paulawray.com

Holiday Joy

Four Steps to a Happy Christmas

NOVEMBER 22, 2013 | PAULA WRAY

Judging by the number of advice articles concerning holiday survival, you would think a plague of locusts arrived every Thanksgiving and stayed until January 2. Can you remember a time when Christmas was all about joy and goodness? Here is my prescription for reclaiming that magic.

1. Go easy on yourself

Is it etched in stone that you have to bake 6 dozen cookies? Are you legally bound to stack presents to the ceiling. Will Santa forsake you if you don’t string a thousand synchronized lights on your house? Of course not! You are your own terrible task-master! Lighten up on yourself! Save some time to sit back and enjoy the holidays. Do you really think your family will suffer from lack of sweets this year? Will anyone starve if you serve a light buffet of cold cuts and crudites instead of roast bird? Think of how much time you’ll have to enjoy your company instead of slaving over the dishes and gathering up wrapping paper.

2. Dump the joy-suckers

It may sound harsh, but if anyone is sucking the joy out of your life, get rid of him or her by Labor Day. Joy-suckers only get worse over the winter holidays. Don’t wait until s/he has vacuumed up every last residue of Christmas joy (do I sound bitter?). Guess what – that Hoover may be better off without you. I happen to know a former joy-sucker who seems like a  happy, decent human being now.

3.  Allow yourself to be happy

The holiday season has a way of dredging up memories of lost loved ones. It’s a wound so deep that it never completely heals. But if you feel guilty about enjoying the holidays, ask yourself if Mom-Dad-John-Mary would have wanted you to be downcast. Wasn’t your happiness their greatest desire? Honor their memory with joy this Christmas!

4. Demonstrate kindness

Science confirms it, and you know it’s true. When you perform a simple act of kindness, it makes you feel good, it helps someone else, and it is often contagious. This year I pledge to let a harried young mother jump ahead of me in the Walmart line. I’m going to thank the bedraggled cashier for her hard work instead of fooling with my smartphone. I promise to drop some money in the Salvation Army bucket. The random act of kindness has become a little cliche’, but it is certainly not overused. What do you pledge this holiday season?