Preempting The Holiday Blues

Yesterday as we left my mother’s house, where we spent the afternoon enjoying lunch and decorating her Christmas tree (yup, we don’t waste any time…), my six-year-old daughter commented with great melancholy, “The holidays go by so fast.” It was funny, but also sad that she felt that way while we were still enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers.

I read this article on how to avoid the holiday blues the other day (on the wonderful Apartment Therapy blog), and thought it really hit the mark, although it doesn’t really address the cause, just the treatment. Beyond the obvious, and important, reasons for sadness (missing loved ones, having financial issues, feeling that the rest of the world has it better than you do), I’m realizing that part of the holiday blues is the fact that during those six weeks or so, we become more aware of the things that truly make us happy: time spent with family and friends, the rituals of creation (baking cookies, decorating a freshly-cut tree, taking time to create a unique tablescape), indulging our senses with candlelight, delicious smells, music, and flickering lights in darkness. It is a time when we make phone calls rather than send emails, and one of the few times during the year that we acknowledge that all those technological advances don’t fill the void.

During the rest of the year, I don’t take care of myself in the same way. I rarely bother to light a candle or turn on music to make a meal more special (and this may be just me; with little kids around it’s a major accomplishment just to get the food onto the table). So when January 1st hits, I want to remember the slowed-down time, the sensations that mark the holidays and integrate them into everyday life. (I may need to make an Excel spreadsheet just to remember to do this.)

This excerpt from Gary Soto’s poem “Oranges” describes the delicious sensations and images available to us, even as we turn our calendar pages:

Outside,
A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.

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