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Fenway Victory Gardens in Snow, December 2007 (photograph by the author).

I’m home this afternoon with an anxiety-ridden wife, trying to help keep the white noise of depression at bay. We’re watching Emma and Grandpa while Hanna dozes on my lap and I catch up on emails and a few work-related tasks.

I’m so thankful for a flexible-ish work schedule and understanding colleagues; it means so much to me that I’m not in a position of having to choose between my job and my family.

I’ve been thinking a lot this month about the stress of the holiday season — in part because Hanna and I are doing what we can to avoid it this year. After our extended visit to my parents’ last December-January (thank you polar vortex!) and a lot of additional, stressful, travel in 2014 we decided to stay put in our new home this Christmas. We sorely need the ten days of holiday leave to just be as a family, without the scramble of schedules and press of adult responsibilities. We’re using our advent calendars to count down to the solace of this time together (twelve days to go!) and looking forward to being quiet and in place.

Another aspect of slowing down for the season has been the decision to not rush holiday gift-giving. The members of my writing group, #firstthedraft, have been talking this week about gift-giving, gift-receiving, and the December holidays. We hold an informal weekly chat, to keep our virtual community connected, and this week the conversation evolved into a discussion about the stress and expense of gift-giving for many of our little families. While I completely understand why families with children feel both pleasure and pressure to engage in gift exchanges in December, it struck me that one of the freedoms of adulthood is the ability to step back from the seasonal rush and choose to select and give gifts outside of a strict timetable.

Hanna and I do still send treats to our close friends and relatives during midwinter. But this year it won’t be happening before Christmas — I couldn’t face the coordination of selection, purchase, wrapping, and the trek to the post office. So our families and friends will be getting a surprise in the mail in early-to-mid January instead.

The end of the year, and the winter season (at least for those in the northern hemisphere) is a really difficult one for many people … it’s kind of odd that as a culture we’ve chosen it as a time in which to pressure people into increased sociality, travel, expense, and enforced cheer.

Perhaps the holiday festivities help some among us get through the darkest days of the year. But those traditions don’t help everyone. What do all of you do to combat the December blues (if you get them)?

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