Breaking Holiday Rules – A Survival Guide

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Laura Carpini

By Laura Carpini

The time period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day seems to arrive sooner each year.  Holiday items are already hitting department store shelves.  If the prospect of being bombarded by oodles of gadgets and sparkly items you don’t need leaves you with shivers of joyous expectation, then kudos to you; your time has come.

If, however, you feel an uncomfortable pit in your stomach at the thought of sipping a gingerbread, peppermint stick latte while rushing about gathering items to bring to the annual get-together at your mother-in-law’s house – if per chance you can’t to bake pies out of mince meat or Granny Smith apples, or you stink at projects involving a needle and thread, then read on.  Here are some seditious tips for keeping your sanity.


1.  Rethink the Concept of Presents – Spending a boatload of cash on “stuff” you don’t want is insulting enough to your psyche.  Doing it for other folks, particularly those you love, is deluded.  Consider exchanging “presence” with your Beloved Ones instead of “presents.”  They’ll be happier spending quality time with you than opening packaged items of fluff ordered via Pay Pal, anyway.

2. Beware Excessive Amounts of Coffee and Alcohol – Yes, coffee houses and restaurants all over America devise a slew of creative beverages this time of year – drinks with names like Mocha, Candy Cane Espresso Blast Off or Cherry Red, Mudslide, Curacao Martini with a Lime Twist.  Consumption of these delights usually results in indigestion, new and undesired skin eruptions, and migraine headaches.  All true holiday rebels know to avoid them.

3. Eschew Events with People You Can’t Stand – Family and friends aside, you’ll receive invitations this month to “parties” from everyone from the local boutique selling Brighton holiday bracelets at a mark-up, to co-workers with French onion dip infused breath, carrying sprigs of mistletoe to dangle over your unsuspecting head.  Pssst – you aren’t required to attend every event to which you’re invited.  Some down time curled up with a book and a cup of hot cocoa, and your cat snoozing on your lap, can make you feel more festive.

4. Limit Time Spent with Family Members – Of course, you love and cherish your family.  The problem is the inevitable dynamic of judgment and comparison between siblings that results from lengthy conversations about the past, usually from parents, as they discuss your foibles as a kid that have absolutely no relevance to who you are today.  Some manners guru, probably Emily Post, suggests three days is the limit of time one should spend with beloved, extended family.  Consider following her sage guidance, and scheduling short, fun visits as opposed to lengthier ones rift with hidden land mines.

If that’s impossible, find a place of sanctuary during long visits.  Even a nook in your local video store where you can peruse the titles of non-saccharine films can provide a much needed respite from your own less sugary situation at home.  After all, you’re all there to carve the roast in the center of the table, not each other’s self esteem.  When you break bread with family, insist that it be in a spirit of joy and mutual understanding, which can only hold up for so long.   Keep family visits short.

5. Respect Your Own Children. If you have offspring refrain, from expecting them to put on a show, be it singing, dancing, or performing mind boggling feats of long division in front of company.  Don’t force them too often into itchy, uncomfortable clothing they despise for church services or other events.  And find something for them to do over their long holiday break.  Look for day camps – art, theatre, sports, whatever they enjoy – to enroll them in and keep them busy.

6. Limit Your Commitments. Refrain from volunteering to sew costumes for school pageants at the same time as you prepare your famous marshmallow, pineapple yams for the annual gathering of the extended cousins club.  Don’t offer to make the Frosty finger puppets for the holiday boutique unless you really enjoy that activity.

7. Avoid Places with Large Crowds, Excessive Noise, and Loud Music. Skip that extra trip to the mall in favor of going somewhere to soothe your nervous system, like a trip to a spa or an extra yoga class.

Ultimately, there are no “shoulds” when it comes to the holiday season.  You aren’t obligated to create traditions if you don’t already have them.  Let this be the year you allow yourself the freedom to relax and honor your inner promptings about what you want to do, even if it’s only for a day, an hour, or a few minutes.

Laura Carpini is the author of Bear Speaks: The Story of 7 Sacred Lessons Learned from a Montana Grizzly.  Visit her at

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