As I write this post, it is one week before Christmas. For many people, the entire focus of the past month has been on preparing for that day as the culmination of the season. Often they start the hustle and bustle the day after Thanksgiving – shopping, decorating social events, etc. Then by the day or so after Christmas or at least before New Year’s Eve, it’s all over. Decorations down, focus on recuperation and the coming “return to routine.”
I prefer to observe the 12 Days of Christmas which for centuries have been a time of celebration – starting with December 25 and ending on the evening of January 5. Others observe the pan-African holiday Kwanzaa from December 26 to January 1, celebrating family, community and culture.
The Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, follows a lunar calendar so the dates vary, but in 2019 it is from sundown on December 22 through sundown on December 30. This whole period of time includes a variety of celebrations that we can learn about and from, especially if they are from a different culture or group.
What if we extended whatever holiday we observe by planning to do some simple things that demonstrated care and love to others? The time after Christmas and especially after New Years Day is often a time of let-down, of sadness and loneliness for people – perhaps you and people you know. The energy and push of the previous month is over, the days are still short and winter weather prevails.
Here are a few suggestions for extending the spirit of the holiday season:
1. Engage with an elderly person. The holidays can be tough for bedridden and nursing home-bound individuals. Bring love to those who need it most. Show up with books or magazines, do a crossword or puzzle together, sing songs or even just sit quietly and be a good listener.
2. Share a cup of cheer. Here’s a simple gesture to offer – surprise someone you love with a hot beverage. Coffee, tea, cocoa or chai, whatever their pleasure. Invite them to you home or to meet at a restaurant or coffee shop for relaxed time together.
3. Help someone who is struggling. If you live where winter includes cold and snow, there are likely people near you who could use some help managing. It may be keeping sidewalks and driveways clear. Or perhaps the elements are keeping them inside and isolated. A visit and a treat – cookies, a loaf of sweet bread, etc. – can be a real boost.
4. Get together with grandparents. After the group gatherings of the holidays, January can be very lonely. Make a visit, take them out for lunch or a movie or some other activity that will be enjoyable and give you a quieter time to be together.
5. During these coldest times of the year, there are people in need of warm hats, scarves or mittens. Check with a school or homeless shelter. You could knit or crochet and item or two individually or have a gathering of a few friends to make some items. If you aren’t crafty or don’t have time to do that, find some cozy things at the store and share them.
6. Remember those who have had tough holidays because of a breakup, the loss of loved ones, family conflict or other factors. Making contact and perhaps spending a little time with them, even on the phone, can be a boost. It’s a reminder that people remember and care.
If you are one who experiences down time, even depression, after the holidays, doing one or more of these or similar things can give you a sense of purpose as well as help someone else. A win-win situation for sure!