If you don’t celebrate Christmas, or if your family and friends are far away during the holiday season, the week between Dec. 25 and New Year’s Day can seem like a temporal no man’s land.
That’s why it’s important to establish a tradition or two of your own. Tradition ensures that this period of time in our lives connects to all other periods of time.
“It gives us a structure and a sense of stability,” says Mary Kennedy, Psy.D. of Associates in Health Psychology in North Wilmington. “I think most people are happier when they have something to hold onto.”
Here are some things you can do to take advantage of your time off and hopefully arrive at an annual ritual of your own:
1. Make family a priority, if possible. Just because you don’t celebrate Christmas doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the down time with family and friends. Cook a meal, play games, watch a movie or just sit around and talk. Kennedy recalls the time she and a group of friends would meet during the last week of December to share something they’d each created to mark the past year. “Since we all knew each other quite well, it was very touching,” she says. “We immediately understood the significance of each piece of art. It celebrated the joys, the sorrows, the losses of the past year.”
2. Plan a staycation. If you’ve got the urge to splurge, why not decamp to a hotel for a few days? Hotels don’t close for Christmas, and they offer some pretty nice amenities like room service, housekeeping and fitness centers.
3. Play tourist in your own town. Embrace your inner tourist and rustle up some enthusiasm for the place where you live. Do some research to find out what out-of-towners do when they visit. Explore by foot. You’d be surprised what you can discover about a place when you walk through it.
4. Get organized. Designate Dec. 25 of every year as the day you get your house in order. Gather up the documents you’ll need for tax time into a folder or a box. Update your files. Straighten out your home office or workspace. Recycle out-of-date magazines and newspapers. Clear kitchen and bathroom shelves of outdated and unused items. Go through drawers, closets and storage areas, and donate what you can. You’ll give back to the community and get a tax deduction in return.
5. Play catch up. Are you behind on household chores? Work? Emails? Why not devote part of the day that society demands you take off to knock a few things off your to-do list. You can then sit back and relax with a sense of accomplishment.
6. Volunteer. Is everyone away? Why not spend a few hours helping those in need? Contact homeless shelters, soup kitchens and food pantries to see if they need help. This way you’ll feel that you’ve done something positive and that feeling may well carry into the New Year.
7. Do a year-end review. Throughout the ages, the winter solstice has been a time of renewal and reflection. “I think it’s really important to look back and to re-evaluate and re-assess,” says Kennedy. Which of last year’s accomplishments are you most proud of? Is there anything you would have done differently? What projects would you like to start and what connections would you like to make? What lessons will you apply to the New Year?
8. Read. Do you have a stack of books or magazine articles that you’ve been “meaning to get to?” There’s no better time than now. Email doesn’t ping and phones don’t ring on Dec. 25. And since Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, that means a nice long weekend of curling up with a winter drink and indulging in the guilty pleasure of a good read.