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The importance of creating new traditions for Christmas



Two really interesting things happen this time of year, and they have a cool kind of inverted correlative effect on one another.

The first major phenomenon is that no matter what, you’ll run out of time. It’s like time insidiously inverts upon itself like a rubber glove pulled off a wet hand and wipes out any notion of utility. Thought you were totally under control for the holidays two weeks ago but find yourself and all your good intentions unraveling today? Yep, that’s a festive-time-rubber-glove inversion well under way.

My advice to you if you haven’t got Christmas machinations under control by now is forget it. Just go get a massage or head up the mountain or curl up under the bed because you probably aren’t going to get it all done anyway.

One good friend told me years ago that she stopped trying to make a perfect Christmas because she realized she was driving everyone – her family, incoming guests, even the dog – nuts. She would get so wound up and stressed out that she would end up alienating everyone and making Christmas hell.

Her husband gently tried to point this out on more than one occasion, and after years of glazing over, an epiphany finally flashed. I think she said it was the moment she caught herself screaming at the dog to stop dropping its hairs all over the floor she’d just damp-mopped. After that she let it all, or at least all the bits that didn’t really matter, go and tried to have some fun herself. I say good idea.

My gift to you this Christmas season: a word of reassurance. If you think it seemed you had a lot more time for Christmas and everything else when you were younger, you’re not making it up or romanticizing les temps perdue or experiencing the "ratio of life" phenomenon, although the latter likely might play into it.

You’re just experiencing firsthand what scientists have recently confirmed. Something to do with the basal metabolic rate and other biological functions. Bottom line: as we age, the part of our brains that measures time like an internal clock actually does speed up so that our subjective sense of time changes accordingly. If you think it’s bad now, my parents, who are hovering around the 80-year benchmark warn me that it gets even worse as you age, with weeks whizzing by like days and days like hours. Try to get all the gifts wrapped in time with that sort of stuff going on.

In the midst of all this whizzing, the second holiday phenomenon might be of assistance. And that has to do with ritual.

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