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Blog: Can We Have Some Order Here?
Creating Your Own Holiday Traditions

Folks are always talking about holiday "traditions," but what does that actually mean? Decorating the tree? Sending Christmas cards? Baking enough cookies to feed a small country of sugar junkies? What if these sacraments really just don't do it for you -- and you're looking for a different way to celebrate the season? Let's take time this year to develop a few holiday rituals that focus on your true priorities.

Get Out Of The Kitchen

Which holiday party sounds better to you -- an evening where you get to enjoy socializing with your friends and family, or one where you spend all night running back and forth to the kitchen checking, tasting, basting, serving, and cleaning up? I personally would go for the first choice! Many people see this as the season for impressing folks with their over-the-top culinary skills -- spending the entire month of December in self-imposed exile, slaving away in front of a hot stove, never to see the light of day. But I've got news for you -- your loved ones will appreciate you much more if you actually spend time with them than if you serve them a  super-fancy 17-course meal.  Remember, Martha Stewart has a paid staff and tons of money and way too much time on her hands!

Instead of trying to kill yourself entertaining the old-fashioned way, choose an option that combines food with time together in a more equitable (and less back-breaking) way. Let your family help plan the menu and assign each person a specific dish -- then turn preparation time into a fun party, complete with holiday music and some good mulled wine. Plan a potluck or a progressive dinner (where each guest cooks one course and you eat your way from house to house). Invite all of your friends over for a cookie swap and baking session. Skip the presents this year and spend the money on a nice dinner out that everyone will enjoy (without all the work). Do whatever it takes so that you can actually participate in the celebration along with your guests.

Get Out Of The Mall And Back To Nature

Winter is a natural time for most people to stay indoors -- it's cold, it may be snowing or sleeting, and it gets dark earlier. Well, at least this is true if you live up north (as full-time RVers, we're in Florida this winter, and it's a sunny 80 degrees outside -- eat your heart out!) So it seems natural that most of our holiday experiences these days are inside of a building -- concerts, parties, the Festival Of Trees, indoor ice skating, etc. And this year, folks claim they will spend an average of 30 hours (that's nearly a full work-week!) shopping for gifts and other holiday "paraphernalia" -- that's not just time spent trekking through the stores, but also time spent online browsing for deals. Good grief!

I guess my question is, don't people get outside anymore? Don't misunderstand me -- there's nothing wrong with curling up in front of a fireplace, wrapped in a blanket while the snow piles up outside. But modern humans were not meant to hibernate -- this seasonal lack of activity (combined with the increased availability of empty calories during the holidays) is a lot of the reason for that November/December weight gain. And by limiting outdoor exposure to those few brief minutes between house and car, we're missing out on the opportunity to enjoy a really beautiful slice of the year. Winter is a wonderfully peaceful time to be right smack in the middle of nature -- silent and still, like the whole world is asleep. And after all the crowds, the canned heat, and the artificial lighting, there is nothing more therapeutic than fresh (yet brisk) air and sunshine. Develop some rituals that involve stepping away from your cocoon and out into the world. Hang pine cone ornaments (covered in peanut butter and bird seed) on trees in the woods -- as a treat for the birds.  Go to a Christmas tree farm and cut your own tree.  Build a snowman. Just take a walk through the morning air. Getting "unplugged" for a little bit will help you clear your head and reflect on the real meaning of the season.

Turn Off The TV

I love a good holiday special -- a sense memory from my childhood, a reminder of simpler times and values. And I am particularly enamored of DVDs, so I don't have to tolerate all the annoying  interruptions in the middle of Linus's heartfelt speech. But ask yourself honestly, how much time will you (or your kids) spend watching the boob tube this season? TV execs have got things figured out this time of year -- if they call it a "special," everyone will tune in. But how many times do you really need to see "It's A Wonderful Life"? Does "A Christmas Story" actually get any better on the 35th viewing during its multi-channel multi-day marathon? And is your life experience truly enhanced by watching "The Star Wars Holiday Special" (White And Nerdy cred aside) -- or by sitting through a yuletide Jonas Brothers concert? I think not!

Wouldn't that time be better spent doing something meaningful with your loved ones? Try and trade at least one TV show for an activity that involves something (anything!) besides staring mutely at a flickering screen, essentially ignoring the other folks in your presence. Instead of watching "The Grinch," pull out the Dr. Seuss book and tell the story. Go caroling around your neighborhood. Take photos of the lights and decorations. Or dress up as Santa and get naughty with your favorite Mrs. Claus (I did say anything!) I promise that the memories you share will be much more valuable than that lost hour in front of the telly.

Try On Another Holiday For Size

One of my favorite holiday rituals is celebrating in the tradition of another culture each year. This doesn't mean abandoning your own religious beliefs or personal preferences -- it's just an exercise in expanding your horizons. One year, we celebrated the last day of Hanukkah with some Jewish friends, but we lit our candles honoring those who have dedicated their lives to world peace. Another year, we incorporated one of the seven principles into our evening activities on each day of Kwanzaa.  I'm not Jewish, and I'm not African American -- but that doesn't mean that I can't appreciate and participate in the traditions that make these holidays meaningful. There are so many interesting celebrations during the winter months -- solstice, yuletide, Boxing Day -- and for you secular folks, a Festivus for the rest of us, with its "airing of grievances" and "feats of strength" (FYI Seinfeld fans, this holiday has actually been around since 1965, and was started by the family of one of the show's scriptwriters).

If you're just really stuck on doing the jingle bell thing, you can also find hundreds of different ways to celebrate. Have a Victorian holiday one year, a colonial-style Christmas the following year, and a country celebration the next. If you're feeling adventurous, try fixing a holiday dish from another country or instituting a foreign tradition. Maybe this year, you can put out wooden shoes instead of stockings (Holland) -- or hang a blown glass pickle on your tree (Germany) -- or have your holiday meal at midnight on Christmas eve (Mexico).  This practice will liven up your holidays, give your family something new and interesting to do each year, and keep you from getting into a rut with your celebrations.

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posted on: 12/9/2010 11:30:00 AM by Ramona Creel
category: General Organizing Tips

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Can We Have Some Order Here?

by Ramona Creel

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About Ramona:

I have been a Professional Organizer for more than 10 years, I am a NAPO Golden Circle member, and I was the original founder of OnlineOrganizing. I have worked one-on-one with scores of clients and have trained dozens of newbie organizers as they got started in the industry. I provide both hands-on and virtual coaching to help clients improve their organizing skills and simplify their lives. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.RamonaCreel.com, and I challenge you to find one new idea that you can put into practice in your life, to help you become better organized, starting TODAY! I am passionate about coaching folks toward a more balanced, productive, and enjoyable life -- and I firmly believe that if I can do it, so can you!

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