Sunday, February 07, 2021

Weekly Inspiration: Winter Celebrations

Feeling the winter blues? Sick of staying in this time of year with every day the same? Thinking that the shortest month actually feels like the longest?

Good news for you then! This is a great time of year for small celebrations that will brighten your days, add some variety to the sameness, and give you something to look forward to! Plus, with no one able to go out and gather with others, you're not even missing anything.

In my book chapter, Celebrate Everything, Big and Small! (reprinted below), I talk about how celebrating the small, special days can help to bring joy to your life and your everyday routine. And guess what? This time of year that often feels like the winter doldrums is filled with reasons to celebrate! Even if you think you are too sick to celebrate, this post includes lots of ideas for low-key ways to make the upcoming days special.


This month is loaded with celebration days! Today is Superbowl Sunday in the U.S. Not into football? Neither am I! But we still use it as an excuse to celebrate (see ideas below). Next week is a big one: Valentine's Day on Sunday, February 14, and Mardi Gras on Tuesday, February 16 (real Mardi Gras goes on for many weeks, so it is perfectly acceptable to celebrate it any time--like the weekend--leading up to Mardi Gras Day). In March, we've got St. Patrick's Day (3/17) and the First Day of Spring (3/20), and then Easter falls on April 4 this year. I've added some fun photos in the chapter reprint below, plus some links above to even more ideas on how to celebrate.

Now, you have some fun to look forward to! How do YOU celebrate special days at your house? 

(Reprinted from Finding a New Normal: Living Your Best Life with Chronic Illness by Suzan L. Jackson - © 2020 Suzan L. Jackson. Click here for more information and to order in different formats.)


Celebrate Everything, Big and Small!




ince becoming ill with ME/CFS in 2002, I have been surprised by how life with chronic illness makes me more aware of the small pleasures all around me. Although our lives are often defined by illness-imposed restrictions, we have found ways to add pleasure and meaning to our everyday life, too. One way is to celebrate all kinds of occasions, big and small.

I came by my love of celebration from my mother. When I was a kid, we celebrated everything, and I loved the atmosphere of joy and festivity. My mom was, and still is, a major party animal, so I learned from the best! When I had children, I knew I wanted to do the same thing for them. After chronic illness entered our lives, these celebrations became even more important, a way of injecting fun into our lives, including (especially) on the bad days. Our kids love our celebration traditions, even now that they’re grown!

Of course, we celebrate the big holidays, though we’ve had to scale back since chronic illness hit. We now focus on certain elements of each holiday that are the most important to us. At Christmas, that’s decorating our tree together and getting together with our oldest friends for a cookie-decorating/Grinch-watching party. (To reserve energy for celebrating, we now buy premade cookie dough.)

We also celebrate all kinds of smaller occasions, which can be even more fun and less stressful than celebrating the big holidays. The dead of winter, after the major holiday season is past and before Easter and spring arrive, can be a dark and depressing time. But there are lots of smaller holidays and occasions to celebrate during that time that can add a bit of brightness to an otherwise dreary winter.


Ready for Superbowl with our favorite treats!


One favorite is Superbowl, the first Sunday in February. We’re not big football fans, and our days of attending big Superbowl parties are long past, but we still get into the spirit of the occasion. Every year, we have our favorite game-day foods—simple things, like tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole, mini hot dogs rolled in crescent rolls, and my husband’s famous Buffalo chicken (pieces of chicken breast sautéed in Buffalo wing sauce). While happily munching on our savory treats, we watch the game and the much-anticipated TV ads.


Ready for Mardi Gras with my sons (years ago)!

Mardi Gras (the day before Ash Wednesday) is considered a major holiday at our house because my husband and I used to live in New Orleans. Before I got sick, we had an annual Mardi Gras party that grew to 50 to 60 people at its height! A few years into my illness, we realized that we didn’t have to completely give up our Mardi Gras festivities; we just had to scale back. Now, we invite a few close friends over, buy some traditional New Orleans’ food (like king cake from a local bakery), and make a couple of favorite dishes, like red beans and rice and jambalaya. Friends bring food, too. We play New Orleans’ music, enjoy the food and company, and sometimes watch the real Mardi Gras parades online.


Ready for Valentine's Day!

This season also brings Valentine’s Day (February 14), another celebration we enjoy each year. We hang up heart decorations, give each other cards and treats, and indulge in a simple (dairy-free) chocolate fondue for dessert. Similarly, we observe St. Patricks’ Day (March 17), by wearing green, hanging up shamrock decorations, and eating our traditional corned beef and cabbage dinner. It doesn’t matter that we aren’t Irish; we still join in the fun and make it a special day. If you like jokes and pranks, April Fool’s Day (April 1) is a fun one to celebrate. One year, I even celebrated Groundhog Day (February 2) by putting little edible groundhogs made from cookies into my sons’ bowls of oatmeal for breakfast!


St. Patrick's Day decorations

You don’t need a holiday on the calendar for an excuse to celebrate. Once or twice a year we have Mexican Night. I make our favorite enchiladas, decorate the table with a colorful serape, and mix up a special orange-mango fizzy drink. We used to celebrate the start of summer by blasting “School’s Out for Summer” as my kids got off the bus and then going with friends to play in a local creek. Of course, there is always a party when we visit their grandma (my mom)!

If you are more severely ill, you may be thinking that you can’t celebrate. Here are small ways to make a day special, with the help of friends or family:

Dress for the holiday, even if it’s just colored or themed pajamas and some whimsical socks or earrings.

Hang up simple decorations near your couch or bed. We have different sets of window clings for each holiday, and I still hang up holiday-themed artwork my sons made in school when they were little.

Listen to music associated with the holiday or special occasion, like Christmas carols, New Orleans’ jazz for Mardi Gras, Irish music for St. Patrick’s Day, and oldies but goodies from your younger years on your birthday.

Watch holiday-themed movies, such as A Christmas Story, Valentine’s Day, Mardi Gras (starring Pat Boone), Ghostbusters (perfect for Halloween!), or Finian’s Rainbow. (A surprising number of results come up when you search for “movies with leprechauns in them.”) Of course, you have to watch Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day—at least twice!

Cuddle with your children or grandchildren (or nieces & nephews), and read holiday-themed books together. If that’s too much for you, let them read to you, listen to audio books, or watch short videos together.

Eat holiday-themed foods—the best part of any celebration! Enlist the help of a friend or family member to prepare the dishes or order in appropriate foods: Chinese take-out on Chinese New Year, corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, Mexican on Cinco de Mayo.

Watch holiday specials and live events on TV or online, like parades (Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Mardi Gras), New Year’s Eve at Times Square, the Oscars, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!, and more. Almost everything is televised or live-streamed now.

Next time you are having a bad day or week or month (or year), find a reason to celebrate and insert some joy into your life!


© 2020 Suzan L. Jackson


Tasha Marie said...

Wow, it definitely sounds like your family are very big on celebrations. That's great - we always need a little bit more joy and cheer in the world. Now more than ever! I definitely agree with you - we should celebrate more often!

Sue Jackson said...

Tasha -

Yes, that is true! ha ha I was brought up that way, with a mom who celebrated everything BIG, so I just naturally did the same with my own kids. When chronic illness hit (at one point, both of my sons and I were all chronically ill), we found that our little traditions helped so much!