Holidays can be hard for numerous reasons. It could be that a loved one has passed during the year, and so it’s our first time celebrating without them. It could be that we are unable to gather with our family or friends, and being alone doesn’t really feel like much of a reason to celebrate.
Yet Thanksgiving and Christmas are great opportunities for us to celebrate Jesus’ birth and to give thanks for all that God has given us. We need those annual reminders, just like the Israelites had their annual feasts and festivals.
So if you or a friend are heading into a difficult holiday season, here are three things you need to remember.
It’s Okay to Celebrate When You’re Sad
Many things might contribute to feeling sad during a holiday: losing your job, not being able to gather together, not being able to celebrate the way that you want to.
Perhaps grief is the biggest reason that we feel sad this time of year. Losing a loved one is never easy, and when it comes to holidays and celebrations, their presence is especially missed.
It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to miss them. It’s okay to be sad for a while. But it’s also okay to celebrate without them.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.Ecclesiastes 3:4, NLT
I know it’s hard. You might feel guilty for celebrating when they aren’t there. Try to find a way that feels right to you–that acknowledges the grief and heartache, and yet still celebrates the joy in the season.
What might that look like for you?
- Maybe you set aside the night before Thanksgiving or Christmas to be alone and grieve… remember the person you lost, look through photos, talk to God about the hurt of not having them there with you anymore. And that enables you to be fully present with the rest of your family the following day when you’re all gathered together (even if some tears are still present).
- Maybe you buy a special ornament or memento to remember them this holiday season. (Our Tear Bottles can be turned into Christmas ornaments. We love to help people remember their loved ones in this way.)
- Maybe you attend a Blue Christmas service in your community that acknowledges the tension of a holiday filled with both grief and celebration.
It’s Okay to Celebrate Differently
Holidays change as we get older. As a child, we might have woken up early in anticipation to see what was under the Christmas tree. As an adult, maybe we prefer to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast before heading to the gifts.
But holidays can also change when we face transitions of our own–moving away from family and friends, welcoming a baby into the family, getting married, or starting a new job.
Change is okay. Even though it’s sometimes hard.
Thanksgiving or Christmas might look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean you have to give it up altogether.
How can you find ways to celebrate in the season that you’re in? Is there a new tradition you can start? Something you’ve always wanted to try?
- Volunteer to serve at a local non-profit if you can’t be around family or friends.
- Play games or watch movies together instead of exchanging gifts.
- Fix one dish of the holiday meal instead of the entire thing, and let others contribute their food, too.
- Celebrate on a different day, if that means your family can all get together instead of just a few of you.
Some Things are Just for a Season
While the loss of a loved one or a major move requires a bit of change in the way you celebrate, sometimes, the change is just for a season.
Our son was born on a major holiday, which meant that we didn’t get to visit with the family that had gathered. We didn’t even get to see our older daughter that much. Instead, we were confined to our hospital room. That day obviously looked different to us than most holidays did. My parents brought us some of the leftovers and we enjoyed a little celebration of our own in our little room.
But that was just one year. Similarly, this year might be “just the one year” when things look a little different for you.
Instead of being disgruntled about the whole thing, try to keep the big picture in mind. It’s just one year. Next year, things might be back to normal.
Try to embrace the season you’re in and enjoy it. Be present. Don’t let circumstances steal the joy and cheer of the holidays.
How can you stay focused on the purpose of Thanksgiving and Christmas? How can you keep your heart from being bitter or resentful because you didn’t get your normal holiday?
- Keep a gratitude journal where you list things your blessings/things you are thankful for.
- Stay in the Word. Reading the Bible helps keep us connected with God and focused on Him.
- Find ways to bless others. It doesn’t have to be big. A hand-written note, phone call, or small gift could be just what they need to feel special and loved.