I USED TO HATE THE HOLIDAYSApr 11, 2022
It’s true. I am sure many of you can relate to the feelings of stress, anxiety, and dread that accompany the holidays. I felt this way for many reasons including overwhelm with the idea of menu planning, shopping, and cooking, cleaning, hosting, and lots of unconscious negative feelings and connections that probably date way back, many that I may never be able to pinpoint.
That being said, I knew I didn’t want to feel like that anymore. I knew I wanted myself, my husband, my children, and extended family to have a different experience. I also knew that I didn’t want to steal the joy from them with my bad attitude and lack of emotional presence.
So, what changed? I began to learn the meaning and intention of the holidays and then got into the actual halachot (Jewish laws) of each one without all the extras. What are we actually supposed to be doing? Why are we doing it? What is the point of Jewish holidays anyway?
I went all the way back to the start.
It started with simplifying Purim ( because let’s be real, the level of extra is out of control for this holiday) and continued from there. It is so important to check yourself during holiday prep and ask why you are doing what you do. Who is this for? Is this going to make me feel happier or more stressed? Does this serve to enhance the holiday for me and those close to me or is there some external pressure I am caving to? Whose “rules” am I following? How does this impact those around me?
All that brings me to Pesach (Passover). Pesach can be one of the most stressful holidays because there is a lot of manual labor that needs to be done to prepare for it. Plus, it can be really pricey. That being said, a lot of what we did growing up was NOT holiday prep. As a kid, pre-Pesach energy in my home was mostly unpleasant. Going above and beyond is not noble if everyone, including you, suffers as a result.
Think about what makes you and your family happy and do that. Traveling wasn’t enjoyable for me and my family. It was stressful. Too much family time out of your element might not feel joyful for you. You can change that.
Remember that when you start changing things up, someone is bound to get upset. Be prepared for that. It’s ok for people to dislike your choices, it doesn’t mean they are wrong. Please put your mental health and well-being (and spouse and kids) first.
If you are staying home, break up the Pesach prep in to smaller tasks. A few days after Purim start doing little things week by week. Check what you have from last year (yes, keep things from year to year). Plan your menu. I am old fashioned and I write my menus every year. I keep them in a notebook and that way I can just mix and match from previous years and add in new recipes here and there.
THIS IS NOT ALL YOUR RESPONSIBILITY. Do not be a martyr. Ask for help and let people help!
You do not have to make insane menus. Seder menus that are simple and low-key can be wonderful too! Remember that by the time the meal portion of the seder rolls around most people don’t want a giant meal. Daytime meals can be simple too. I like to think more about quantity of food versus a million different dishes. I have always found the protein, veggie, carbs/starch framework to be really helpful in keeping my menus easy to plan.
Remember how you want everyone to feel, including you. Ask yourself if what you are doing is supporting that or preventing it.
Be flexible. Again, remember the purpose of the holidays. We are celebrating culture, traditions, spirituality, and religion. We want to be living a more elevated life that transcends the smallness of our everyday lives. This can be done in so many ways. Create new traditions that resonate with you and your family and friends.
Make it fun for everyone. If you have kids, get dress-up items, and fun things for the table. Let them prepare skits and songs.
Amazon link for a list of some fun Passover enhancers: https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/32MHZNO3W5F9V?ref_=wl_share
And yes, a seder with friends can so special and amazing! You don’t have to have family. That’s right. YOU DON’T HAVE TO HAVE FAMILY. I remember a well-known leader in my community once shared that when she and her husband were experiencing infertility they chose to stay home for Pesach. Sitting at the seder with all the nieces and nephews was too painful for them that year.
Growing up, my parents always had friends for the seders and I remember it being really fun (and no drama 😊). My parents’ family was either older, lived far away, had their own plans or were really disconnected from religion and didn’t really prioritize joining. My parents created their own “family”.
The overall theme I’m communicating to you here is DO LESS TO HAVE MORE. As soon as you begin doing the holidays in a way that feels good for you, you will be able to lean in and enjoy. Reclaim the holiday as your own. I started my own It wasn’t how my parents did it, it wasn’t how my friends did it, it was how I did it (we).
You deserve joy, find it.
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