Do you find yourself relating more to the tiny-hearted Grinch than the boisterous Whos this time of year? Yes, the Grinch was pretty mean, but maybe—just maybe—he was driven to it by the loud, obnoxious, extra-ness of the Whoville denizens whooping it up just below his tranquil mountain home? I can relate. Perhaps Christmas isn’t your jam or you’re just not in the mood this year—and, hey, there’s even the off-chance you don’t celebrate it yourself. Christmas can feel very intrusive when you’re not one who observes the holiday, but even then, we can take what’s best of this time of the year to keep us from activating grouch-mode too much. All it can take is a simple little reframing and we can reclaim the season for ourselves. Here are five simple tips for making the best of Christmastime even if you’re not fa-la-la-ing it up yourself.
1. Make alllllll the vegan cookies
Did you notice I didn’t say “eat” all the Christmas cookies? Often, the joy of baking has a lot to do with just the process and giving cookies to colleagues, friends, and loved ones, and there’s not much better vegan outreach than that which arrives in cookie form. So get yourself a nifty tin or two and break out your mixing bowls! Oh, you can eat ‘em, too. For inspiration, check out this great round up, or these winning recipes from VegNews’ 2017 Holiday Cookie Contest. Just search “VegNews Holiday Cookie Contest for winners throughout the years for lots of great ideas. Looking for a gluten-free option? These vanilla cut-out cookies by Unconventional Baker look amazing (feel free to make me some; we can find a centralized Chicago drop-off point for you to hand them on over).
2. Give from the heart
You know what would have made the Grinch less grinchy earlier on? Creating more good in the world. By finding an organization for volunteering year-round (not just at Christmas), and/or charities to donate to, your heart will grow a little in the process, too. Volunteer Match seamlessly connects you and your passions with local non-profits that could use your time and talents. Giving directly to those in your community who are in need is also such a great way to make a difference in someone’s life. Consider being matched with a disadvantaged child or family for the holidays to spread some good tidings. Don’t forget that many animal shelters also have wish-lists posted on their websites. I make it a habit to pick up some gently used towels and blankets when I am thrifting to donate to shelters throughout the year.
3. Get crafty
Use these longer nights to get a new craft under your belt. From candlemaking to building mosaics, there are so many possibilities for making DIY delights this winter. If you are an in-person learner, many craft supplies stores offer free or low-cost classes (Michaels offers a variety of classes, for example, as does Paper Source), but if you prefer learning new skills from the comfort of home, Craftsy may be just what you’re looking for—offering everything from jewelry-making to weaving classes. Craft projects aren’t for everyone, though; if you’re still hankering to learn something new, many communities offer classes like improv, swing dance, and martial arts if you’re looking for fresh ways to inhabit your body this winter.
4. The write thing
Okay, so I am old enough to remember that precursor to the email and the text, which is the letter. I remember actually standing by my mailbox waiting to get letters from dear friends and paramours. There is something so wonderfully intoxicating about receiving a letter: they force us to slow down and connect with the writer, someone who created something one-of-a-kind just for us. Older relatives who don’t text or email might love a little letter. This Christmas season, I am pledging to buy some snazzy recycled stationery and spend some evenings writing to people in my life I don’t see as much. If you want to immerse yourself in the art of letter-writing, do check out this list of great collections for inspiration (and feel free to write to me; I love getting mail). For example: Can’t think of anyone worthy of a letter in your own life? Here are some groups that will match you up with someone who’d love a letter or a card.
5. Life in the slow lane
Winter gives us the best possible excuse (not that we need one) to unplug and chill out. As a writer, I spend most of my weekdays online, but there is no reason why I need to keep that going after work hours. I feel better for it when I limit my screen time and engage with the big world away from my laptop. Reading (oh, please don’t forget what an amazing free resource your local library is!), planning my summer garden on paper, having low-key and lovely meals with friends, indulging in a little more bath therapy than usual, keeping a gratitude lists, and just basically enjoying the gift of downtime winter brings are all ways to celebrate the season.
Marla Rose is co-founder of VeganStreetMedia.com, and, despite what you may think, she can’t resist “It’s a Wonderful Life.”