This year, take some time to examine and reconsider your holiday traditions as it relates to your friends as well as your family. With “not enough time” a consistent complaint with practically every age group, the holidays can offer a few hours or even several days to reconnect with your friends who you may be too busy to speak to or even see the rest of the year.
Set aside the time to carefully review your holiday list. Are all your friends—casual, close, and best—on that list? If all your friends are represented, do you have their up-to-date mailing addresses (or e-mail addresses) for sending invitations, cards, or gifts? Do you know who is going to be out-of-town during the holidays in case you were considering sending a perishable gift of fruit or flowers?
IS THERE ALWAYS ROOM AT YOUR TABLE?
Entertaining is one key way to show your friends that you care about them. Having a holiday get together, whether it’s at your home, or at a restaurant, offers the opportunity to take time out of your busy work schedule, as well as family time, to show your friends that they matter to you. If you include your friends or work associates in a family holiday dinner or party, go out of your way to introduce everyone. Try to spend time with all your guests whether they are family members, friends from childhood or school, or friends from work.
Traditionally, the holidays represent the chance to open up your home or apartment, or to make the annual trip, to parents or extended family members, near or far. Entertaining is often considered a family event although the family may extend beyond the immediate family to include the extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, as well as first and second cousins.
But for those who have family living far away, too far to visit for a regular or annual trip home, or those who are only children or single without family nearby, the holidays offer a time for connecting or reconnecting with friends, close by or visitors from far away.
I asked a single friend who only returns home from New York City to California every couple of years what she does for the holidays. She told me: “Basically, I accept the first invitation I receive for Thanksgiving and Christmas, although one friend's Thanksgiving has become my tradition.”
If you live in America and you celebrate Thanksgiving, which is always on a Thursday, is a “family only” event, you might want to have a second Thanksgiving celebration, on Friday, if you have that day off from work, or Saturday or Sunday (over the weekend). This second Thanksgiving could be for friends who may be visiting from out of town. Serve leftovers, ask friends to bring dishes, cook, or order in. If you celebrate Christmas, you could apply a similar principle to Christmas, spending December 25th with family and, if you are able to get the next day off from work, December 26th with friends.
REMEMBER THAT HOLIDAYS CAN BE HARD ON THOSE WHO ARE DEALING WITH LOSS
Be sensitive to what your friends are going through at this time of year. If a friend’s parents are deceased, or she is divorced or widowed, especially if it happened within the last year, you could certainly ask her to join your family’s celebrations. However, don’t be insulted if your friend would rather get together with her siblings, cousins, or other singles. But at least by extending an invitation to your friend, she has a variety of choices about how to spend her holiday time.
SYMBOLS THAT YOU CARE ABOUT YOUR FRIENDS AT THE HOLIDAYS
Besides breaking bread together, you can let your friends know that you care in other ways at various holidays throughout the year including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, New Year, or any other holidays that you and your family may celebrate whether by sending a card, a gift, even if it is a token one, calling, or even sending a holiday e-mail or text message.
You may already have a tradition of exchanging cards or gifts with certain friends as well as family members. If not, consider starting one.
You might also make a donation to a favorite charity in the name of your friend or their loved ones.
CARVING OUT “FRIENDS TIME”
Whether your friends live far away or nearby, use the holidays to reconnect, whether by phone, e-mail, or, best of all, in person and face to face.
If it’s unrealistic or uncomfortable to include your friends in your family get togethers, try to see each friend, whether for a cup of coffee or to go shopping together, at some point over the holiday season. You might even want to organize a gift wrapping party that includes one or more of your friends. Since you will all be wrapping presents anyway, why not do it together?
LETTING YOUR FRIENDS KNOW THEY COUNT
Take some time during the holiday season to let your friends know that you are grateful for their friendship and that you do not take them for granted. Show that you care through your actions and your words which are, in the long run, far more meaningful and long-lasting than even the most expensive gift.
Perhaps you and your family are going out of town for the week between Christmas and New Year’s, or you know that your friend is going away. In that case, the best gift your friend might give to you, or you could give to your friend, is to let each other know that you understand you won’t be around during the holidays.
Letting each other know that you’ll catch up with each other time, when it’s less hectic, might be the biggest gift of all.
Jan Yager, Ph.D. is the Connecticut-based author of When Friendship Hurts, Friendshifts, and Who’s That Sitting at My Desk? among other books. A sociologist, friendship coach, and speaker, for more information about her, please visit her websites: www.drjanyager.com and www.whenfriendshiphurts.com
Disclaimer: This column is not intended as a substitute for seeking out the services of a counselor, therapist, coach, or mental health professional.
Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Jan Yager, Ph.D. All rights reserved.