"What is it you like about the holidays?" I asked my son. "Being home from school." "Picking out the Christmas tree." "Getting lots of presents." "Parties and sleepovers."
"What is it you like about the holidays?" I asked a colleague at work. "The store windows all lit up and decorated." "The cheery sound of carols." "Buying gifts for people I care about."
I would add "The gathering of friends and family, sometimes from far away."
"The smell of holiday cooking." "The warming sound of logs cracking in the fireplace." "The clinking of glasses."
Anticipating, preparing for and indulging in holiday festivities takes up a big chunk of December, culminating in that biggest of all, give it everything you've got, end of the year bash, New Year's Eve.
Then, with a thud, it's over. January sets in, with the gray days of winter and a return to daily routines. The holidays are a tough act to follow.
Knowing that this is the case allows us to change its course. There are things we can do to lessen the letdown after the holidays have passed. And while January will never have the same cache as December, it can still escape from being a "low."
Here are some dos and don'ts, some unconventional ways, to make January something to look forward to.
Don't put away the trains, the lights and other festive trappings right away just because the calendar flipped a page. The stores may start thinking about the next holiday (Valentine's Day) before the New Year ball drop, but that doesn't mean you have to. Ease into the un-decorating. Let the holidays linger a little.
Don't let the weather pin you down. If you live in a cold climate, go ice skating or skiing or snowshoeing... things you can't do at other times, which makes the winter months special. Bundle up and enjoy the fact that there are different seasons.
Make some festive meals. The holidays may be over but the partying doesn't have to be. Roast a turkey and have some friends over. What's the occasion? Invent one. Have a "just made our last car payment" party, or a "finally cleared out the basement" celebration.
Stay connected. Don't let those holiday gatherings with cherished friends slip away till next year. If you can't get together physically, stay in touch by mail or email. Send an unexpected little gift from time to time, like a small box of chocolates. And make plans to get together sooner rather than later.
Take advantage of events in your community. See what your house of worship offers in the winter months. Go to lectures at museums and book readings at the library. There's something comforting about having people around you, whether you know them or not.
Lend a helping hand. Volunteer opportunities abound, and not just around the holidays. Besides doing good, this effort offers a great connection to your community, enables you to socialize and network, and kindles happiness.
While none of this might cause you to say, "Wow, I'm sure glad the holidays are over so we can look forward to January," it will allow you to view the winter months as something special in themselves.