This article was originally published in Dr. Laura’s magazine, Perspective, November 2000 issue, but it’s still relevant 22 years later!
Has it really been a year since we ate all that Thanksgiving turkey and set up the Christmas tree or Hanukkah menorah? It’s hard to believe but yes, the end-of-the-year holidays are upon us once again.
In the spirit of holiday giving, we’re offering Perspective readers this exclusive holiday survival guide. It’s sometimes serious, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, but hopefully, you’ll find an element of wisdom your family can use to have a more enjoyable holiday season.
1. Party going
The chances are good that you’ll have to attend at least one office party, either your own or your spouse’s. Yes, it’s true. You may be stuck seated next to the guy who won’t stop talking, or find yourself in a big room surrounded by unfamiliar faces, but grin and bear it. It’s only a few hours once a year and it’s probably an obligation your spouse can’t afford to miss. So, make the best of it. Tag along with your spouse and contribute to the conversations. You’ll find that time really does fly when you’re joyfully doing something for someone else.
2. Budget busting
Going broke at holiday time seems to be an American tradition. One study reported that the average American needs until June of the following year to dig out of the holiday financial hole. That’s a tragedy. The best solution is to first determine what you can afford. Second, make a shopping trip based on that amount. Third, stay within your budget. A good way to reduce your holiday overhead is to make gifts. Any grandparent would rather have a hand-drawn picture from a three-year-old grandson more than an expensive gift mom or dad bought in a store.
3. Running ragged
During the holidays, too many families overbook themselves. Between the holiday shopping frenzy, the office parties and parties given by friends and the shuttling to and from the homes of relatives, we run ourselves ragged trying to satisfy too many people. One family we know has a multi-year schedule, worked out in advance with other relatives. Everyone agreed that it made no sense to try and see everyone everywhere. So each year, the host for Thanksgiving and Christmas rotates.
4. Extra eating
Let’s face it, we eat way too much during the holidays. And that wouldn’t be so bad, but we also eat the wrong things. At this time of year, we have Aunt Ethel who brings over her indescribable fudge, our coworker Bruce with his thigh-enhancing vegetable dip (which we must eat because he makes it only once a year) and cousin Rachel, whose latkes are so scrumptious, we simply have to have seconds. And thirds. And, well, you get the picture. If we’re taking until June to pay off our holiday bills, we’re probably taking until August to work off the holiday weight we’ve gained. Make this year that only the turkey is stuffed.
5. Missing meanings
The one class of people who don’t have to worry about how much they eat during the holidays is the nation’s letter carriers. That’s because the additional weight of the holiday catalogs gives them a daily workout comparable to hours on the treadmill. But the catalogs can also add something else: misguided values. At this time of year, it is important to remind ourselves of the real meaning of our celebrations. For any religious person, there is a renewal of our faith that often gets lost in the gift-giving. This year, vow to concentrate on the big picture. Concern yourself with holiday values, not holiday bargains.
6. Dumb drinking
During the holidays, we also drink too much. New Year’s Eve is a particularly bad time of year for drinking and driving. The holiday season is a very good time of year for liquor companies because they foster the notion that no holiday celebration is complete without alcohol. This year, resolve not to purchase liquor as a gift and resolve to limit your own imbibing to one glass of wine or beer with dinner. You’ll feel better the next morning and you won’t have trouble remembering whether you had a good time the night before.
7. People pettiness
At holiday time, we don’t practice enough forgiveness or “forgetness.” At a time when we should be organizing happy family celebrations, many of us are stuck in “pettiness overdrive.” We decline invitations or leave people out because we remember that nine months ago, our cousin seated us in the back of the ballroom at her wedding reception, or because our mother didn’t thank us for driving her to the doctor. Our overreactions to these minor annoyances cause us to deprive our kids of important time with extended family. This is the time of year to be the bigger person. See the big picture.
8. Silly spending
Whose idea was it to hold sales the day after Thanksgiving, anyway? On that day, many of us don’t work, but instead of relaxing with family and friends, we’re busy trying to save a few dollars on cuff links that Uncle Bill doesn’t need, or towels Aunt Lee will never use. And the crowds! Do yourself a favor and spend the day after Thanksgiving as a family.
9. Hubby hounding
Ladies, you probably know that guys are just not wired for holiday activities the way we are. Lots of guys wait until far too late to get their shopping done and wind up grabbing something that would look better on your mother than it would look on you. Oh, and that weed trimmer he bought you last year? Chalk it up to his desire to make your home more beautiful. He works hard and he means well, so ladies, give your man a break this year.
10. Stupid shopping
Last, but not least, is one action we can take to avoid big time spoiling of our holidays. This year, dear readers, don’t forget to save your receipts!
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