There is a familiar year-end frenzy in the air when December rolls around. It’s like flipping a switch to go into overdrive: traffic picks up (as if it wasn’t bad enough already), parking is even scarcer than usual and stores are packed. Work intensifies in an effort to tie up loose ends, and at home the whole neighborhood is lit up with blinking lights, waving Santas and colorful candy canes. I’m not complaining, I like this season. However, I find it difficult not to get swept up by the hustle and bustle of what’s going on around me. It’s hard to keep up, and even harder to slow down.

I’ve never been one for making new-year’s resolutions but I think I’m going to give it a go this year. Not a resolution so much as a reminder to take the season in stride, to not let the outside stress overshadow the things I like. This reminder will include that which inspires and is fun — the discoveries and connections that can be made. Because, as I find every year, this is actually a great time to learn a few things about your community and the people around you.

The dreaded holiday party is one of these surprising places where you can make lovely discoveries. True, office parties are hit or miss, but even here there is at least an opportunity to get to know colleagues a little bit better. However, it’s the more personal holiday gatherings, the ones hosted by friends or acquaintances, that truly pique my interest. They offer a glimpse into family heritage and tradition, through foods and decorations, songs and games. How can that not lift one’s spirits?

When living abroad it’s commonplace to seek out that which reminds you of home, particularly around the holidays. When you find it, whether it’s a food item, a traditional event or a favorite decoration, it tends to be especially meaningful. Case in point: I was at a Swedish Lucia celebration yesterday and even though this was a hybrid version of a traditional Swedish Lucia event, it was immensely satisfying. As a Swede, this is one of the highlights of the season and one that is steeped in ritual and tradition. Maybe it was pure nostalgia that made me enjoy it so much, or perhaps it was that I didn’t expect to find an event like this in my town — whatever the reason, it truly made my day!

I may not be one for making resolutions, but it appears I have at least produced something of a reminder list. The year-end is a time for other kinds of lists as well — you know the “best-of” and “top-ten” varieties that you see in newspapers, on social media, at the coffee shop and even at the doctor’s office.

I love diving into these lists for ideas of things to read, see and eat; or to get reacquainted with news stories, the year’s best athletes, biggest music acts, etc, etc. I know these are subjective snapshots, but they can provide a summary of sorts of the year past, or if nothing else, serve as inspiration going forward. With that, I think I have only one more thing to remind myself of: enjoy!

By: Felicia Shermis

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