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It’s November 4th and I’m sitting at my local Starbucks, writing this article. Christmas has exploded all over the store, from the iconic red-and-green coffee cups and baristas sporting red aprons to themed drinks like the Chestnut Praline latte. Holiday music is piping through the speakers, and José Feliciano is already wishing me a Merry Christmas even though Thanksgiving is still three weeks away. I half-expect elves to bum-rush the front door.
No eye rolling here. I love it all. The period from Halloween to New Year’s Day is my favorite time of the year, and I savor every minute of it. But, while some people might feel frenzied during the holidays, I find that it’s actually the most relaxing and rejuvenating time for self-care. I happily tuck into the cooler climes and shorter days, nesting and resting and rediscovering my center as I settle into the slower rhythms of the earth. I don’t buy into the holiday-buying frenzy or endless parties. Instead, I cultivate activities that nurture and calm, so I can truly appreciate what the holidays are really about: a time for gratitude and reflection with those I love most.
In addition to that occasional Eggnog Latte at Starbucks, here are a few of my favorite things from this time of the year:
I’m fortunate to live in a state with 310 days of sunshine a year, and with enviable weather in the winter. I never miss an opportunity to be outside for weekend hiking or rock scrambling. I do this early in the day to get both my exercise and my vitamin D in, leaving more time for indoor pursuits.
I read year-round, but the crop of books published in the fall is always exciting. I love nothing more than a good read, a hot cup of tea, and a blanket around my feet as I while away the hours, lost in plot. Books on my stack this year include Gary Shteyngart’s Our Country Friends, Lauren Groff’s Matrix, Ann Patchett’s These Precious Days, and Claire Vaye Watkins’ I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness.
My journaling practice falls off in the warmer months when I tend to do more outdoor activities. But, with less daylight, I have more time to be reflective. This is the time of year when I crack open my well-worn copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and start writing morning pages again.
I love the smell of baked goods — from sourdough bread and scones to cookies and pies — coming out of my oven. I will happily get out of bed at the crack of dawn on a Sunday for a well-risen tray of overnight cinnamon rolls waiting to be put in the oven. And, you won’t find me in a store stressing out with other shoppers — my go-to holiday gift to give is a batch of homemade cookies.
My son, who is 16, loves Christmas as much as I do. From the time he was a toddler, we would draw up a calendar called “The 25 Days of Christmas,” in which we plan out 25 holiday-themed activities leading up to Christmas Day. It can be as simple as sipping hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows one night, decorating the tree another, or watching a favorite Christmas movie (Die Hard and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation are yearly staples). It’s a fun way to get into the season without any of the stress that comes with it.
I’m a firm believer that you don’t have to buy into the out-of-control commercialization of the holidays. And, with massive supply-chain issues this year due to the pandemic, a lot of us won’t have a choice but to dial it down a bit. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. After the year we’ve had, maybe self-care should be on the top of our wish lists instead.