Feng Shui Simplicity, Thanksgiving Greeting Cards and the Madness of the Season: How to Opt-Out

I just saw an ad for Hallmark Thanksgiving cards. At first I thought it was a typo, so I Googled it and according to Hallmark, Inc. 17 million Thanksgiving cards are sent each year: 63% are given to family and 23% go to friends. This years’ selection includes audio cards with “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge, “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, and the NFL “Heavy Action” theme.

Thanksgiving Greeting Cards
Do you want to add Thanksgiving greeting cards to your holiday frenzy?

What happened to getting together with family and friends for a wonderful meal, connection with each other, and a chance to count our blessings?  The media and the marketplace are saying that is not enough. You must serve a gargantuan meal, preceded by plenty of snacks to eat while the turkey is in the oven. All so we can eat ourselves to the point of feeling ill. But wait, there is more!

Not only do you have to cook a gourmet meal, you have to clean the house to spotlessness and then decorate it. Your dining table and coffee table and mantelpiece must be festooned with seasonal garlands and candles and figurines.

Now Hallmark, Inc is just one of thousands of companies that want you to do more and spend more for this once quiet holiday. You have a choice. You do not have to get caught up in this madness.

You want to make connection with family and friends the focus of the day/weekend. Make the meal and the day simpler for you. Take the pressure off yourself and Keep it Simple.

Clean your house, yes, but it does not have to be perfect. Martha Stewart will not be making a personal inspection of your home.

Make Thanksgiving a pot-luck meal. Simplify your menu and ask people to bring side dishes and desserts. If Uncle Stanley absolutely must have a particular dish, then he, or his wife Aunt Millie, can bring it. Just let everyone know in advance your kitchen is only available for pot luck warm up, not for food preparation. Share the culinary glory and the work.

Simplify your decorations. If you have grandchildren or nieces and nephews – ask them to bring the decorations. A hand-print turkey or drawing of the Pilgrims and the Indians is the best decoration. A few well placed candles – on your dining table and/or mantel – can add to the coziness of the occasion. If you have little ones running around, then forget the candles. Simply pull out the kitschy turkey salt and pepper shakers you got years ago and leave it at that. Remember, décor is to support a feeling of warmth and fond memories, not to create a “Wow reaction.”

Whether you have a family you truly enjoy or one that you can only tolerate, give yourself some time away from all the people and activity. Go for a walk before or after the meal; or the day after. Find a quiet corner to read, or take a nap – you deserve it.

The focus is connection with those you love. This is not a competition. The perfect food and the perfect décor will not make this a perfect holiday. You are not responsible for the happiness of others. We all make our own happiness. Take care of yourself: “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” (I say this because most of my readers are women. But this applies to men too.)

And remember – after Thanksgiving you have only 29 days until the next blow-out holiday extravaganza: Christmas! And, only six days until the first day of Chanukah. More on that in next month’s news letter.

Now I will step-down from my soap-box. 😉

Have a Happy and Sane Thanksgiving!

The Best Gift is Love: The Feng Shui Spirit in the Gifts You Give

This week Nordstrom announced they would not decorate their stores for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. Every other retail entity is already pushing shopping for Christmas. Buy, buy, buy. But what are you buying? What are you giving?

The pressure is on. But as you hand over your credit card, you know in the pit of your stomach it is not something your family member or friend really wants or needs. It is just something to give; someone to check off your list.

handmade things contain the energy of the creator
A handknit sweater. Too tiny for me to wear, but too cute not to share.

The chi or energy of the maker is in everything, including the gifts you give. People who are seriously into Macrobiotics believe the energy and emotions of the person preparing a meal is in the food.  Maybe that is why the meals prepared by a much loved grandmother, aunt or father tasted soooo good. They were made with love.

I have a handmade sweater that always makes me feel special whenever I put it on. Something I don’t experience with a machine knit sweater. I have a hand-thrown cereal bowl. I love the way it feels in my hand when it is filled with hot oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins. I get the whole sensory experience of texture, smell and appearance; something that is diminished with a factory made bowl.

I would like to think the person who knitted my sweater chatted and laughed with friends while her needles clicked back and forth. I would like to think the potter who sold the cereal bowls to me at an open studio event enjoyed the process of molding the clay in her hands while it spun on the wheel.

A suggestion: if giving and receiving a tangible gift is important for you and your giftee, then consider taking advantage of local craft fairs and open studio events to buy something that is not only handmade, but is made locally.

How to add the Feng Shui Spirit to Your Holiday Gifts

Maybe you could make something and imprint your love and intention into it. That way the gift is a vehicle for your love and care. Instead of spending hours buffeted by crowds at the mall, you could relax in your kitchen and make batches of biscotti, spiced nuts or chutney. Then creatively wrap them. Or you could make holiday ornaments. Consider making this a family project. If you are not talented with cooking or crafting skills, then take advantage of the craft and art events in your area.

Let friends and family know ahead of time you will be gifting in a simpler way this year and giving gifts from your heart.

If this handmade/homemade idea doesn’t fit you or your family and bought gifts are the only way to go, then please, take a minute before you wrap each gift to attach your love and best wishes for the receiver into the gift, whatever it is. Your best gift is your love.

How are you sharing the Feng Shui spirit this holiday season?  Share your ideas in the comments below.

photo by squirrel_cottage

Feng Shui Holiday Spirit: Give Experiences Instead of “Stuff” This Holiday Season

Stuck in Back Bay traffic last week, (it was the Speedo Santa 5K Run – don’t ask) I saw a sign on a church “Live the Gift”, which I misread as “Give Life.”  This is what I have been thinking during this hyped holiday shopping season. This time of year all the joy of the season gets trampled by the frenzy of shopping, holiday performances and obligatory social events. Instead of fighting the crowds at the mall give experiences that can be renewed during the doldrums of January and February. “Give Life” Experiences, they make the best memories. Sometimes it is good to have mild dyslexia.

We do not remember days, we remember moments.Cesare Pavese

hot cocoa with marshmallows makes the best memories

Hot cocoa makes the best memories

The most powerful moments are the shared simple ones, not the big bang of going to Disney World or on a cruise. Instead of “stuff” that too quickly becomes clutter or big events that become endurance trials, give those you love the gift of you, your time and attention.

Write out a “gift certificate” or coupon with your gift written out. You can include a copy of the cookie or pizza recipe, a mini candy cane, a list of videos, a copy of the book to be read together, or a map of the hike path (even hand drawn is great). Include a date for the shared time together or at least an expiration date and follow-up to make time together, soon.

Here are some ideas for memorable shared moments:

  • Making cookies or pizza together in the kitchen
  • Bird watching or a hike together in the woods
  • Spend an afternoon at your local museum or historical site.
  • Snow is for more than shoveling – build a snowman or have a snowball fight.
  • Have REAL hot cocoa (not from a mix) with peppermint sticks or mini-marshmallows to warm up with afterward.
  • Find a hill and sled down – if you don’t have a snow sled or saucer improvise with a plastic trash can lid or a big piece of corrugated cardboard. Improvising adds to the fun and memories.
  • Read aloud from a favorite book – Harry Potter or Little Women can fill many a cold and dreary afternoon or evening.
  • Purchase admission to a class or lecture on a topic of interest that you share with a friend or family member. Go together, learn and have great fun.
  • Rent or borrow from the library some great classic videos and enjoy with homemade popcorn. Add grated parmesan cheese and/or cayenne pepper to your hot popcorn.
  • Have tea/coffee and chat with a good friend at a pastry shop or at your place. (It is OK to buy your delicacies rather than make from scratch.) The main thing is relaxed time together with your friend to catch-up.

What do you do to create shared moments with family and friends? The goal is connection with the people who are important to you, not a perfect event.

photo by gail at the pink peppercorn

Lighting the Holiday Table Brings People Together

The best part of the holidays is reconnecting with those you love most.

Enhance people-to-people connection by lighting your dining table

Think of the glowing faces of family and friends around your table.  Fine-tuning your lighting can create this powerful bonding environment.

Lighting the holiday table is more than mere illumination. Feng Shui tells us light is a form of energy. Interior Psychology points out that human beings are drawn to light and avoid the dark. Lighting is a powerful tool for bringing people together – if you know how to use it.

lighting the holiday table
Lighting the holiday table brightens the faces of family and friends, literally.

Think of the archetypal camp fire and how it invites everyone to gather ‘round. It’s in that circle we make eye contact and strengthen our deepest connections. Gathering at the holiday table (no matter its shape) is the place for such connections.

Enhance connections with the people you love most by bringing light to the center of your dining table: pendant light, chandelier or cluster of candles.

– Dim light around the edges of the room will enhance this feeling and gather people together. 
– Recessed ceiling lights alone give a room all the warmth of a hotel lobby.
– Not only does this work for the holidays, it works for any time your family gathers for a meal.

Want help creating a home that helps friends and family connect with each other? Contact me

What part of your holiday table (besides the food ;-D ) makes you the happiest? Share your ideas in the comments below.

photo by thskyt