What is your vision of the holidays? Sharing cozy times with friends and family while enjoying the spirit of giving? Hectic travel plans and visits punctuated with mandatory gift exchanges? Or perhaps you have adopted an arm's length approach in order to keep the mayhem at a distance.
The holidays present us with lots of challenges, along with some opportunities to shift our priorities, if only for awhile. At its heart, the holiday season is a beautiful time of year inviting us to slow down and go inward as we also reach out to others with gratitude and generosity. There are many simple and delightful traditions to draw on that include elements of beauty, food, music, reflection, and spirit. We would like to suggest that you seize the season and use this time to practice Slow Living. What this means is taking the time and choosing the activities we need to savor life, find meaning, and connect more.
In our unofficial survey of people and their experience of the holidays, almost everyone reported that they had the happiest time when they planned to do less. We stress planned because those people who intentionally created the circumstances for doing less were happier than those who just ended up doing less than they anticipated. The do–less planners scheduled their down time, and lots of it, between a few bigger events. They also made provisions for this down time by making sure they had access to what they enjoyed easily available to them—be it books, board games, movies, friends, food, or the out–of–doors.
While we recommend doing less generally, we also suggest finding more occasions for creativity. Increasingly, the drive to consume in our culture is usurping our natural impulse to create, with negative consequences all around. It's time to reclaim our creative selves and make stuff, whether it's music, food, gifts, decorations, or experiences. There is something deeply satisfying about the process of creating that goes beyond what we feel when we buy something. It is likely that you don't need to acquire a single thing to celebrate this season if you apply your creativity. However, if you do feel compelled to consume, please try to support someone else's creativity and make purchases from artists, craftspeople, and local businesses.
But what about all the gifts you feel you need to give to the people in your life! A lot of us would love to renegotiate gift–giving. You might want to talk with your family and friends and see if they would like to find alternative ways to share and acknowledge each other. In those cases where you still want to give gifts, we would bet that many people in your life would prefer it if you gave of yourself in some way. This is a chance to flex your creativity through writing, music, food, or a handmade gift. And don't forget one of the most valuable of all offerings, the gift of time. How could you spend time with those you care about having fun or helping them? (Who wouldn't like some help cleaning out the garage, working in the garden, or running a few errands?) There is no need to limit giving in this way to just the people we know. This is a great time of year to learn about all the ways you can donate your time and energy to people who need your support.
We love a good rich holiday meal as much as the next person, but a whole season of splurges leaves us feeling and looking stuffed. This is the time to find ways to enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables, especially if your creativity trends towards the culinary. Roasted veggies—yum! Baked fruit—bring it on! Go easy on the sugar and fat while you are at it. Given that many of us are going to spend more time and energy than usual preparing some slowly savored meals, why not invest in preparing fresh fruits and vegetables? Here's our chance to come through the holiday season healthier than ever.
At different points in our lives, we have lived overseas where people didn't celebrate the same holidays. Some of our fondest memories are of cobbling together a celebration out of the things at hand. It helped us concentrate on the spirit of the event and find a few activities that best reflect it—drawing a fireplace in chalk on the wall (complete with fire!), gathering ingredients to make a special treat, making up words to holiday tunes we knew, receiving just one small, but special gift. We especially remember these holidays because we made them ourselves and there was time and opportunity to savor each part, especially the act of celebrating together.
This month, our wish for you is that you have a joyous holiday season, full of creativity, good company, delicious fruits and veggies, and most importantly, time to enjoy it all!
What are your fondest holiday memories? Talk with family and friends and see what was most meaningful and pleasurable for them. Do you see any themes or patterns?
Based on your explorations, plan a Slow Holiday Season. Talking with your nearest and dearest, decide on a few big events and then plan some down time between activities. What would make this time most enjoyable? Would you like a break from technology a la Secular Sabbath? Even if you can't plan your whole holiday this way, try a day, or two, or three. (Warning: You may never go back!)
Wishing you a Wonderfully Slow Holiday Season!
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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