holiday traditions

Chilling about the Holidays: Avoiding "Holiday Porn"

Holiday decorations, traditions, activities. Depending on how you approach it, it can all be a little overwhelming, especially if you're susceptible to the enticement of "holiday porn". But it doesn't have to be that way!  Here's how to notice and avoid the trap of "holiday porn" and stay chill about the holidays! You know how you'll page through magazines, scroll through Pinterest, glance at a window display or even go to someone else's house and see holiday decorations that kind of make you swoon?  And you imagine yourself maybe, in some other plane or universe, doing something like that in your own space?  And then the reality hits of what you really do for the holidays.

Those picture-perfect images?  They're what I like to refer to as "holiday porn."  I use the word "porn" like people use it when they say "food porn".  In this case, "porn" involves images depicting something ultra-idealized - not necessarily very realistic - even if it might be possible to recreate what's in the image.  Ultimately, when you get right down to it, it's not what you want in "real life."

What's interesting is that one person's "holiday porn" is another person's "just right, very realistic" reality.  And that's fine! The trick is knowing the difference, and knowing what you really want.  Amazingly, you can go to your body to get the answers.  If the image or idea feels open and refreshing, fun and interesting, and you feel light and happy thinking about decorating that way or making that project, then go for it!  If it feels tense and overwhelming and your body feels like it's closing up and retreating, and you feel that tightness in your chest or jaw when you picture trying to accomplish whatever you see in the photo or the display, then it's probably not your best choice.

What if you look at a magazine image and love it, love it, love it, but know that in reality it's just not going to happen?  Look closely.  What speaks to you in the image?  What do you really love?  What's the feeling you get looking at the picture?  Turns out that what you really want is the feeling state.  Think about something realistic for you that will give you the feeling state you're looking for.  If you see a picture of an immaculately decorated Christmas tree in front of a roaring fire and it gives you a feeling of coziness, but you don't have a fireplace and your tree was decorated by your two-year old, or you live in graduate housing and don't have a tree and will be traveling over the holidays, or there's some other reason that the image isn't your reality, then consider what does make sense for you to get that feeling of coziness.  Hot chocolate at your favorite coffee shop with a friend?  Curling up with your three dogs under a blanket and listening to Christmas carols while you write letters to your far-flung family members?  There are lots of ways to feel cozy.  Find the one that works for you!

Here's a recent example of "holiday porn" and "holiday not so porn" for me.  Remember - it's going to be different for everyone.  Interestingly, both of these ideas are from Martha Stewart, everyone's favorite "holiday porn" queen!   The first one was pretty to look at but an "absolute no" for me.  It's not that complicated, but it's just not floating my boat, and the image to me is also stark, a little lonely - no people! - and way too perfect.  This gingerbread house isn't gonna get made by me any time soon.  To me, gingerbread houses should be full of candy and made by kids, like the real ones I see friends posting on Facebook.  Or if they make you crazy, they should be skipped altogether!

In an earlier issue of Martha's magazine, I saw these cute little peanut butter and chocolate acorns and thought, "I could do them!  That would be fun!"  And so while I was vacationing at the beach with friends over Thanksgiving, I did just that.  I don't think Martha was picturing me sitting on the floor in my hotel room, watching TV while I made the little acorns, but it worked great for me!

They came out so cute and we all had a great time devouring them!

Is it "holiday porn" or not?  Only you can decide.  Listen to yourself, notice how you feel, and choose holiday activities, decorations, and events that make you feel good, not ones that create a reality you're not even interested in!

And remember, your feelings are allowed to change.  Just because you used to love  decorating six trees and making a miniature winter wonderland in the front yard for the past seventeen years doesn't mean you have to do that this year.  Traditions are tricky - listen to yourself and decide what you really, really want.  Holidays are meant to be savored, not slogged through.

How about you?  How do you stay chill through the holidays and avoid "holiday porn"?  What do you love most about the holidays?  What's your favorite tradition?