03 Dec Create New Holiday Rituals To Fit Your Current Lifestyle
Welcome to the Christmas/cold weather holiday season. Think of bundling up in sweaters, and roasting chestnuts in the fireplace, and Santa’s sleigh gliding through the snow …
Wait a minute. This is South Florida. There is none of that here. Yet, South Florida may be the best place to spend the holiday season precisely because so much of what we experience does not fit the cultural messages of what this season should be. I learned this eons ago. I was a teenager on winter break visiting my grandmother who was test-piloting the snowbird lifestyle. I boarded a plane in Cleveland, Ohio, leaving behind bare trees, gray skies, and a cold wind that scoffed at my layers of clothes covering my freezing fingers and toes.
I arrived into a world of color – South Florida, surrounded by lush greenery and palm trees lazily swaying in the warm ocean breeze. I experienced that holiday season Florida-style. I watched boats glide down the Intracoastal festooned with Christmas lights and dancing Santas. I went to a holiday party where the action was around the backyard pool where people in short-sleeved shirts and sandals drank eggnog and nibbled on appetizers. The Christmas season in South Florida felt odd, but enchanting. The holiday season was the same as it was supposed to be – but it wasn’t the same.
In so many ways, that was the best part of that trip – learning that holiday rituals and practices are meant to be shaped and adapted to wherever we are in the world – both literally and metaphorically. We can take holiday rituals created for different places and times, and shape them to fit where we are – right here, right now.
I emphasize this because, at this time of year, we become seduced by media messages informing us about what the holidays should be about, what family relationships and gatherings should look like, what we should buy for ourselves or others if we are to be happy.
We may feel we aren’t good enough when doing, doing, doing for others results in our feeling depleted. We feel pressured to spend money we don’t have. We may feel that there is something wrong with us, something wrong with our lives if what we have right now in our three-dimensional lives appears so much less than what we see portrayed on a flat screen. Or we may be attached to our own internal movies of the past – how we used to be, how our families used to be. We get stuck on what we have lost, and lose sight of all that we have gained, and the gifts in our lives right here, right now.
What is magical about being in Florida at the holiday season is the constant reminder that holiday rituals and practices have to be shaped by the lives we are living. Holidays can be about sweaters and snow, or about Christmas lights on a boat bobbing down the Intracoastal. Holidays can be about gatherings of family and friends. The holiday season can also be about personal and spiritual reflection and renewal. The holiday season can be about excess. It can also be about simplicity. Living in South Florida reminds us that we have the capacity to experience this season in whatever ways best fit our lives – at this moment in time.
I think back to my first holiday season in South Florida, and I still feel the magic of watching a neighbor’s Christmas lights twinkle against the backdrop of swaying palm trees. For me, that is reason enough to cheer.