A New Normal: Making the Holidays Meaningful as a Young Adult
The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year- right?
Wellll, yes and no.
The holidays can be magical. There are Christmas lights in the windows, holiday parties, and family dinners. There are Christmas movies, family traditions, and a spirit of giving in the air.
However, in addition to all this Christmas spirit, for many, the holiday season can often be filled with loneliness and isolation as well.
The first time I was alone on the holidays, I was 25 and fresh out of grad school. I was new to Dallas and had not yet developed a friend group. I was not able to go home for the holidays, but I was determined to celebrate them. This determination resulted in me spending a whole afternoon single handedly trying to drag a 7 foot Christmas tree up the stairs and down the hallway of my tiny apartment.
I’m sure it was a ridiculous sight to see- a girl covered in tree sap and pine needles, branches sticking out of her hair, giving a piggyback ride to a fir tree.
I probably should have just let it go. However, in that moment, I needed something to feel normal in a season of transition. I needed a Christmas tree, because I needed some light in the darkness.
When we enter new seasons of life, we often have to navigate the holidays in a new way. In my own experience, and in talking to friends, I have found this to be extremely common for those in the young adult age bracket. Young adults are constantly moving, changing careers, changing relationships, and working to figure out who they want to be in the world.
Young adulthood brings about a wave of newness to the holidays, that we have to navigate in different ways. Maybe for you, it’s realizing that you haven’t worked somewhere long enough to accrue enough days off. Or maybe it’s wanting to go to the Christmas parties, but not being able to hire enough babysitters. Or maybe it’s wrestling with the desire to decorate and cook as your family always has, but not being able to do it all alone. No matter what stage of life you’re in, young adulthood presents some challenges when it comes to holiday traditions.
So, from my lived experience, as well as the wisdom of friends, I wanted to propose a few ways to make the holidays meaningful in seasons of transition:
1). Decorate your space.
Regardless of what your holiday is like or who you’re with, having a space that makes it feel like the holidays can go a long way. So buy a Christmas tree! Get a set of Christmas coffee mugs. Hang up some twinkle lights. And if you’re budget’s tight- the dollar aisle at Target can go a loooong way.
2) Start a new tradition.
There is nothing quite like young adulthood to wreck all your holiday traditions. Maybe you aren’t able to go home, or keep up your family traditions from year to year. This realization can bring about mixed emotions, so when it does, I challenge you to start something new. It only takes two years for something to feel like a tradition, so do something that brings you joy and let that joy grow year to year. For example:
- Plan a friendsgiving meal (or just attend the church’s!)
- Plan a Christmas movie night with friends.
- Order in your favorite Thai Food and watch White Christmas when you’re feeling down.
- Sign up for the Turkey Trot.
- Turn up the Christmas music and make yourself some fancy hot cocoa
- Go on an early morning walk around your neighborhood.
- Volunteer somewhere on your days off.
- Bake one of your family favorite recipes and share it with your co-workers.
- Buy one new ornament each year.
3) Share a tradition.
When we aren’t able to experience a tradition our family has celebrated in years past, teach it and share it with others. That is the fastest way to feeling fulfilled!
4) Can’t go home? Fall more in love with the city you’re in.
If where you are does not feel like home, then you have to make it feel like home. Reclaim that space by learning more about your city. Here are a few fun suggestions:
- Take yourself on a tour of the best queso, the best coffee shops, the best burgers, etc. You can do this alone or invite people to join you! The more you explore your city, the more it will feel like home.
- Create a bucket list for your city and do one thing on that list for every holiday day off
- Go to the Arboretum to see the holiday exhibit! It is bound to be beautiful.
- Sign up for the turkey trot in your city!
- Go explore a new state park or a new dog park in your area.
- Check out a museum you haven’t been to or the farmer’s market!
5). Everyone is waiting for an invite. Be the person to do the inviting.
I believe it is a universal human truth that we want to be invited. We want to feel included and feel that we belong. So, instead of waiting on an invitation, be the person to extend an invitation.
- Gather people for a meal! Who doesn’t like to eat?! This could be a potluck at your house, or a happy hour at the local pub.
- Gather people for an activity- trivia, a movie (there’s always new movies over the holidays!), ice skating, cookie decorating, bowling, laser tag, a kid playdate at the park- it doesn’t matter, just invite em!
- Gather together a specific group- if you’re a mom, invite moms. If you’re single, invite some other singles over. If you’re a couple, have dinner with a few other couples you’d like to get to know better! Just invite them!
- OR, be the person to publicly respond to the Facebook event! When people know that someone else will be there, they’re more likely to attend. So, if you aren’t the one gathering people, be the person cheerleading the gathering. It makes a difference when someone reads you say- “Can’t wait. I wouldn’t miss it.”
6). Carrying some lonliness into the holiday season? Go deep.
- Invest in an advent calendar for yourself! There are tons you can print at home that could create a holy rhythm for you in this season. Here are a few examples:
- A Sanctified Art Advent Devotional
- UKirk advent devotional
- Download the app “Our Bible” and do one of their free advent devotionals!
- Buy an advent wreath for your house and create a rhythm of lighting one advent candle each Sunday. The four candles are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Journal about the places you see these four themes in your life.
- Invest in a nativity set and place it somewhere that you will see it daily. This small act can help remind us of that greater truth.
- Start a gratitude journal, recognizing one thing each day that you are grateful for.
With all that said, I am convinced that that the one thing that really makes the holidays feel meaningful is the people. So this year, I hope you get time with your people. And if you are in a season of transition and are looking for people to belong to, look no further.
The young adult group at Preston Hollow would love to include you.
We are a group of transplants and natives looking to navigate the transitions and seasons that young adulthood brings. We’d love to have you join us.
You can join us for Friendsgiving on November 23 at 7 pm, or for a Christmas dinner out on December 15th! You can email me for details! (Sare@phpc.org)
When we’re together, the holiday season is magic.
I hope you’ll join us.
Until then, happy meaning making and happy holidays!