The holidays are stressful. Or, at least, they are for me. I wish I were the sort of person whose eyes blink like Christmas lights whenever they see one of those seasonal commercials in which nice people in festive-but-sensible sweaters give each other luxury cars wrapped in giant red bows. I’m serious: I want to be a jolly ol’ elf — but I just can’t do it. This time of year, ’tis the season to exhale.
This doesn’t mean I’m a total Grinch; I dutifully travel home to visit family, decorate the dead tree, and buy gifts for all of my loved ones. I am thankful for so much. The holidays just mean that I have to take extra care of myself as I shuttle home in a flying tube filled with other humans and all their molecules, run up charges on my credit card because Christmas is the merry foundation of late capitalism, and try to explain to my mother, again, why I am not married (short answer: I can be difficult). I want to be clear, however, that I love the Yuletide season. It’s just that, sometimes, I want to climb into a Christmas stocking and take a long winter’s nap.
I humbly present 9 seasonal rituals that always seem to quiet my anxieties and put me in a festive mood, or the closest thing to a festive mood I can muster.
1. Read A Book By A Crackling Fire
Nothing relaxes me more than sitting in front of a roaring fire in a comfortable chair with a book on my lap, as if I’m the host of a show with the word “Masterpiece” in the title. Sometimes I wear a comfy robe and call myself “Professor Caveman.” That’s a little joke I like to say out loud to no one. There is something both primal and sophisticated about nodding off to the warmth of a fire, especially one that you light yourself. Here’s some safety advice: Open the flue, open the flue, open the flue. If you don’t know what a “flue” is, then you should absolutely Google the word. Also: Don’t use lighter fluid.
2. Drink Large Glasses Of Egg Nog
I love to smack my lips after guzzling a pint glass of thick, creamy, nutmeg-y sugar-egg-milk. It’s delicious. For 11 months out of the year, of course, I would never dream of drinking egg nog. It combines avian proteins and mammal secretions with candy canes! But once December rolls around, I can’t get enough of the seasonal beverage — it’s frothy AND slimy, at the same time! I know some people think of egg nog as a vehicle for bourbon, but not me. Nope. I drink it in its pure, freshly squeezed form, straight from the Christmas Chicken-Cow.
3. Wear Winter-Themed Pajamas All Day Long
Usually, walking around in pajamas in the afternoon is a cry for help. But not during the holidays. Not for me, at least. I have a pair of threadbare pajamas covered in snowflakes that fit me like a second, baggy skin. I wake up in them, live my mellow holiday life in them, and go to bed with them still on. If that creepy elf can sit on that shelf in nothing but red pajamas, so can I.
4. Judge The Neighborhood Holiday Decorations
There is nothing more soothing than bundling up, climbing into a car, and cruelly judging the Crawford family’s “Winter Wonderland” decorations on their front lawn. Ha, ha, ha, their snowman looks like sad mashed potatoes wearing a hat! Slowly driving around the neighborhood and gently laughing at Mr. Nelson’s tiny-colored-light-bulb-rooftop-extravaganza-slash-fire hazard really helps foster goodwill.
5. Bite The Heads Off Gingerbread Men (Cookies)
Decapitating a helpless Gingerbread Man with my teeth is the closest I will ever get to being a god. To be sure, I would be a cruel and vengeful god. But I am not. I am just a human person with some anxiety who finds it soothing to bite the heads off gendered cookies, savor their ginger-y essence, and leave their bodies behind.
6. Visit The Mall Santa
There should be an annual television event in which the country’s best Mall Santas compete to be America’s Top Mall Santa. I’d watch this show. Mall Santas are the butt of many jokes. But these guys do incredible emotional labor on behalf of families everywhere, every year, for very modest sums of money. I enjoy watching children clamber up onto Santa’s lap and confess their hearts’ desires to a guy with a white beard just trying to make a buck. Dear Santa, I never got that jetpack I asked for, but knowing what I know now, I forgive you. I forgive you a thousand times.
7. Watch The Movie Love Actually
My mom loves this movie about daft English people who run around London like lunatics every Christmas. The movie is more enjoyable if you just pretend all of the characters suffer from “Christmas Madness” and that’s why that guy from The Walking Dead is such a weird creep to Keira Knightly. (The storyline about Liam Neeson and his son is perfect, though.)
8. Hide In Your Childhood Bedroom
When in doubt, curl up in the bed you grew up in. I find that when a grown adult holes up inside the room where they spent their childhood, most other adults just steer clear. There is something sacred about the room where you mutated from an innocent child into a grotesque adolescent scarecrow. It is also the room where I fought to stay awake on Christmas Eve.
9. Donate To A Charity
One thing that definitely helps me get through the emotional roller coaster of the holidays is giving to a worthy cause. When it comes to donating to charities, a little research goes a long way. So make sure to read up on any charities that champion issues you believe in. A few of my favorites include Fisher House, which helps the families of veterans, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, and Toys for Tots. But there are many other organizations doing good work every day. If you’re riddled with indecision, head over to Charity Watch, a charity watchdog site, or Givewell, which tells you where to donate to do the most good. So, I guess, the best coping mechanism is giving, which, you may be surprised to learn, is better than receiving.