Help me un-grinch my holiday season!
November 21, 2009 11:51 AM   Subscribe

Help un-grinch my holiday season! Need suggestions for ways to get myself into the holiday spirit when I come from a family who does not really participate...

The 'holiday season' seems like a lot of fun, but for various reasons, I am feeling a bit like a non-participator. We are Jewish, for one thing. My mom's family does have one big Hanukkah party, which is a blast, but we decided a few years ago to stop buying gifts. The kids get little presents from each family, and the adults each chip in $20. A name is drawn and that person chooses a charity. We have never been into huge decorating or anything like that and I do not yet have a partner and/or kids to make such efforts for myself.

My dad and I are not close. He is married to a non-Jewish person and for awhile, they did big Christmas things. But now her elderly parents cannot come to them anymore, so they spend most of the school Christmas break out of town with her family. I used to buy presents for them and the half-sibs, but the sibs are old enough to reciprocate and do not, and there are too many people. I asked Dad last year if we could just have a nice dinner and forgo the gifts, and he seemed relieved.

It's hard to do a ton of stuff with friends because most of them have large families and numerous family commitments. I literally seem to be the only one who for various fairly benign reasons, has no big holiday 'season' to look forward to. I'm a bit disappointed, actually. It seems like a fun time of year, and I am seeing the decorations and hearing the music and feeling a little bit like none of it applies to me...

So, ideas? Anything? I thought about volunteering somewhere on Christmas eve and perhaps spending what I used to spend on holiday tokens for dad's family at the toy store and then donating to the toy drive. It could be fun to go pick out toys with such a budget and then donate them.

But what else could I do to enjoy the 'holiday season' when I am not used to participating and will be pretty much flying solo on this>
posted by JoannaC to Human Relations (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might want to try one of the community Hanukah events. Those are pretty common at synagogues in case you attend one or have a friend who does, and can also be located through college/university communities.

I can tell you from experience that it is a wonderful experience to volunteer, and there are a lot of ways to do it: 1) shop for foster kids/shelter kids 2) volunteer to shop for/cook for/dish out for homeless shelters 3) get a shopping list from local domestic violence organizations. You can also organize your own food/toy drive for local charitable groups.

Because it is so heartwarming, it can be difficult to get signed up specifically for holiday food events, but if you volunteer at other times for organizations, you will get on the list.
posted by bearwife at 12:00 PM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

For many reasons, the holidays are tough for me but the one thing that never fails to get me in the holiday spirit is watching "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (be sure to get the original one, not the remake called "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown."

I invite friends over each year to watch the movie and have a little cocoa, dessert, whatever. And right after Thanskgiving, I play the soundtrack in my car almost every day. It makes me happy and even though I live in Arizoa, it conjurs up memories of snowy Christmases in New York. Not sure if this is what you're looking for but it's worth a shot.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 12:57 PM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Well, if it makes you feel any better I'm kind of in the same boat.

Actually, I doubt if any of my family members will even call or email me on xmas, not to mention thanksgiving.

Ditto for "friends".

I used to be the one to send gifts, visit and email everybody but I kind of gave up on Christmas a few years ago.

Not in spirit but with other people.

Its not that big a deal for me now but I understand the twangs of hurt.

I may just volunteer instead - it sounds like a great idea.
posted by simpleton at 1:18 PM on November 21, 2009

And watching Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase always helps cheer me up!
posted by simpleton at 1:20 PM on November 21, 2009

I believe my jewish buddy swears by chinese food and Atlantic City. Calls it "Jewish Christmas." You may find kindred souls in a similar place.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:48 PM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think by understanding the meaning of the holiday called Chanukah and the history behind it, you'll start feeling more of the *spirit* of things. It's rarely related - what it's actually all about - and many people think it begins and ends with dreidels and candels - but there's a whole other spectrum that Chanukah encompasses and it's truly beautiful. Chabad has a nice site on this holiday and includes a way for you to find activities in your neighborhood (recommended for being very cool). The Chanukah Site
posted by watercarrier at 1:58 PM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Volunteering sounds awesome, plus you'll get to interact with others. Being around people doing good things will probably help you feel good too. It's probably best to look into this early and see what opportunities are available in your area.

As for friends, are they all tied up with family obligations for the entirety of their local stay? My hometown pals and I often do a White Elephant book exchange (max $10? $15?) on a day when most people are free from family obligations (e.g. not Christmas, maybe a few days after). Mostly we just like having the opportunity to all get together, play card/board games, toss a frisbee, and just dork out in general. Not all of us can make it each time, which is ok. We just like seeing each other when we can.

The Rankin-Bass stop-motion Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer movie is a holiday staple for me. Warm fuzzies and cheesy goodness all around. My family's not really into the holidays either, so I mostly got my notion of the holiday spirit secondhand from classic tv specials like Rudolph and the original Charlie Brown one.

Food can be comforting. Are you near a Trader Joe's? Do you like peppermint? I find that peppermint or minty things helps me get in a holiday sort of mood, and TJ's has a bunch of excellent minty goodies. Their Candy Cane Joe-Joes are delicious, as are the Dark Chocolate Covered Peppermint Joe-Joes (basically, sandwich cookies with minty filling). There's also lots of holiday-related food in general that isn't Trader Joe's specific, like gingerbread, cocoa, and apple cider... mmm.

If you like music, maybe you could compile a holiday mix and pump up the jolly jams. This Queen parody would be a fantastic start, and the lyrics poke fun at the usual holiday hullabaloo, so that might cheer you up a little.

Is it the gift-giving you miss about the holiday season? I guess I haven't really cared much about that part after being old enough to buy most things when I'd like to, instead of having to depend on the holidays. What is it about the holidays that appeals to you that you feel like you won't be able to get this year on your own? Maybe further inquiry into that will help you figure out what you'd like?
posted by cobwebberies at 2:16 PM on November 21, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Hmm, clarification for that last paragraph: not that getting gifts for yourself is the main draw, and it's fun giving gifts to loved ones, but I've noticed you mentioned the lack of mutual gift-giving a couple of times, so I'm wondering if that was a tradition integral to your past feelings of holiday spirit and thus you now feel bummed about its absence. I like watercarrier's suggestion of delving into the Chanukah background - it covers a more spiritual side that might help you get into the holiday mood from a different angle.

And on another food note, my Jewish pals love Chinese takeout around the holidays.
posted by cobwebberies at 2:28 PM on November 21, 2009

I was brought up Roman Catholic. I am not religious. I find that I get into the holiday spirit by immersing myself into the cultural and historic (not necessarily religious) aspects of the holiday. I love bringing in ancient traditions into the modern celebration. You can do this with celebrations, food, decorations, and rituals. I love the continuity of the past with the present.
posted by fifilaru at 3:02 PM on November 21, 2009

I agree that you sound a little wistful about the presents angle, so it might be fun to set up a Secret Santa ring with all your friends who would be interested in that sort of thing.

I know you are Jewish, but since you seem to be open to Christmassy stuff, you might enjoy going to Catholic Midnight Mass. I'm not Catholic myself but I go with my Catholic friends, just because I enjoy it as a ritual.

As far as the actual celebrating/partying angle, I know your friends/family have a lot of commitments. But I think you might enjoy planning/hosting an annual holiday party shebang of your own. It doesn't have to be on any of the exact holidays themselves- in fact having it on an off day might make the season feel like more of a season that just a one-day thing. And it can be whatever kind of event you want- a dinner, a cocktail party, etc. And then you can get a really nice fix of decorating and doing holiday cooking and baking, without feeling like you're the only one who will see the results.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:30 PM on November 21, 2009

Ok, seriously. It's time for some CHRISTMAS KARAOKE!!! Pump up the jams that cobwebberies mentioned, then hit your local karaoke dive. You could plan a big outing with friends and/or family. I've done this a couple times, and it's such a great way to blow off steam and also get in the Christmas spirit because everyone just can cut loose. Even if people don't want to sing, a lot of people do Christmas songs around the holidays so it's hilarious to watch. Ah, I've got to start practicing myself!!

My personal Fave: Mariah Carey's All I want For Christmas Is You
posted by Rocket26 at 4:07 PM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

It gives a good feeling to put together boxes or plates of holiday goodies for friends, and then go around delivering them some evening. Make them modest in size so as not to create an obligation to reciprocate. You can have a lot of fun planning what to make and how to package it, and your recipients will be very pleasantly surprised.

Another thought is to see if you can find a wishing tree - sometimes a school or workplace will adopt a family in need, and their wishes are hung on the tree for people to pick what they want to give. That would give you a legitimate reason to be out Christmas shopping, and know you're doing something really appreciated.

Ashley801's idea about being secret Santa ringleader is a good one. You could pick a fun theme, too.
posted by lakeroon at 5:18 PM on November 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh and- more Christmas stuff so I don't know if it would do anything for you- I always start feeling festive once I've seen A Christmas Story and White Christmas, especially if I drink some egg nog or hot cocoa while I do it.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:00 PM on November 21, 2009

I am not religious and most of my relatives are dead. I enjoy walking around looking at the Christmas lights. I'll also get a supply of nice food and give some bottles of nice wine to a few friends.

Don't force it. Take from it what you like and leave the rest.
posted by zadcat at 7:28 AM on November 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Buy yourself a present.
posted by kjs4 at 6:19 PM on November 22, 2009

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