The year before last my husband and I began a gutsy tradition – gutsy if you were brought up in the Roman Catholic faith that is, as we both were – we decided to forgo celebrating Easter. Yes, out of the clear, blue sky we pulled a three-sixty and began welcoming that celebrated spring holiday just as any other day.
It all started with a conversation as many a gutsy move does. He and I had been talking one day and stumbled upon the subject of holidays and the ways in which all of us get roped into celebrating them when sometimes we would actually rather not. At first he and I were confronted with the notion that we had no choice. We have always celebrated Easter! What would my parents say? What would his parents say? We had drifted away from the confines of our faith years ago, yet we still followed this holiday dutifully. Let me make this clear: I have nothing against Easter or any other holiday in particular. I just think nonparticipation should be an accepted option.
As it turned out our decision was met with little resistance! The world didn’t fall apart, nor did our families disown us as April turned to May that year and every year since. In fact, the whole endeavor was met with such an underwhelming reaction it led me to ponder: What else are we all doing through obligation that we simply don’t have to? Going to college? Getting married? Burdening ourselves with home ownership? Paying taxes? Okay, forget the last one!
I have friends who once took off to a vacation in China and completely missed the holiday season. A colleague of mine told me her family is taking a cruise from Miami to the Bahamas and won’t be celebrating the holidays in any recognizable fashion this year. Not wanting a party to mark the “milestone” birthday of turning fifty a neighbor of mine went skydiving instead. Who knew we had such flexibility?
The point is, we do and it’s important to remember this - what with the holiday season squarely upon us. Let’s remind our clients and ourselves that opting out – to whatever degree we choose – is an option and does not make one a scrooge. Perhaps you’d rather not attend that holiday party or you may not feel like going all out with decorations this year. Perhaps you want to just chill and go to sleep early – shockingly so – on New Year’s Eve. Remember we have a choice at this time of year as we do the rest of the year to deviate from the norm and distinguish ourselves from the pack. Oh, and by the way …Happy Holidays! Although I may have felt a twinge of obligation to write that I mean it all the same.
Susan Jennifer Polese is a counselor in training, a personal coach and a freelance writer. Her areas of interest are mindfulness, divergent thinking, and creativity in counseling.