It's easy to see why some people don't like the holidays. Christmas songs blast from every available speaker, until you've heard Nat King Cole sing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." enough times to set your teeth on edge. There's someone shaking a bell and asking for donations on nearly every street corner. Holiday decorations that seem to get bigger and more elaborate every year have been up since before Thanksgiving and many will stay in place until Valentine's Day and beyond. And everywhere you look there's somebody selling something--Black Friday, Christmas Sales, End-of-Year Sales, and on and on.

Then there are life changes that can make the holiday season seem less than festive. If you've lost a loved on this year and are facing the first holiday season without that person, or your relationship recently ended, or your children are far away, the holidays can feel more melancholy than joyful. In my own life,  my mother's death in September, and the fact that my husband's and my family members are 3,000 miles away on the East Coast are making Christmas feel somewhat un-Christmasy.

Still, whether you're religious or not, whether you have family nearby or not, and whether or not the end of December puts you in a holiday mood or makes you want to hide under the covers, this is a time of year when people in many nations and cultures celebrate the season in one way or another as the days finally begin growing longer again. So even if you don't like holiday traditions, you need some of your own to observe while everyone else is hanging up lights and baking Christmas cookies.

Here are some ideas:

1. Eat Chinese food.

If you can't or don't want to eat turkey or ham, a Chinese (or other Asian) meal is often a fun thing to do on Christmas. Chinese restaurants are usually open, and generally not crowded on major holidays. And they're often festive in a way that has nothing to do with the Christmas season.

2. Send un-Christmas cards.

My husband has tried to explain to me the point of sending people you haven't spoken with all year a card that says little more than "Season's Greetings." I don't usually write to anyone unless I actually have something to say. So my approach to holiday cards, if I have time to do them at all, is to write an actual, handwritten note about what I've been up to in the past year and asking how my friends and family members are doing. I send them to people I care about but haven't been in regular touch with. Often, they're just pretty cards, perhaps with a winter theme, that have no pre-printed message.

Although this takes longer than just signing a card and stuffing it in an envelope, it creates or maintains a personal connection and often people will write back and tell me how they're doing. And, because these aren't Christmas cards, they don't have a deadline. I often write them during the lull between Christmas and New Year's and send them out in early January.

3. Volunteer.

Wherever you live, there are shut-ins, and people in hospitals, and animals in animal shelters who may not have much holiday spirit either but can benefit from the kindness of a visit, or a little care, or a dropped-off meal. If you're feeling blue about the holidays spending a few hours volunteering can lift your spirits and focus your attention away from the relentlessness of Christmas decorations and Christmas carols. It will  benefit you as much as it benefits those you're helping.

4. Go to a non-holiday movie.

Yes, movie theaters at holiday time are filled with Christmas-themed movies. But there are plenty of good movies in theaters every year that have nothing to do with the holiday season--if only because movie studios rush to get them out before January 1 to make them eligible for the following year's Oscars. So go have an evening's non-holiday entertainment. If you can, choose a movie theater that isn't in a mall to avoid both holiday music overload and holiday crowds.

5. Make yourself a non-holiday playlist.

Speaking of holiday music, it may be playing everywhere, but that doesn't mean you have to listen to it. Instead, choose a musical set for your home, car, and even your ear buds if you're really sick of "Jingle Bells." Go Reggae, Calypso, Bollywood, or heavy metal. There are many choices that can easily make you forget what time of year it is.

6. Go to the gym.

You may not be indulging in Christmas parties and Christmas foods, but this time of year, when days are short and the weather can be unwelcoming, it's easy to let exercise routines slip. Yet working out is good for your health, your mood, and your leadership skills. With everyone else headed to holiday celebrations, you'll likely have the gym all to yourself.

7. Go to the spa.

Any time is a good time of year to pamper yourself, but it's especially pleasant at holiday season, when heading to the spa gets you out of both the cold and the frenetic holiday crowds. Make sure to go to the spa--or do something else self-indulgent--if the holiday season has you feeling down.

8. Eat healthy.

Unfortunately, holiday season nearly always brings gifts of sweets, parties with rich creamy dips, dinners of ham or roast beef, and other foods that are bad for you in every way. Whether or not you're rejecting the holiday season, saying no to at least some of this extra eating will leave you feeling more energetic and fit as you head into the new year. 

If you're not attending any parties or family dinners, you can up the ante by choosing now to start a healthy eating or eating-and-exercise program. That will put you a week or two ahead of everyone who heads to the gym and the salad bar as part of a New Year's resolution.

9. Make a no-presents pact.

This won't work for everyone or in every situation. But if you're tired of the endless holiday shopping and mounting credit card bills that can accompany the holiday season, try making an agreement with your friends, colleagues, and family members to give each other no holiday presents this year, or perhaps only give presents to the children but not the adults in your family. 

I know some people who give each other presents at random times throughout the year--whenever they have a little extra money to spend or happen upon something they know someone else would really like--but intentionally don't give presents at holiday time. It could be a hard sell to your family members and friends, but if they agree, it's a practice that takes all the pressure off, and allows you to choose more personal, thoughtful gifts. 

10. Practice mindfulness.

As the days get shorter and the year draws to a close, now is a great time to start or renew a meditation practice. The benefits to your brain, mood, and health are indisputable. And the calming influence of meditation is especially useful at a time of year when everyone is on overdrive. Even five minutes a day, or a few moments while sitting at your desk has benefits. You're best off starting with a very small commitment that can easily become part of your daily routine. 

11. Be tolerant of those who do love the holidays. 

You don't have to love the holidays, but you do have to recognize that many of the people you care about and/or work with do love them. It can be very tempting for a holiday abstainer to go around, or take to social media, loudly denigrating holiday time as crass, commercial, and generally overblown.

Resist that temptation. Just as you have the right to feel like a Grinch, others have the right to enjoy the holiday season to the fullest without someone else trying to spoil it. So give your friends, family, and co-workers heartfelt your heartfelt good wishes. Those sentiments are appropriate at every time of year.

Published on: Dec 16, 2015
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