While I can't speak for every family or household, there's usually a lot of stress and panic around the holidays that has little to do with the holiday itself, and a lot to do with the expectations and pressure put on us by ourselves or others.
The holidays were originally a time to recognise various religious and historical celebrations; Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa and the New Year. But for the people around me and those I see on social media, the holidays are now just an annual cause of anxiety, burnout, frustration and sometimes competition.
And from what I can tell there are multiple reasons for this...
We all know that social media isn't reality and yet it's still hard not to constantly compare or feel insecure when we see how beautiful and "ideal" someone else's holidays are. Maybe it's a picture of a stunning Christmas tree, perfectly wrapped gifts or a cabin in the woods weekend getaway that makes us green with envy.
While it's completely normal to feel a mixture of unpleasant feelings, it's also healthy to limit your social media use and to remind yourself that a picture online doesn't show all the problems that person is dealing with.
Similarly to social media, almost every holiday film I watched as a kid depicted the same perfect festive set up. REAL and fully decorated Christmas trees, charming train sets, banquets big enough to feed them till New Years, matching Pyjamas sets and a consistent theme of love and belonging. Unfortunately these once comforting films can give us unrealistic expectations on what a holiday should be like.
We can spend days or weeks stressing about making our homes look like the ones on film but unless you're enjoying the process, what's the point of all that added pressure? My advice is to adjust your expectations this season and maybe get rid of them altogether. Plan and do things this month not because you think you need to meet some unrealistic standard set by Disney, but because you want to.
One of the hardest expectations to shake off is the ones we build during childhood. There's something so magical about the joy and excitement of the holidays as a kid that no amount of cookies or presents can replicate. And maybe that's okay.
We had a different perspective as children; no worries and more wonder and naivety that made December such a fantastic part of our childhood. It should be okay that our expectations adjust each year and our goals adapt to what matter most to us. Perhaps, instead of hoping for that incredible rush of excitement Christmas morning, we'll look forward to reconnecting with family members and replenishing our energy before work or school starts again.
The more we cling to rigid expectations the more pressure we'll be under and the less we'll enjoy it. It's okay if how we feel about the holidays changes and adapts- it's healthy!