I had the radio on while I was out yesterday, trying to stay afloat in the sea of holiday traffic. What I heard was a constant barrage of, “Do you know what makes the holidays great?” And, “This is a must for your holidays!” — all with the incessant backdrop of sentimental Yuletide music and jingle bells.

I turned it off.

At this juncture, I have a fair number of holiday seasons under my belt. Whatever they were trying to sell me wasn’t going to make any day great or cause my holidays to be the best ever.

I’m very aware that the holidays are very painful for some, who don’t have any childhood memories – or very few – of anything safe or pleasant or exciting happening. I know there are people who are estranged from family for good reason and may feel as if “home for the holidays” is the last place they want to be. I know there are people who are too worried about the heating bill and have to work extra shifts in order to make this month’s payment.

All of that makes me even more grateful for what I’m able to experience.

What makes my holiday special isn’t tangible however. And I might say that these two things are available to almost anyone who at least are able to be together with people – friends, neighbors, family, coworkers – anyone who may also benefit from a sense of togetherness, especially after the ravages of the pandemic.

First, it’s the feelings.

Feeling the easy laughter of long-time relationships, or the gentle pleasure of creating a new one. Riding an excited rush as you catch your first glimpse of someone you haven’t seen in far too long, or realizing how you’re taking a first step in creating a relationship that may have the potential to grow. Sensing the warmth of tears welling in your eyes as a toast is made in honor of someone who’s no longer by your side. Or sharing a toast to begin a new tradition.  Watching with gentle amusement as the now adult children you’ve guided and loved try to coax their own children into settling down for a nap. Or asking about someone else’s stories and what their own “best” memories could be.

Second — it’s the effort. It takes effort to travel. It takes planning to put together a big meal for several people. It’s work to decorate, to put up lights or try to make sure favorite rituals still happen. Knowing that both your favorite and your not-so-favorite relatives will be arriving at the same time? That can require both patience and a sense of humor, neither of which is necessarily readily available during the holidays. Inviting the person at work who told you they didn’t have a place to go and helping them feel at ease causes you to go out of your way, often at a time when your own energy level is compromised.

Those efforts don’t always go swimmingly. Maybe your tree won’t be spectacular, maybe your rolls won’t rise. Maybe Santa will bring something whose size is too small, and you’ll vow to eat Paleo for a year.  Maybe there’s be a couple of awkward silences.

So what? You still have the feelings. And you know you made an effort that meant something to you, and to others.

So when January’s icy blasts arrive, or you’re sweating in July’s humidity, you’ll remember the effort, and feel that warmth all over again.

No one can take those feelings from you.

Happy Holidays to each one of you.


You can hear more about mental health and many other topics by listening to my podcast, SelfWork with Dr. Margaret Rutherford. Subscribe to my website and receive one weekly newsletter including my weekly blog post and podcast! If you’d like to join my FaceBook closed group, then click here and answer the membership questions! Welcome!

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Photo by JESHOOTS.com.


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