Reclaiming And Revolutionizing The Holidays
Reclaiming And Revolutionising The Holidays
It’s a long-accepted universal truth that the holidays come with more stress than they may be worth. It starts with Thanksgiving and runs well into the next year, filled with a lot of stressful interaction with a family that a lot of times doesn’t even want to be there either! Why do we keep doing this, and how can we make the holidays actually enjoyable?
Granted, a lot of people do genuinely enjoy the holiday season, and I’m one of them. I love stuffing and baked mac and cheese, watching polar express with my family, and filling the Christmas tree with colorful lights. But I also know how stressful it can be. Meaningless things like cleaning the couch or a late gift can send the entire family into a nervous breakdown just by proximity. Thanksgiving for me is filled with seeing cousins grow more and more prejudice and saying a prayer that reminds me just how unwelcome I am in such a religious house. I love my family, I do. But there are some traditions or some people that do not, in the words of Marie Kondo, spark joy. And I’m one of the lucky ones when it comes to drama, many people’s entire families are violently unaccepting instead of just awkwardly unwelcoming.
One of the biggest things you can do at this time is to rely on and contribute to a kind of support system, family or not. A sibling to talk to and that can talk to you, a group of friends that help each other, talking to your partner if you have one, all these things can help remind you that you’re not struggling through holiday drama alone. One of the most isolating things you can experience is being with family and having someone say something racist or homophobic and feeling alone and helpless in the situation. Something like this happened to me on Thanksgiving, and while I was panicking I talked to my friends who were actually going through the exact same thing.
Your support and love does not have to come from the family you were born into, and it is okay to not have care from them. It’s a golden rule that if you feel alone in any situation, use technology and the internet to connect with anyone anywhere, and you can find someone to relate with. You’re never truly alone as long as you can reach out, and reaching out can mean quite literally to anyone on this earth.
Another big thing to do is to take time for yourself! I know giving and sharing and selflessness are large themes across the board during the holidays, but it is not selfish to take care of yourself. Something I’ve had to learn the hard way is that you cannot help other people if you yourself are not at “full battery” in a physical as well as emotional sense. I’m reminded of an Audre Lorde quote told to me by a close friend in times of self-doubt or self-deprecation. It always helps me get back up on my feet, and states that “caring for yourself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation”. In a world and in a time that often demands instead of suggests that you put others before yourself in an unhealthy way, it means everything to give yourself permission to love and value yourself before anyone else.
At first glance, this may still just seem selfish, but I don’t mean disregard everyone entirely. Care for your family if they care for you, and always be as giving as you can. The key part is as you can. Don’t run yourself down in order to cater to other people if you aren’t caring for your health first, and don’t jump through hoops for people that don’t support you.
I’ve noticed a generational difference between the Gen-Zs and the rest of our older counterparts in the way we interact with our family. People our parents’ age and older see family ties as the law, and regardless of actual love, seem to stick with family members out of pure blood relation. A family doesn’t end with your blood relatives, and it doesn’t start with relation either. This idea of self-preservation and self-care in the face of toxic family members is something that is often shunned by older family and media. However, just because you share DNA with someone doesn’t mean you are beholden to them. So if you have a family that is actively rude or makes the holidays harder for you, don’t feel the need to suffer from archaic tradition.
There is a line to be walked between being needlessly and actually selfish and caring for yourself in the face of unhealthy family relations that once walked, can make your holidays and your lives overall more beneficial. Care for people that care for you, blood family or not. Do not spend unnecessary amounts of time or effort on people that do not do the same for you, blood family or not.
Everyone deserves to feel joy during the holidays, and if the idea of personal health and happiness over harmful tradition is too “new” or “radical” for many older generations to understand, well, I guess it’s time to bring on the revolution.