift exchange when I knew the person I drew couldn’t afford an upcoming concert. I was paid back in full when she tackled me with squeals of delight upon opening the gift. There are times when that memory in the moment is worth paying for in the future.
Remember the old saying “It's better to give than to receive”? Well I’m giving it a try
None of my closest girlfriends are in a financial high point this year so we decided on an alternative to exchanging gifts. Each of us is selecting a charity that we believe the other would support and making a small donation in their name. Then we’re getting together over wine (hopefully this one) to tell each other why we chose it for them. In other words, we do a good deed, compliment each other and share a cocktail. I’ll take a girl’s night out over a new scarf during any season!
Holidays, like travel, depend largely on a matter or perspective. Sure we could dream of staying in a nicer hotel in our future or wish for the snowfall of years past, but every holiday movie on repeat at this time of year will warn you not to missing out on living in the present.