Recently, I invited my Instagram followers to share what they the holidays should be about and the answers were enlightening. Love. Family. Togetherness. Grounding. Connecting. Slowing down. Gratitude. Wonder. Hygge. Rest. Giving. Good food. Simplicity. Mother Earth. Being present. Making memories. Walks with pink cheeks and snow-covered boots. Learning to find the beauty in the dark of winter. Magic and marzipan.
Nobody was craving for stress or anxiety, or the kind of exhaustion that only comes from getting up at 4 am on Black Friday to spend the day chasing after stuff that clever marketers have made us believe
our children can’t do without, or from cleaning, prepping and decorating your house for a slew of social events. Nobody wants to feel down at a time when they’re expected to be in the holiday spirit or to buckle from the pressure of doing All. The. Things. And yet, many people feel that there’s a dissonance between what they really want from the season and what they get.
According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of Americans feel more
stressed than normal during the holidays, with 20 percent reporting that they feel stressed often. Plus, 25 percent report feeling fatigued often at this time of the year. Women, who usually take the main responsibility for the home and family, and people who struggle financially, feel more stressed than others. (If you’re one of them, be sure to read 5 Ways to Beat Holiday Stress and Actually Enjoy the Season!)
So how do we set the tone that we really want for the holidays? As always, I turn to Mother Nature. It
may seem counterintuitive to create more things to do if you’re struggling to manage what you already have on your plate. But by tuning into the land and the stories of our ancestors rather than blindly heeding the frenzied expectations of our culture (which has become exceedingly commercialized in recent decades) it will become easier to focus on the aspects of the holidays that you find truly meaningful. Nature also has a calming and relaxing effect in itself.
I recently chatted with Nicolette Sowder of Wilder Child about ways that we can invite nature into the holidays during an Instagram Live. If you’re looking for nature-infused holiday inspiration, listening to the recording is forty-five minutes well spent. Below, I’ve also gathered some resources from our conversation that can help you smoothly transition into more nature-connected celebrations.
Be intentional about going outside
During the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people discovered new and creative ways of bringing traditional celebrations outside. Try to hold onto some of those changes! For example, if you’re having family over, start the gathering with a hot drink outside, or bring everybody outside for a walk
after dinner. Or ask the kids for help to organize some outdoor games to change up the regular sedentary holiday routine. Some other ideas:
- Gather with friends for a holiday walk or cook a meal together.
- Do an outdoor advent calendar. Tales of a Mountain Mama has three options to choose from, adapted for different climates.
- For more tips, check out 10 great ways to opt outside during the holidays.
Create new rituals and traditions
Rituals and traditions bring predictability and stability to the holiday season, which can have a calming and grounding effect. Try to think of rituals that create meaning to your family, since this can vary depending on geography and culture. These are a few ideas that can help you connect with nature both outdoors and indoors:
Celebrate the light
In the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year. Take this opportunity to embrace the dark and at the same time celebrate the return of the light, as the days once again start to get longer.
- Have a campfire and tell stories about your ancestors, the place where you grew up and your holiday traditions as a child.
- Do a countdown to the winter solstice with Mother Deer.
- Go for a moonlight walk or a lantern walk, to remind everybody of their light within.
- Build a traditional Nordic snowball lantern.
Creating more nature-inspired holiday celebrations can take time, especially if others in the family are not convinced that’s the way to go. If that’s the case, take it step by step and accept that it’s a process!