Once upon a time, I spent the holiday season wishing it to be over.

I avoided family dinners because I didn’t want my dating life to be dissected like Thanksgiving turkey. Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies made me feel that I had somehow failed at life because I lacked pathological optimism, a hunky love interest, and snow-capped eyelashes. Nothing diminishes my love for humanity like the traffic near the mall entrances and exits.

But 2020 has taken so much from me that I’ll be damned if it gets the holiday season, too.

Pass the cookie dough and the Santa-tini cocktail because I am celebrating this year. Despite the catalogue of awful that 2020 has been, I’m still here. I don’t take that for granted because millions of people, including my grandmother and a childhood friend, are not.

I am going to party like it’s 1999 because it’s 2020. Here are a few tips for surviving (maybe even thriving) this holiday season.

Come as You Are 

Honor the emotional space you’re in and plan accordingly. If you are exhausted, take care of the essentials and let the rest go. Do you really have to make cranberry sauce from scratch? How many Christmas lights do you really need to decorate your house? A couple of candles, some greenery, and bows will look festive without taxing your reserves.

Conversely, celebrate if you have reasons to do so. While many people experienced loss this year, others fell in love, increased their business, got a new job, grew closer to their family, and untapped new possibilities. Savor your good feelings and then do something to help others.

No matter where your emotional compass points, stay true to it, even if it fluctuates. These times call for greater authenticity and truth. Start with yourself and kindly gift that to others.

Honor Your Traditions

Dad unearthed the faux Christmas tree in the basement every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Accompanied by a soundtrack of the Temptations, Jackson 5, and Nat King Cole, dad bedecked the house with holiday dazzle.

Both of my parents have been gone for years now and I would give anything to hear dad sing “Silent Night” in falsetto. I will honor him by concocting his special eggnog recipe, which had enough peach brandy in it to get the entire tri-state area drunk, and singing loudly and badly.

When I connect to the secular and religious traditions of my ancestors, I instantly feel better. I know that I am part of something larger than me. I remember that “this too shall pass.” I come from a line of people who survived in a country that enslaved them.

Make New Traditions

The holidays can feel alienating and lonely for those who have a challenging or no relationship with their family. Therefore, the above mentioned advice is completely useless and potentially harmful.

What do you want to feel during this holiday season? Rested? Connected? Peaceful? Joyous? Create a new ritual that satiates your longing.

One year, my then-husband and I were exasperated with the rampant consumerism during the holiday season. We decided we would each buy a gift, make a gift, and donate to charity in the other’s name. That was one of the most meaningful Christmases in my life because it was heart-centered.

If there is one lesson from 2020, it’s that normal is dead. Many of us are learning to live in new ways. Why should the holidays be any different? Zoom Christmas Carols, anyone?

Create Something

There’s a Skill Share commercial on YouTube exhorting the viewer to stop wandering down aisles and browsing online and learn to make gifts using their training videos.

At first, I thought the commercial was annoying. “Who has time or energy to be making a spice rack when I can give an Amazon gift card and be done with it?” Thanks to the power of suggestion, I warmed to the idea the more times I saw the ad.

Humans are an act of creation. We are always creating – whether it’s a meal, a song, or invention a bedtime story to tell our children. Creation reminds us that we aren’t helpless. We have the power to tackle the urgent issues of our time with persistence, passion, gratitude and fierceness. But maybe we build the spice rack first.

Remember You Are Magic

Twenty-twenty has been a heartbreaking, transformative, painful, and revolutionary year.

We survived loss, uncertainty, threats of or actual violence, unemployment, quarantine, illness and political convulsions. Even if we find ourselves on shaky ground, it still counts because we are capable of healing, growing, and learning. As Maya Angelou said, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated.”

We can feel our exhaustion, despair, loneliness, anger, and cynicism without giving ourselves fully to it. Without resorting to spiritual bypassing, these emotions need not claim any more real estate in our minds and hearts. As long as you have a pulse, it’s never too late. That is a form of magic and what you do with it can change the world.

Kerra Bolton is a writer and filmmaker based in the Mexican Caribbean. In a former life, she was a political columnist; Director of Communications, Outreach, and Oppositional Research for the North Carolina Democratic Party; and founder of a boutique strategic communications firm.


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