No, You Don’t “Have To” This Holiday Season

An image of a Christmas tree branch with a wooden heart ornament.

Every year, we talk about the need to simplify and slowdown during the holiday season. We talk about how we’re going to say no to consumerism and be grateful for what we have instead. We talk about “the real meaning of Christmas,” like we’ve made some grand, new discovery. 

Yet, as soon as Halloween is behind us, we forget to “keep it simple” as quickly as we forgot our ancestors discovered the real meaning of Christmas a few thousand years ago. We continue to outdo our neighbors and outdo ourselves. We try to be one side dish, one strand of lights, or one gift better than last year – as if our worth depended on it.

Do you feel me on this? When is enough going to truly be enough. When are we going to realize we are enough? 

Listen, I know all of this is easier said than done. That’s why we talk about simplifying the season every year, but rarely follow through. I think, though, what is holding us back from fully embracing our worth at Christmastime (or anytime) is a long list of “have to’s.” We are constantly trying to live up to either real or perceived expectations of ourselves, like that is even possible. 

In her book, Permission Granted, Melissa Camara Wilkins says:

“Other peoples’ expectations of you are like the universe: they’re continually expanding and hard to fully comprehend. You can get lost in there.”

Indeed, we have gotten lost. I think we’ve gotten so lost in other peoples’ expectations, we don’t even realize we’re lost. We assume, because we are on a path, we’re really going somewhere. And we are going somewhere – it’s called The Land of Burnout and Bitterness. 

The truth is, we don’t just want to be on any old path. We want to be on our path – the path that leads to contentment and inner peace. But how do we accomplish this?

If we want to stay in our lane, so to speak, and do the holidays our way, we need to drop the “have to’s.” Let me be clear: you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do this holiday season, and your worth won’t change. And if that sounds impossible or too good to be true, take a deep breath, I’m here to help! 

A Christmas tree with wooden heart ornaments. Text reads, "No You Don't 'Have To' This Holiday Season."

Today, we’re going to take an honest look at five common “have to’s” that might be plaguing you as we enter the holiday season. We’re first going to answer each one with an unequivocal “NO!” Then, we’re going to take a look at some alternatives.

Ready? Let’s blossom together…

Do I have to attend every holiday party to which I’m invited?

NO! Holiday parties can be fun and festive occasions. They give you an opportunity to dress up, leave the kids at home and socialize with other adults while sipping the latest “must-try” holiday cocktail. And that’s all fine, except for when it’s not. 

If you’re already stretched too thin this holiday season, you can politely decline any party with a simple, “It was so kind of you to invite me (us), however, it doesn’t work with my (our) schedule. I hope I (we) can make it next time.” Even if the only thing on your schedule is sipping eggnog and watching Christmas movies in your pajamas, you can still decline.

Remember, you are enough. You do not have to attend every holiday party.

Do I have to buy everyone I know a gift?

NO! Despite what the commercials lead you to believe, gift giving is always optional. Whether you’re on a tight budget or you’re just tired of shopping, it is ok to be selective about who you purchase gifts for and how much you spend. 

But what about those holiday parties? While it is polite to bring a gift for the host or a bottle of wine to share, you should first recognize your presence at the party is a gift. Secondly, you can always offer to help the host setup before or cleanup after the party as a way of showing your appreciation without spending a dime. But what about my Great Aunt Helen? Stopping by for a visit and some hot cocoa will mean more to her than any gift.

Remember, you are enough. You do not have to buy everyone you know a gift.

Do I have to make a turkey on Thanksgiving?

NO! If you’re tired of the same old bird or can’t bring yourself to buy twelve pounds of meat just for you and your partner, consider an alternative Thanksgiving meal. Turkey Tacos come to mind with ground turkey, of course! You’re also not required to serve traditional sides no matter how much your mom insists that jellied cranberry sauce is a staple at the Thanksgiving table. And feel free to toss out the Christmas ham or New Year’s pot roast in favor of takeout or pizza. 

You do you. The holidays will carry on.

Remember, you are enough. You do not have to make a turkey on Thanksgiving.

Do I have to have a 12ft designer tree?

NO! You don’t have to have a tree at all. But, if a tree adds to your holiday cheer, then by all means get a tree! Just keep your own limits and desires in mind. With meaningful decorations, a table top tree can be equally as special as one that takes up half of your living room. It’s also ok to use dollar store decorations or decorations you’ve had for years. The older the decorations, the more nostalgic the tree!

Remember, you are enough. You do not have to have a 12ft designer tree.

Do I have to put on a happy face all season long?

NO! As beautiful as your smile is, let’s be realistic. Even with the best laid plans, you might run into some unexpected stress this season. It’s ok to have bad days, just like any other time of year. And, as I’ve said before, all emotions are allowed at all times. Repressing how you feel for the sake of holiday cheer will only make things worse in the long run. Eventually those emotions will make themselves known, so it’s best to acknowledge them in the moment. 

Let’s also not forget that the holidays can be a difficult time for many people, especially those mourning a loss or grieving the absence of someone they love. It’s also a difficult time for people who struggle with mental illness, as this time of year can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, overwhelm, and loneliness. So, be kind to others and be kind to yourself.

Remember, you are enough. You do not have to put on a happy face all season long.

You don’t have to do anything all season long, other than be yourself and know your worth. 


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