Holiday Expectations

Although I usually discourage anyone from referencing an idea without a citing to back it up, in this particular entry I’m breaking my own rule. I heard this story on the Today Show while making my breakfast this morning. It really got me thinking about my own Christmas expectations.

Usually right before Thanksgiving, people will start to hear holiday songs softly playing in department stores or even at the local Starbucks. Holiday coffee flavors start to surface shortly after this and “hot holiday deal” commercials begin taking the place of the usual Geico ads. This season the holiday spirit seemed to come just a bit earlier. Many theories suggest that advertisers began pumping up the snowflake laced commercials and ads because it meant people might start to buy earlier and may spend more than they had originally planned. Others believe it was to sooth the wounds caused by the unsteady U.S. economy. Whatever the reason, it seems as though this effort always raises expectations. Serious holiday shoppers begin to envision deals of the century and those who just need a little cheer see the Christmas lights as beams of hope for the year to come. The bottom line is that every year we raise the expectations for the holiday season to come.

Moving back to the story featured on the Today Show, it was suggested that we as loyal holiday celebrators start to lower our expectations before the holiday comes around. Every year people travel back to their homes to celebrate with family and friends. Usually these visits are with those who we see once a year or so. What this means is that those looming questions about our life goals and achievements start to crop up. Aunt Sue may ask if Laurie is asking for that promotion or Uncle Ralph may check in with Benny to see if he ever asked his long-term girlfriend to move in. This inevitably puts pressure on people and can cause an almost anxiety about going home for the holidays.

Another issue that was addressed was the case of the holiday perfectionist. We all have these people in our families (unfortunately it just happens to be me) and they always seem to be fussing over the dinner table layout or the correct ball to ornament ratio on the Christmas tree. They see things going a certain way and when they don’t, it can sometimes make them feel like Clark Griswold.

So here are some suggestions:

  1. Prepare for the tough topics. If you know that Aunt Sue is going to be pushing work related questions, come up with some answers that will get her off your back, but that don’t lock you in. For example: “Actually Aunt Sue I’ve given that promotion a lot of thought and I just feel like I should take some more time to work on my current skills before jumping in to something bigger.” This answer will show her that you aren’t shying away from the promotion, but rather better preparing for the job.
  2. Stop expecting your holiday to be perfect. I’ll admit, I too sometimes fantasize about sitting around a fire, sipping cocoa and roasting chestnuts while Bing Crosby plays in the background. I mean doesn’t everyone think about taking a midnight ride in a one horse open sleigh? No. They don’t. That is because I’m a lunatic. Actually, it’s just the traditionalist mentality. Many people have these perfect holiday traditions in their mind that they think everyone should re-enact. However most holidays don’t end up like this. Typical holidays are composed of grandma dropping the holiday ham and Uncle Larry slipping on ice in the driveway. This is what makes them memorable.
  3. Don’t worry about the perfect gift. Most of us stress for weeks before the holidays about what to gifts to get. The important thing to remember is that for most people, the thought really does count. Think about yourself for a second. Do you feel disappointed or upset that you didn’t get that pair of boots you’d had your heart set on? No. You’re happy with what gift you were surprised with.
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