For our family, the holiday festivities start this Saturday with the 80 year old tradition of Market Day. The extended family goes to the West Side Market on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. My Uncle gives us our assignments of what to buy when we meet at the garbage can in front of the sausage stand. We eat our sausage, shop, and then meet at one of our houses for a party where we eat all the food we bought. The party is at our house this year and this is when all the holiday preparations begin.
We have been talking at church about a Holiday Rescue Project where we try and decrease the emphasis of the holidays being about consumerism and going into debt. There is another part that we need to rescue ourselves from for the holidays and that is all of the stress, depression, guilt, and loneliness that happens.
Today I would like to talk about how our artificial idea of perfect holidays causes us extreme amounts of stress, depression, and feeling of self loathing when we can't get everything right. Or we get ourselves into debt trying to create the perfect tree, perfect table setting, and send out the perfect holiday cards about our perfect family.
I have a secret for you: No one is perfect. So, let go of perfect.
If your friend has a seemingly beautiful house, ask to see their "messy" room. If someone has the perfect dinner, ask how stressful it was for them to make it. And really, that perfect family in the holiday card someone sent us is not reality.
When we compare ourselves to other people, we get stressed, depressed, and start to hate ourselves for not being as good as everyone else. Then, when none of us talk about what our lives are really like, we don't realize that no one is perfect, everyone struggles, and not all families get along. When we don't talk about reality we then feel shame, embarrassment, and obligation. Talk about a recipe for a mental breakdown, even for people who don't deal with a mental illness.
From what I know though, no faith tradition says the holidays are all about perfection, shame, self loathing, guilt, and embarrassment. The holidays are a time when we reflect on our spirituality, spend time with others, give to others in a way that is helpful to them, and create bonds of community that spread the message of love.
In order to maintain your mental sanity, let go of perfect. One time a friend of mine commented on how messy our apartment was, when we had moved from a house with basement to a small two bedroom apartment. In reality, we were going through a lot and were struggling. We wanted our lives to be about caring for other people and spending time with them so we invited people over in an imperfect house. I had to remind myself that this persons issue over a cluttered but clean house was just their issue. That person is not perfect, and neither am I. No one is helped by judgement and criticism, but we are all helped by time together, care, and love. That is why I love our Market Day tradition. It is more about the time we spend together in a tradition started by my Mom's dad where we eat and hang out rather than over decorate, spend tons of money, and rip open gifts we don't need.