Monday, December 3, 2012

Strike A Blow For Sanity: Take a Holiday From the Holidays

Photo Credit: Lightstock: Christ centered, royalty free photos

So I am sitting here, engaging one of my favorite past-times, which is watching youtube, when . . .

I know, YOU think it is a waste of time but I know YT as an invaluable tool for creative types like me.  The ROI on great ideas and amazing, informative information has got to be, like, 100 to 1.  

I've come up with so many great ideas from watching youtube I don't know what to do with them all.  The inside of my brain is like Fibber McGee's closet (for those of you too young for this reference, think of the reality show, "Hoarders").  
So here is an idea that actually made it outside of my brain and into my word processing program.


It comes courtesy of one of television's all-time great comedy series, "Seinfeld," and from one of comedy's all time great characters, George Costanza's father, Frank.  You know, THE GUY WHO YELLS AT THE TOP OF HIS LUNGS ALL THE TIME, PLAYED BY THE ACTOR JERRY STILLER!!  

Frank Costanza, who invented FESTIVUS FOR THE REST OF US!!!

Sheer genius.  Unmitigated social nirvana.

You may be thinking that Festivus is some sort of pagan, secular humanist alternative to Christmas.  And you'd probably be at least half right.  I don't think the Seinfeld show writers were terribly keen on Jesus as the reason for the season.

But that Frank Costanza had the right idea.  I think we can learn some things from him.  For instance,
  1. He had that moment of insight, when he was pummeling another human being in a toy store in a fit of holiday buying frenzy, that something had gone terribly wrong.
  2. He found tinsel to be distracting.  I do too. Tinsel is definitely counterproductive to enjoying holidays.
  3. He was driven to rebel against the blatant commercialism of the holidays.  I am not sure I want to rebel by putting an unadorned aluminum pole up in my living room, but I definitely see his point.
Iglesia Bill Harrod Christmas 2011
Photo Credit: Mark Grace
There is no need, of course, to slavishly copy all of Frank Costanza's ideas.

For instance, I would NOT recommend copying the Festivus tradition of sitting your family down and recounting all the ways they have disappointed you.


Here are a few things I'd recommend, just to prime the pump for your own brainstorming:

  1. Write out a holiday manifesto. Put down in black and white all the things that stress you about the holidays, then declare your freedom.  Write out what you want your holiday experience to feel like, to look like and what you want to feel when the holidays are over.
  2. Focus on what YOU can change to make the holidays more meaningful, NOT on what you wish other people would do with the holidays.  Please do NOT saddle your children or your friends and family with traditions, demands or manipulative expectations to make YOUR holiday happier.  
  3. Say "no" to at least one irrational holiday activity this year.  Figure out how to say "no" to one of those crazy obligations that only make you LESS like that person whose birthday we will celebrate on Dec. 25.  
  4. Now this next step is important: Schedule an Activity to Replace that useless, crazy holiday obligation.  Ideally it would be an activity that genuinely helps other human beings, that requires you to get up off the couch and into relationship with actual human beings.  No fair creating another crazy obligation- that will defeat the purpose- but trust the genius of serving others during the holidays.
  5. Spend 25% less this year. Start by asking for less.  See if your extended family or your immediate family would agree to setting a dollar limit on gifts, or eliminating gift giving in favor of a service activity that would get you all together doing something for someone else.
  6. Make a real effort to engage in 50% less drama. You could start by making a resolution NOT to tell someone how much they have disappointed you.  Or you can resolve to simply respond with "I love you," when someone else tries to guilt you.  Just "I love you." Period. Oh, and you might avoid at least 50% less drama by bowing out of one of those exhausting, irrational, crazy-making obligations you get yourself into every Christmas.
  7. Take time to remember and honor the people who are not here with you this Christmas.  Friends who retired, children who are busy during the holidays or who will be spending time with your ex, loved ones who have died.  
When it comes to people who are still living, #7 can sometimes be tricky.  It is usually not a good idea to play up the "I miss you so much because your rat of a mother wouldn't let you spend Christmas with me," angle.  That one is guaranteed to give your child a Christmas memory you are not going to enjoy having played back to you when they are thirty-something.  
"I love you" is good.  Just "I love you."  Or "I am so proud of you," that is equally good.  If you need to get difficult feelings out, talk to a friend or write a letter with ALL your feelings but don't send it.  That kind of writing may help you to unburden yourself without dumping on others during the holidays.
My last idea is this: take some time to read the story of Jesus' birth.  I mean start early and read it often.  You can find two slightly different versions in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke.  Here's a wonderful link to the Christmas story that also has links to more stuff.  

The idea of actually spending Christmas-tide getting to know the story of Jesus' birth is pretty novel these days.  It could radically change your experience of Christmas.

O.K., thanks for putting up with so much tongue-in-cheek humor today. 

I know these aren't all the ways to make a truly life-giving, sacred holiday, one that really is for the rest of us who see how insane things have gotten.  Leave a comment about something you are doing this holiday season to reclaim Christmas for Christ.

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