Update, Winter 2012:

This will be a grand holiday season here in Lynn Valley, starting with the Mollie Nye light-up and continuing over at the Christmas Tree Walk in the Village. That said, it’s not always easy to enjoy all the fun (and tasks!) of the season without becoming a bit … overwhelmed, shall we say? Here’s a solution that might help. The following piece is an excerpt from Wintertide, a book of holiday recipes and stories that’s on sale at Mollie Nye and online. We think it’s good advice!

Solstice Stressation

“Stressation.” That’s the word we coined when we were sitting around the table at the White Spot at our family’s annual “Eve of Christmas Eve” dinner on Dec. 23rd. What we shared beyond the bonds of blood and affection was a fed-uppedness with the demands of the season. Surely, with our shopping and baking and wrapping and constant cavorting, we were all missing the point.

And so it was decided. From henceforth, the Dec. 21 winter solstice will mark more than the defeat of darkness’s grip upon the earth. It will be honoured by the defiant cessation of stressful seasonal freneticism, and therefore be known as the Day of Stressation.

Forgotten a gift for the soccer coach? A sincere phone call will suffice. Haven’t baked your shortbread yet? It will taste all the better when you make it next year. Haven’t got as many stocking stuffers for the kids? They’ll survive.

We’ve all been there. A neighbour brings an unexpected gift to the door, and our first reaction is to smile through gritted teeth, say “You really SHOULDN’T have,” and immediately add “Get gift for neighbour” onto our mental to-do list. We take our well-meaning neighbour’s expression of comfort and joy, filter it through a self-created lens of guilt and expectation, and practically spit it back at them.

What if, instead, we said “How kind of you to think of me! Won’t you come in and share some of these cookies you’ve brought? I’ll put the coffee on.” And because we are committed Stressation adherents, we will have the time to sit and enjoy some shared time with our neighbour, because we are refusing to fret about things left undone.

Celebrating Stressation does require some advance planning. You will want to have your turkey, or other feasting staple, purchased before the 21st. Ditto a gift for your significant others. And yes, there will no doubt be a few last-minute tasks that simply can’t be done in advance – whipped cream isn’t known for its ability to stay perky for weeks in the fridge.
But the other stuff? Let it go. It’s traditional to wish for peace at this time of the year, and yet we refuse to make space for it. There’s simply no room at the inn.

But perhaps this is the year we’ll start to change our ways. Dec. 21, the Day of Stressation, has been marked on the family calendar, and at least some of us fully intend to honour its call. Would you like to join us? We’ll be the ones at Waves or Delany’s, sipping a gingerbread latte with friends, nary a shopping list in sight.

– By Clan McMordie-Trendell-Jensen