How to Stay Sane During the Holidays

This week is Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and as my Mom reminded me last night, Christmas is just one month from today, and Winter Solstice comes even sooner. One month! Ohmygosh! There’s so much to do!

I started to get a little bit stressed about it, thinking of all the preparations and celebrations. I’m also writing a novel, which won’t be done when the end of November arrives. I don’t want to set it aside and lose momentum on my story, so I need to add that to the mix. How can I do all that in one little month?

Then I remembered an article I wrote back in 1997, for a Pagan newsletter. It became part of my book, Starcat’s Corner: Essays on Pagan Living, and I thought I’d share it here with you. Here’s how to keep your sanity during the busy winter holiday season.

It is the dark time of the year, just now beginning to give us hope with the turn toward the light and the renewal and rebirth of the God, yet also the beginning of the hardest part of winter. It is ostensibly the time when we withdraw and turn inward. Why, then, do most of us find ourselves so busy at this time of the year?

Part of it is certainly our involvement in the customs of the secular American culture. Most of us have extended families who expect us to attend Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s celebrations. Many of us are invited to parties by friends and employers, and go out shopping for holiday gifts for our loved ones. And that’s not even taking into account our own planning for Winter Solstice rituals and gatherings. It is one of the busiest and yes, most stressful times of year for many people.

outsidetree2I believe that there have always been “festivals of light,” Pagan celebrations at the time of year when the days began to get longer. But I think the contrast of those celebrations with the time of quiet rest and retreat that came before, and would come afterward, was part of what made them so special. In other words, if we go through the time from Samhain to Solstice and beyond with a calendar full of social engagements, traveling, decorating, shopping, cooking, making crafts, and more, will we really be happy to celebrate the holidays when they finally arrive? Or will we be glad when they are over and done, so we can have a much-needed rest?

I’m not recommending giving up entirely the customs and traditions of the “holiday season,” as it is now called (which I think is great – it puts Solstice and Chanukah on an equal footing with Christmas). Some of my favorite activities at this time of year include making gifts for people I love, going on walks in the city to look at all the lights and decorations, caroling, and going to parties. I just think that we would do well to balance our activities with some time to ourselves.

How can we sustain and recapture the magickal aspects of the Winter Solstice and the dark part of the year? And in doing so, replenish our own energies?

“Why do we hurtle ourselves through every inch of time and space? I must say around some corner I can sense a resting place.” – Emily Saliers (The Indigo Girls, Get Out the Map, from Shaming of the Sun).

It might be too late in this busy season to take time out to do the things that you love, and that make you feel recharged (I’m making a note now to remind myself of this next Samhain). But that “resting place” is coming – the rest of the long winter stretches ahead of us. Take the days after your celebration of Yule to wind down, to be with your inner circle of family and friends, those who understand if you want to sit and just be still. Do some private rituals. Sleep in whenever you can. Capture the joyful parts of the holidays and let them seep into your soul.

Personally, I plan to let the bear in me take over, once the preparations and celebrations are through. I have a happy vision of snuggling on the couch with a book and some leftover cookies, reading and daydreaming. In the meantime, I’m living in the moment, enjoying the fast pace, the cooking and card-making and gift-buying and the partying and dancing.

I hope all of you have a very magickal and joyful holiday season! Blessed Be!

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