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How to Really Enjoy Christmas
by Susan Dunn

I'm known in my family as the original Christmas Elf. I've always loved Christmas and thought it was created just for me. And this even when for many years I held jobs that escalated dramatically during December.

I thought I'd share ten ways to make the most of this wonderful season, not because I'm any sort of expert, but because I love it. I like to learn from someone who loves what they teach, don't you?

1. It's all about warm feelings.

You are creating memories for yourself and for those around you. Stay in the moment and don't dwell on past occasions, because this one coming up will be "the best Christmas yet." I have said that every year!

2. Bake, bustle and bedeck.

Yes, it takes work, but like labor (as in childbirth) it's one of the times when your work really pays off big time. The point is that it is different, so let it be different. Fill the house with the smell of ginger, chocolate and cinnamon. Go out in the yard, cut holly and greens and drape them everywhere drapable. Put reindeer horns on the dog, mistletoe in the office break room, a big red bow on the mailbox, and definitely a big wreath on the front of your car.

And while you're at it, make a tiny scarf or tiny Santa cap for the "Jack" on your antenna. Wear a Christmas tie, Santa earrings, a decorated sweater and jingle bells on your ankles (use the dog collar). Bustle, do more, get in the spirit. Yes, you're busy. You're busy doing wonderful and fun things, and your heart can be full of the people you're doing this for.

Because I have learned ...

You could be just as busy preparing for your mother's funeral - same deal - food, houseguests, cleaning, travel, in-laws, worrying about budget, arrangements. Get it?

3. Spread good cheer.

Many people do have a hard time with the holidays. If you don't, let your light shine on the corners of others' darkness. When I hear someone say, "I can't handle this," or "I'm overwhelmed," or "There's too much to do and I'm tired. Aren't you?" I bellow out good and loud -- NOT ME!

4. It's only "commercialized" if you let it be.

Everything in life is "commercialized". Or not. My dear friend Ann McGlone told me years ago what fun she had figuring out the greatest vacation on the least amount of money. She was incredibly creative about it and I had the good fortune to do many events for charities with her, and I adopted her ways and applied them broadly. I recommend it.

5. Christmas works on any budget.

Yes, it's hard if you're really facing a "hard-candy Christmas," but it's at those times that we're often at our best. Stripped of our "lucre power," we are left with "us" - imperial, proud and true. In truth, the things you DO with people, and the way you ARE with people are the greatest gifts you can ever give, and they are increasingly rare.

6. The perfect gift?

Giving of yourself. It requires no money whatsoever. What's demanding about going out and buying her a sapphire ring? On the other hand, would you take the time, effort, and empathy to create an occasion designed for her enjoyment, which for any man, woman or child would be a time of your unconditional, undivided, unadulterated attention?

7. Love yourself and love the season, but focus on others.

My many years raising funds for charities gave me a unique opportunity to see it's really true - it's the giver who gets the gift.

It is great fun to sit down and think about who really needs some help. Mita's husband is in Iraq. Babysit for her one Saturday so she can go shop for the kids and have lunch out with a friend. Give a Christmas party for the kids down at the shelter. (Tip: Buy the very best candy, not the cheap bag stuff. The difference will be all yours.)

Make homemade dog biscuits and deliver them to the animal shelter. If you're of another faith, volunteer to staff the homeless shelter Christmas Eve, or to staff the hospital ER Christmas Day. Put a jinglebell collar on your lovable Lab and take her to the nursing home. Call the dear octogenarian at your church and make a date to take her for a drive to look at Christmas lights and enjoy a little hot chocolate and Russian tea cakes with you afterwards.

8. Find the sacred moments and don't be afraid to cry.

The joyous part we talk about, but when you sit down finally at the end of a long day in your rocker in front of the beautiful Christmas tree to rest for a moment and enjoy the beauty, and put on your Luciano Pavorotti video and listen to him sing that duet with his arm around that precious little boy who looks up at him as he hits the high notes, innocently and easily, as little boys do, and the tears well up as you remember such a little boy who now has whiskers on his cheeks and is 6'2" and has a little boy of his own, let them. It's an emotional time. That's what memories are made of.

9. Love the Scrooges

They are there and you will hear them. There are people for whom there's always something wrong with something, and this is just the next "something." Same issue, new venue. Get your mantras ready. Here's one I use, with my big holiday smile - "That's okay. I'll enjoy it for you then, and get twice as much fun out of it!" As if it were a zero-sum universe!

10. It isn't an intellectual debate.

You'll hear it -- Should someone who isn't "Christian" celebrate Christmas? Should we also do Hanukkah? Have we materialized Christmas so it has lost its meaning? Will we offend someone? Is it a "religious" celebration or is it "secular"?

My answer to this is, I'm at peace with my maker and my fellow man in my heart, I understand my way is not the only way, I see that nearly every culture celebrates something this time of year for a reason and why on earth would you pass up any opportunity, ever, to celebrate, spread joy, enjoy one another, give and receive, eat, drink and be merry, and yes, worship?? Whatever face it wears, bring it on!

Kwanzaa's cool for me. A chance to celebrate unity, self- determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith? Hey, don't leave me out!

Joy to the World!

©Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology, cEQc, The EQ CoachT, http://www.susandunn.cc . Coaching for all your needs - transitions, resilience, career, relationships. Susan is the author of "How to Get Her the Perfect Gift" and other eBooks of use - http://www.webstrategies.cc/ebooklibrary.html

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