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Curing Holiday Homesickness

Growing up in Western New York, it was easy to embrace the Christmas season when it finally arrived. Usually by Thanksgiving, we would have two feet of snow on the ground and that alone would put us in the mood for twinkle lights and hot chocolate. But California couldn’t be more different and no matter how many years I spend here, I never feel quite at home this time of year. The sun shines, it’s barely colder than 50* and the leaves stay on the trees. It kind of kills me!

So I’ve come up with a list of 10 things to do when I feel totally disconnected from the holiday season (and winter). Those of you that are California transplants from the Midwest or East Coast will especially appreciate this, but I think it will be useful for anyone needing a little holiday kick in the shorts.

1. Decorate: Even though it feels weird (because it’s a sunny, 70* day) – decorate! You must decorate. Dust off that tiny 4-foot plastic tree from storage. Hang lights around your doors and windows. Plug everything in the second it gets dark.

2. Play Music: Music has tremendous power to bring back cozy feelings of yore. I personally start the season by blasting Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You,” on repeat, until my neighbors call the cops. Then, I turn the volume down and play the rest of the album. I also buy at least one newly-released Christmas album each year – this helps build new music memories and is just fun in general (I am currently obsessed with Michael Buble’s Christmas album).

3. Cook: A huge discovery for me was when I realized how good it feels to bake during this time of year (I usually hate baking). Years ago, my mom gave me all of our favorite family recipes and I make it a point to make as many as I can during the Christmas season. Doing so makes my California home feel and smell like my old family home back in Buffalo, and that makes me very happy.

4. Walk: I personally love that it gets dark so early this time of year. It makes simple evening walks so Christmasy and cozy! Even if it’s just for a quick stroll around the block, take time during the week to walk around and look at everyone else’s decorations.

5. Establish new traditions: This tip is KEY and will prevent you from wallowing in the snowy past. A few years ago, my best friend and I created a new annual tradition called Christmas Movie Marathon Day (CMMD), which we have dubbed “the most magical day of the whole year!” And it truly is. Invite your friends over (encourage them to wear pj’s) and spend an entire day eating holiday treats, drinking Christmas cocktails and watching your chosen lineup of holiday movie favorites.

6. Avoid FB: Don’t look at your friends’ Facebook photos of snow. This doesn’t help. I also get strangely nostalgic for weather-related flight delays, which I avoid at all costs.

7. Save: I specifically save certain food and drink just for the month of December. My reserved list includes: Gluhwein, The Christmas Cocktail, homemade spaghetti sauce, beef stew and iced sugar cookies. This really helps the holiday month feel unique and special, even if the weather outside is the same as it is in June.

8. Burn holiday-scented candles: I’m telling you, Yankee Candle’s “mistletoe” candle could make Scrooge get excited for Christmas. Force yourself to go to Bed Bath and Beyond and use that coupon you’ve been saving all year for 20% off. Just get one.

9. Go Watch Other People Get Christmasy: Dickens Christmas Faire is a holiday tradition for us here in San Francisco. In a nutshell, a bunch of movie set designers recreate old London (from Dickens’ time) in an old warehouse and they have a zillion people dressed up in Victorian garb, reinacting the Christmas Carol throughout the venue (think Fezziwig’s party, Scrooge’s old house, tons of London-esque shops and bars, etc). It’s both freaky and awesome. I strongly recommend bringing a mug of gluhwein, as this one is better if your not entirely sober.

10. Invest in Christmas pjs (see #5, CMMD). Old Navy sells them for like $5 and they really make the nights feel more special! Last year, for CMMD, my friends bought adult onesies, which are totally awesome. Get those too.

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