Beginning with the anticipation of Thanksgiving and preparation for Christmas and Hanukkah, there is an invisible societal pressure to be joyful and festive that carries us through the New Year. Cheerful holiday songs fill the airwaves, marketing campaigns advertising the perfect gifts flood our screens, and everyone is abuzz with holiday plans and family gatherings, but what happens when the familiarity of holiday traditions intensifies feelings of sadness and longing? If hiding under a blanket until January or making a mad dash for the nearest airport over attending holiday-themed festivities sounds more enticing, you may want to reconsider and remix the holidays instead.
Don't be afraid to mix things up.
Ditching time-honored traditions in favor of forging new ones may seem counterintuitive and foreign. Perhaps Grandma had a knack for baking peach cobbler reserved just for her. Or no one can play the family piano like Uncle Joe. There may be a question surrounding who will assume the role when it involves preparing those beloved dishes and performing specific customs. Psychology Today describes this feeling as role confusion. Assigning traditions to deceased loved ones immortalizes them and leaves us with fond memories, yet they are hard to live up to.
After my mother transitioned, I recreated my grandmother's black-eyed peas with hot water cornbread. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't quite mimic the bowl-scraping, lip-smacking goodness I recalled from childhood. The "juice" from the peas was much thinner, and the cornbread was less flavorful than I anticipated. The two individuals I could consult and get to the bottom of where my recipe went wrong had long since crossed over. I was heartbroken. The sadness that washed over me after failing to duplicate a well-loved family recipe highlights how the holidays can trigger unexpected grief reactions. The absence of our loved ones amplifies the reality that we will never be able to enjoy the wonder of the holidays as we once did.
Have you ever wondered what it's like to have an international holiday? Unchain yourself from the shackles of a traditional holiday and give into wanderlust. According to AAA, close to 113 million Americans will travel over 50 miles away from home during this holiday season (December 23 through January 2). Abandoning holiday pleasantries and opting to travel is on the rise. People are taking off for distant lands, domestic and foreign, whether that includes a tropical getaway or a reprieve in a small town. The positive emotions, improved mood and increased happiness experienced by a change of environment lends itself to better well-being overall.
"In recent years, there’s been a shift from wanting physical gifts toward giving experiences. The survey data shows just that. Americans are hoping to get away and experience something new with their friends and family and, rather than accumulate more things, they will rather create new memories,” said Henry Perez, business development director at Bahia Principe Hotels & Resorts told the NY Post
Stripping away the formality and rigidity of tradition gives us permission to remix the holidays and reimagine them in a way that works best for all.