Finding Happiness in the Holiday Season – Part 2

Christmas Noel

The introductory post identified 12 suggestions to turn this holiday season into an extraordinary  one.  Today we will look at a few of my favorite suggestions:

  • Creating new traditions;
  • Handling sensitive topics (read that politics) at dinner;
  • Make it reasonable, not perfect;
  • Be grateful – the joy & friends gratitude brings;
  • Resolve to forgive past hurts;
  • Give of yourself,  including random acts of kindness;

Creating New Traditions

I love the movie Lion King and the wise old Rafiki,  especially the scene where Rafiki is dislodging Simba  from the past. With a good whack of his walking stick, he reminds Simba that it doesn’t matter, it’s in the past.

Times change and our status may go from married with children to empty nester, single parent with/without children, to …sigh. And it’s time to create new holiday traditions and memories.

Holiday traditions are about coming together, maybe no longer as a big family, but in every imaginable variation. If alone, you can establish traditions of going to the movies, attending holiday events, etc. Single parents can create a smaller version of what they and the children enjoy.

Three ideas I’ve thrown in are shown below. The important thing is to create your own traditions with positive memories for all.

The Every Other Year Dilemma

Often in divorce cases in the US holiday custody or visitation may be on an every other year basis. Sometimes that works but the rules don’t prohibit talking over the issues. For example, every holiday is not the same for both parents. The 4th of July may be a biggie for one and Thanksgiving for the other. Do some tradeoffs, explore and create what works for everyone.

For myself we started off with the every other year but fairly quickly identified that while one parent always celebrated Christmas afternoon (giving in-laws time to travel) my mornings were free. So we compromised and had a Christmas brunch and present opening in the morning at my house, and a dinner later in the afternoon with the X.

For the guys who don’t have a lot of experience in the kitchen, google has almost everything you need to cook a turkey dinner. I would suggest you start with a smaller turkey  as it takes less time to cook and you won’t have to eat it for the next 7 weeks.

If your cooking has been deemed a fire hazard, you can actually buy a pre-cooked turkey with all the trimmings. And for fun, pretend you cooked it 🙂

A sure way to get a lump of coal…

Stay off the Naughty list by not speaking ill of the X and definitely don’t put the children in the middle between you in a tug of war. Although anecdotal, I can’t count the number of times that friends have related how speaking ill of the X, etc. backfired when the children grew older and realized…

A Gift Buying Day

One of my favorite traditions was to set aside a day for gift buying with the children. Helping the little ones to select a gift for the other parent left positive messages. Smaller children don’t drive, may not have money, and there as yet may be no step-parent to help out.

The children also had fun buying presents for each other. When money is tight, the dollar can buy anything store is often around the corner. Buying gifts for others turn thoughts outward and not inward, selfishly on ourselves.

Christmas (or any holiday) Dinner

One of my greatest Christmas experiences came when a friend invited singles in our congregation (ward) to come over for a Christmas dinner potluck. Christmas Eve was spent cleaning house, the morning  making final food preparations, etc. My children were scheduled to come over early Christmas morn, and that year we rescheduled their visit for late afternoon.

The dinner worked well, and I have fond memories of it. With the kindness of a friend, thoughts were again turned outward to others.

Don’t have a house but an apartment, try reserving the group room. If money is tight, split the cost between two or more. And ‘wella’, a new tradition has been formed.

Handling those Sensitive Topics at Dinner

Wow – politics have evolved into open warfare at times with many entrenched in extremes.

Some pointers for avoiding open conflict include simply seeding the conversation with ‘How ’bout them Chiefs’ …assuming all are Chief fans. Others may take a direct approach by gently reminding everyone that politics are banned from the table.

Or if the topic comes up, try a quick re-direct to safer grounds. And definitely never give into the troll, i.e., step into the ring with the troll and not good things are going to happen.

Sometimes a good approach is to just listen, and try to understand another’s viewpoint. It’s not your job to correct their insanity for in doing so, you might be revealing your own insanity 🙂

Make it Reasonable, not Perfect

Many friends and relatives have come to hate the holidays due to trying to create the perfect dinner, find the perfect gift, etc. Hours and hours can be spent looking for ‘the gift’.

It’s not a contest, and we should tone our efforts down to what’s reasonable.

Be grateful – the joy & friends gratitude brings

Gratitude is often not recognized for the contribution to happiness that it provides. Research shows a positive correlation between gratitude and measures of happiness, health, and satisfaction as well as likeability. And most importantly, it doesn’t cost a thing.

Numerous articles have been written on gratitude, and how to learn to be more grateful. One of my favorites is to keep a gratitude journal, listing every day 3 things for which you are grateful. Gratitude is an important part of the Lord’s prayer, and should be a part of our personal prayers.

Not one of us is an island, and recognizing the many things we have been given is so important!

Resolve to forgive past hurts;

Forgiving others of their trespasses is an important element of the Christian tradition. Letting go of past ill feelings, i.e., tossing out those extra rocks in our backpack,  can renew our spirits and lift the heart.

Sometimes when things have gone terribly wrong we may not be able to forgive all at once. If you’ve tried, then maybe just start with one item at a time until you work your way to charity — the pure love of Christ.

Christmas, Thanksgiving are especially good times to remember to be humble and forgive.

Give of yourself,  including random acts of kindness

Serving those less fortunate is a most appropriate round the year activity, but particularly at holiday time. By turning outward, you can bring joy to another and teach your children the same.

Return to Part One
Video presentation


James Spruell, Ph.D.

Dr. Spruell is an author, educator, consultant, and featured/invited speaker. His speaking engagements have taken him across the globe from Kansas City to Melbourne.

His vast consulting experience provides unique insight into the real life problems faced by so many. He is the author of the book, Creating an Extraordinary Life: Breaking Through the Abyss and numerous proceedings and articles.


© 2017 by James Spruell All rights reserved.