I first shared this post during our year living in Nicaragua. While I’m not decorating a palm tree this year, when I reread this post so much remains true. Our holidays are part of a living, dynamic family culture. They hold space for us to feel our full feelings and to slow down enough to access the deeper registers of life. Read on for questions and tips which help your holiday practices feel fresh and alive and nourishing to YOU this season. Love and all the good, Courtney 

True celebrations need room to breathe. And one of the most challenging aspects of preserving your own growth through the holidays is to find room for what you desire amidst the pressure of family expectations and traditions.

If you feel stuck in a rut with how you or your family honors the holidays – first pause and ask:

What would actually be the most meaningful for you?

Just like birthday celebrations, this can change year to year.

Maybe this season you want more nights at home with a good book or writing by the fire and less out at holiday parties.

Maybe you want a real tree with just white lights and a handful of favorite ornaments rather than hauling out seven boxes from the attic.

Or maybe you want to decorate a palm tree with pink, turquoise and silver baubles and three kinds of lights (including the blinky ones). Or is that just me?

Sometimes what we crave is simplicity and space. But other times we actually want to put in more effort because it feels meaningful for us at this time. (Like challenging yourself to make a whole holiday meal out of purely local ingredients.)

Freshening up traditions is about finding the sweet spot of expressing your own spiritual and deeper values in a way which feels authentic to you now.

I’ve been amazed to notice how what I want for the holidays is different this year than in years past and informed by the “more is more” aesthetic of the tropics — which honestly starts with the over the top abundance of the natural world here, like the wild bougainvillea which hangs over my pool.

Also I’ve been trying to listen well to my children to observe which of the traditions that we had this time of year in the US still feel good to us here (hot chocolate surprisingly, makes the list, even in this heat) and which we are ready or willing to let go of… like cozy nights in front of the fire. And then there are some traditions which we are having to lovingly reinterpret. As I wrote about this week over on social media: “I can’t even tell u how much I love this tree. The funny thing is that the first tree we tried from our patio was a total fail. It was a sort of tropical cypress and though Christmas-tree “ish” it just didn’t work.

It was like worse than a Charlie Brown tree.

I went on a walk with my sweet husband after we decorated it and talked _the whole walk_ about how it wasn’t right and what were we going to do and were we asking our kids to bend and stretch too much? Was the lack of anything close to a regular Christmas going to put them over the top? I was really worried about it. I know it’s a little thing but for some reason this year when I asked them to sell all their belongings and move to a tiny house in another country I worried this was when the wheels would come off.

The next day while they were at school I un decorated the tree (a first!) and we decided to go for the palm instead. Rosita who helps us at home came by and I told her the problem and we totally got into redecorating this one in a race to get it all festive before the kids came home.

They walked in and we both held our breath. And the kids declared it Beautiful! And way better than before.
What a lesson that sometimes you can’t go back. And if u try too hard to replicate something it ends up weird or forced. Better instead to be where you are and find the beauty. I love it when life and my children conspire to teach me the big lessons…”

Now what to do if you feel obligated to holiday traditions with your extended family that are no longer so fun? I definitely encourage you to move very slowly here and with low expectations of being able to overhaul the whole thing. Family traditions have their own gravitational center.

But see if you could shake up just your part — maybe bringing a new favorite recipe, or suggesting a new outing which you’d actually enjoy for when family is visiting you. These simple things can help you feel more like you, more comfortable in your own skin. And they may even make it easier for others to express new preferences as well.

Another tip is to make sure that you are celebrating the holiday intentionally yourself or with your partner or smaller family either before or after the big group events. Again going filled up rather than needing to be filled can be a game changer and tending consciously to your own celebrations big and small is one of the best forms of soul food I know of.

One of my favorite metaphors for freshening up a family holiday is to think of what happens when you host a garage sale:

What are the extra things you are ready to get rid of – to convert that into currency for new experiences?

And what are the treasures you forgot you had?

So now over to you…

How are you planning to freshen up your holidays this year?

What are you ready to let go of? What treasures did you forget you had? I’d love to hear and hope you will share your experiences in a comment below.

Warmly, Courtney

Originally Published Dec 1 2017

Courtney Pinkerton is a certified life coach and the author of the Amazon bestseller, The Flourish Formula: An Overachiever's Guide to Slowing Down & Accomplishing More.

Courtney is an inner life coach and Enneagram mentor. She helps conscious women (and a few amazing men!) to pursue their most salient creative, professional and quality-of-life dreams and to discover more pleasure in their everyday.

She has dual master’s degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is a certified Wayfinder life coach and has been studying the Enneagram with master teachers for over a decade. After selling their house and all their belongings and spending a year in Nicaragua tutored by their neighbors in the art of slowing down and living more, Courtney and her husband and their three children now make their home in a co-housing community in Asheville, North Carolina.