Celebrate! Don’t Just Survive the Holidays

For years, I got anxiety on September 1st. The first day of September reminded me that the fall holiday season was fast approaching. Without family nearby to celebrate the holidays, getting through fall and winter can feel like sad dominoes falling one by one. October can herald daily episodes of depression if you allow it. Should I stay home? What about if I fly to visit family? Do I really want to spend all that time in the airport?

While family is important, I enjoy putting up holiday decorations and spending the holidays in my own home. For many of you who live far away from family like me, you know this feeling all too well. Visiting family comes with stress, planning, and a large expense. However, staying home could mean loneliness and depression. I prefer to visit relatives during the off-peak times of the year. I try not to travel during the holiday season unless I absolutely have to. After surviving the holidays in a tiny town far away from friends and family, I can tell you that you do not have to be lonely or depressed if you choose to stay home. You can absolutely celebrate every holiday and not just survive them.

Plan and Prepare

Woman planning on her calendar

It took me two years to realize that Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas occurred every year. Man, am I a slow learner! I realized that the emptiness and uncertainty I felt during the season were caused by my lack of planning. Every week that passed, my anxiety grew because I had not made any preparations. The year that I realized this was the last year October arrived without me having a solid plan.

Since then, I’ve spent every September talking to family about holiday plans. Then I sometimes prepare to visit them. Perhaps they want to come here? Once this is decided, I spring into action by buying plane tickets, etc. If I am not traveling, then I need to create a strategy to be happy at home. How do I want to spend Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas? What activities do I want to do? Who is available to join me? Next, I get on the phone and talk with my local friends about their plans. I ask if I might join them. While doing this, I realized how many invitations I had been declining year after year!


Celebrating the holidays

The next thing I do to ensure a happy holiday season is to decorate! For fall, I invest in ceramic and real pumpkins, brooms, and scarecrows. I line the walkway with pumpkins of various sizes, and I place fall foliage in vases. Then I cluster pumpkins on tables and the kitchen counter. I use candles that smell of pumpkins, pine, or vanilla.

My house feels homier when I do this. When Halloween is close, I add witches, ghouls, goblins, or even a scary scene to the display. For Thanksgiving, I remove the scary paraphernalia and turn the carved pumpkins around. In December, I use Christmas trees of various sizes in addition to one large tree that inhabits the living room. There are snowmen, Santa Clauses, elves, and angels perched on every limb. Some years I decorate in gold and some years in silver. Whichever I choose, I make sure that twinkling lights and a warm fireplace greet me every evening until New Year’s Day.


Grandma baking with grandkids

The last thing I do to make sure that I am not glum during the fall holiday season is to participate. I write all the upcoming events into my calendar, even when they overlap. I learned long ago that if I add an event to my calendar, it magically makes my weekends more appealing. Every fall, I attend the fall festival. Why not go to all of them? Buy a costume and wear it to the Trick or Treat events on Halloween. Attend costume parties, parades, trick or trunk activities, and harvest festivals. Bake muffins and decorate them with spooky eyeballs. I even created a tradition of watching Halloween movies with friends and their children every year. We make it an event with a frothy punch and tasty treats while we carve pumpkins.

For Thanksgiving, I accept invitations for dinner and invite friends over for dessert. After dinner, we decorate the Christmas tree. I will even help friends decorate their trees or give them pointers while drinking eggnog with rum. This has become quite a happy event for everyone! Christmas day is spent half at home and half with friends. We engage in mundane things like watching movies, cooking, baking, or napping. The more people, the merrier! I either visit a friend’s home or invite them to mine. We have a blast! The fun does not end until New Year’s Eve, when we all get together for a party, church service, or midnight margaritas.

If my friends are not available for these activities, I attend the festivities at church, my gym, my job, or in my community. There is always plenty to do this time of year.

Lastly, whatever you decide to do during the fall holiday season, do not spend it alone. Make a plan, decorate wherever you live, and participate in as many community events as possible. Accept the invitations. Host an activity. Wear the funny witch hat. Buy the large candy for the kids and volunteer at a Trick or Treat event. These simple activities build friendships, strengthen families and create communities of people who care about you. Just jump in!

Get Festive! 

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