Diwali, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New year...No matter where you live, chances are you have a couple of festivals lined up in your immediate future or you might always been sucked into what I call the "Festive vortex" for a few weeks now.
Festivals are happy time that are supposed to be all about family and celebrating the season, but let's be honest, they are also an incredible source of stress that can leave us exhausted and short tempered as well.
What if I told you there is another way though, one were you can enjoy the festive spirit without running yourself past the point of exhaustion every year?
The festive season is that time of the year during which we try to replicate the magic we felt as kids at all cost not realising how much of a toll it takes on our sanity and no matter how hard we try, it always falls short from what we remember from our childhood days. of course there are a couple of very logical reason why we feel all that we feel trying too hard to bring back the past in our festive plans :
We were kids, we had a much different perspective and take on everything and it's not possible to replicate that
We had no idea how much work our parents put in to make the Holidays magical to us, chances are they were as dead beat tired as we are around that time of the year
Times have changed, so has our lifestyle and replicating everything won't work
keep it simple!
I actually wrote that in my planner a whole year ahead of time after I got so tired I couldn't enjoy the fancy Christmas meal I just cooked for me, my husband and then 2.5 years old daughter. Back then Christmas had become a chore, and no matter what nothing went to plan and I felt miserable. The fact I am a Swiss girl living in India had something to do with it, but the cold hard truth is that I seriously brought most of the stress upon myself and I had absolutely nobody but myself to blame. It was December 2011 and I took out my planner for 2012 and wrote "Keep it simple" on the December 1st page of said planner. The irony was that our landlord asked us to vacate the flat on December 21st 2012 to sell it and that year had been exhausting too, but not because I put pressure on myself to deliver a "perfect" Christmas. After that we made good on keeping all festivals as simple and fuss free as possible. In our multicultural family, we celebrate both Christmas and Diwali.
don't do what you don't want to do
The reason we tend to run ourselves into the ground on Holidays is that we try to make everyone happy, keep up with traditions that no longer make sense just because they are tradition, and before we know it, our expectations run the show instead of us. Part of my "Keep it simple" plan is to do away with anything I don't resonate with, I speak more about Christmas here since in our household I am the MC for Christmas and hubby is in Charge of Diwali (but we both pitch in on both festivals). I realised years ago that I actually don't care at all about the cooking part, for just us 3 it's a waste of time. What I care about is spending time as a family, and we can do that anywhere really, so we now head out to a nice restaurant for lunch and then go catch a movie in theatre. The movie thing came in 2015 when the Force awakens was released (on Christmas day), I'm a huge Star Wars fan and it was also the year we decided we preferred doing stuff as a family rather than exchanging gifts. Since then we found the magic formula for our own unique Christmas tradition, none of which involve sweating in the kitchen the whole day and being dead tired by the evening exchanging gifts that we quite frankly don't feel as excited as we were with as kids. It's more exciting to go watch a new movie we've been wanting to watch in cinemas.
If you are hosting a party, you are perfectly into your right to dictate the terms of said party so if you don't feel comfortable cooking all the food, you can announce it as a potluck, or order some take out food or go through a caterer, yes it might cost you a tiny bit more to order, but in the end to you want to be exhausted and resent the Holidays or enjoy it? I'm quite frankly the type that would rather spend less on gifts, and more on caterer fees if that is what it takes to keep me sane during the party.
create a keyless life
Last year I read Chillpreneur by Denise Duffield-Thomas (Amazon affiliate link) and in it she mention aiming at living a keyless life after she realised how much simpler her life as a busy mom changed when her new car had a keyless feature, letting her open and unlock her car without a key. In her book, she urges her readers to take this approach at simplifying and delegating all the tasks they don't feel excited about as much as possible. The book has been written with entrepreneurs in mind and applies to business, but the keyless principle really applies to everything in life, business or no business. All in all it's another way of saying "Keep it simple" and probably more proactive at finding ways to simplify an already fairly simple thing.
For years, Diwali has always been a bit tricky for us. Hubby and I have an habit of doing everything last minute and the result is not unlike Christmas : we get exhausted when the actual day of the festival comes. Diwali usually send people in a cleaning frenzy to get the home ready to welcome in the goddess Lakshmi, then there is buying something made of metal on Dhanteras, decorating the balconies with lights, making a rangoli in front of your door, buying sweets, and new clothes, and oil lamps called diyas... Back in 2019 we were exhausted from just deep cleaning our flat and I remember saying "Next year we hire cleaners to do it" Of course 2020 had other plans, and Diwali was low key, then in 2021 we were going to our family's place to celebrate so this year is the first time we can (and did) make good on that 2019 statement. We hired cleaners to deep clean the bathrooms, kitchen and clean all the windows. We also hired an electrician to come hang up Diwali lights on all 4 balconies because both hubby and I are afraid of heights and hanging them was always a source of stress. Since all of our lights fired over the year we also asked them to bring us new lights (that we paid for) to hang. Two of the tasks we dread the most each Diwali are now out of our way and our sanity is still intact. This year I also set out to go buy all the small things like diyas and rangoli powder early (no last minute shopping this year) and I got introduced to "Rangoli mats" by my favourite shop owner. It's a foam rangoli (mandala) cutout shape with raised edges for each element of the design so that you pour the colored powder in each compartment and make no mess. I love making rangoli, but quite frankly sitting on the ground in our gloomy hallway sweating buckets and smearing powder all over was something I never liked, having the option to simplify that process is something I am not going to say no to. As Denise DT said, find ways to make everything keyless in your life.
make a list of what matters and plan from there
We often do things for festivals that we either don't care for, or downright hate doing just because we feel obligated to do them for all kind of reasons. It's time to put an end to it, NOW! Take a pen an paper and draw 2 columns and write everything you LOVE about a festival on one side and everything that you HATE. Be brutally honest, just write from your feelings, not what the society expect you to love or not. Love making beautiful gift wrapping and buying persents for everyone? In the love column it goes. Hate the stress of hosting a big party? In the Hate column! At this point don't look at it as "But I have to", just segregate things in a love and hate column.
Once you have that done, look at the love, and check if realistically with your lifestyle and budget you can do all of these and incorporate them into your version of the holidays or if some of them can be altered, toned down a bit, or if you can delegate some of it. Personally I love baking Christmas cookies, but for the past 3 years I had such a hectic time around December, that I decided not to do it and order Christmas treats instead, I might bake some this year, but I haven't decided yet. I also love Diwali lights on my balconies, but I'm seriously scared of plummeting to my death falling off the ladder so this year I delegated it.
Then repeat with the HATE column, but be a lot more brutal in purging it. Unless there is no way around it, what you hate about a festival HAS TO GO. And for everything that can't be chopped off that list, look at ways to make it less of a pain in the behind : hate cooking but love family meals? Order food from outside, or go to a restaurant. Hate gift shopping but can't wiggle out of it? Order online or check with small business owner around you if they have options that would keep you out of a crowded mall. Don't like the idea of buying anything material as gift? Why not look into gifting experiences like an art class voucher, a night out to see a concert, or a massage.
Holidays are supposed to be fun and happy times and what worked for our parents and grand parents may not work for us, and it's more than ok to build new family traditions that work for you, nothing is set in stone so don't pigeon hole yourself into something rigid just because you feel there is only one right way to celebrate a festival, especially if you have kids.
Kids don't know what is right or not right about Christmas, Diwali or New Year, they don't have expectations, adults do. Kids will only pick up on your emotions, so if you are snappy and tensed and drained around a festival, rest assured they will pick up on that. You owe them to be relaxed and happy, not tired and grumpy, that should be your only goal for any big celebration during the year.
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