“But I don’t really like the holidays.”
I say this either to those who stand in pure solidarity with me in rebuking the holiday hype, or high-spirited enthusiasts who refuse to believe that I reject the magic of the season every year. It’s the conclusion I come to after conceding to my feelings during discussions about holiday planning, travel, gifts, and which parties I decided not to attend. Unless Christmas comes in the form of a 90- to 120-minute long movie or television special, I’m typically not interested.
However, in the spirit of revisiting and personalizing tradition in my 30’s and in a fairly new city, this year I am taking the initiative again to redefine the holiday and find some balance between my minimal holiday participation I had in Detroit with New York City’s exuberant celebration of the season overall.
In Detroit, our steady pace lends celebratory, but digestible opportunities to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year. Two years ago, I was watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade kick-off the season outside of my apartment at The Lofts of Merchant Row in my pajamas. If I wanted to bury the Grinch inside for a minute only, I would walk a block down to Campus Martius to catch a glimpse of the tree lighting ceremony and watch families from all over the city ice skate or drink hot chocolate. And the drives, oh the drives! They were the perfect holiday solution for introverts who want to be the only one in their car. You can turn on your seat warmer and WDET or XM Satellite, grab a coffee from The Roasting Plant, and head towards the Wayne County Lightfest for 47 displays of colorful glee. Or even just check out the neighbors’ waterfront house displays down Lakeshore Drive in Grosse Pointe. Finally, there is the charmed energy of Noel Night in midtown that brings the entire community together for one cool (and sometimes cold) night in the name of yuletide cheer.
And then there is New York.
The holiday splendor and traffic (all the traffic) is not for the anxious. This city is the upper echelon of holiday turn up to please holiday tourists, local families, and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York fans like me. The grand Christmas tree at Rockefeller Plaza. The skaters in the rink. The Rockettes performing at Radio City Music Hall. The legendary holiday vignettes in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman’s. The miracle of seeing Santa at the Macy’s on 34th Street. Saks Fifth Avenue’s enchanting displays including a dancing lightshow on the front facade that rivals the Bellagio’s dancing fountain. Salvation Army volunteers adjusting to the new job requirement of ringing bells with a two-step to Top 40 hits while encouraging donations. Dodging selfie sticks. Yelling at people for using selfie sticks. The Drunk Santa bar crawl. Thankfully, I can still grab a coffee from The Roasting Plant here in New York at the Greenwich Village location. But I can’t be in the car by myself. There is always a cab/Uber/Lyft driver with me.
Being new to the city I am now in a weird space where Detroit is no longer home and New York is still in the processing of becoming one. So if I want to turn the holidays into something fresh and bridge the gap between what I know and what I am embracing, what should I do?
I started brainstorming acts or traditions that felt genuine to my soul and what I want my memories of the holidays to be. Before moving to NYC my biggest personal traditions were community service, watching The Holiday, and finding disco Christmas music. (Speaking of…am I the last to discover that Donna Summer had a Christmas album?) However, in the spirit of building new traditions, below are some ideas that are easy and can be done anywhere with minimal effort.
Bring Christmas or winter-themed onesies for your family, sister or significant other.
One of my favorite mentors used to wear onesies during winter months/holidays and always had an extra one for her sister, mother, or best friends when they visited. Not only will these two-legged blankets unleash the childlike spirit attributed to the season, but seeing a bunch of adults in a fleece unitard will make one of the most lasting and funny memories of your life. Just encourage your family members to wear camis or tees underneath. It gets cold when you go to the bathroom.
If you live out of town or country, purchase locally-inspired gifts.
Detroiters are everywhere – in the States and abroad. If you are a native and live out of town, find a gift that reflects the local culture of your current city or country to bring back home. Last year, I spent Christmas with my family in California and arrived with classic black and white Adidas for everyone to reflect hip hop culture in New York City. Cliché? Maybe, but it went over well. This is a great opportunity to share a part of your new local experience with your family. Or if you live in Detroit, but are from another city or country – take your family a Detroit care package, apparel, or locally distilled liquor. “Detroit is the New Black” is a great choice, as well as Our Detroit Vodka to lift the um…spirit of the season.
Watch the movie The Family Stone (2005).
Again, Christmas is most palatable to me in cinema form, so I must offer a recommendation reflective of current times. The Family Stone shows an atypical family dynamic as everyone returns home for the holidays. The beautiful thing is all members represent the quirks and perspectives of minority and majority communities, which lends a bunch of humor thanks to Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Luke Wilson. Yet, the love, respect, and patience for each other is unconditional. As we prepare (and in some cases, grapple) with the administrative change to come in January, we should remember the humanity we need to extend to each other not only during Christmas but every day. After watching this film, I want to love my family, friends, and neighbors a little harder and a lot more.
Remember that service never goes out of style.
Bring your friends together for a unique act of service this holiday season. Detroiters are all about philanthropy, so start within your circles of influence to be a gift to someone else.
- If you know a preschool, Head Start or elementary educator, enlist friends to sponsor gifts for his/her class and perhaps a gift for the teacher to show thanks for their investment in the next generation.
- Are you an active mentor? Pool money to bring a college student home for Christmas and/or return them to campus post-holiday – maybe even with some extra spending moment to grab books, supplies, or groceries at the top of the new school semester.
- Know a friend who is just overwhelmed with life (job demands, grief, divorce, busy children and managing wife/husband duties)? Surprise them by cooking or bringing a dinner with leftover potential, or simply with restocking their fridge and cabinets with fresh groceries so it’s one less thing to check off on their to-do list. (Please note: If they are married, clear it with their spouse first. We don’t want any problems this holiday season.)
Find someplace to dance away 2016 or welcome 2017 (under the caveat that it is better than 2016).
I spent Thanksgiving with fellow Michiganders in Harlem, and we had a 10- to 15-minute lament about 2016 not sparing foolishness for any soul…of any kind…in any place. We knew the year might be downhill when musical greats David Bowie, Prince, and Phife Dawg passed and Brexit happened; but we tried to leave room for optimism. After closing the list of everything wrong that happened this year (notice I didn’t say finish, the list was just too long) – the only hope we had was the baby of the hostess who is thankfully making his or her debut in 2017. However, instead of thinking of all the woes we’ve endured personally or as a local/national/international community, find your moment of great style, feel good music, and delightful company and relish in it as long as you can somewhere on the dance floor.
Once upon a time, I would’ve made the suggestion to “run away” during the holidays as I’ve considered once upon a time (okay just last year). This year, I think the holiday is meant to stay as close to home and the heart as possible – wherever that may be. May your new personalized holiday traditions be inspired and ones that last. Perhaps next time someone starts talking about the holidays I will even share my ideas instead of my distaste. Or at least change the subject.
Daidria Grayson is a marketing executive by day, but is so much better at observing human behavior and capturing our quirks and ironies via microblogging. She is a Detroiter who lives in Brooklyn; loves coffee, cognac and culture; and loves challenging parallels about gentrification between the two cities. Cheetos are her snack du jour when she travels for vacation. Chat with her on Twitter @DeRG or Facebook (no Messenger) at facebook.com/daidria.grayson.