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Finding a Fresh Start for the Holidays

Families change over time: kids grow up; couples divorce; parents pass away; relatives move. During the holidays those disruptions can be deeply felt, but they don’t have to turn a time of celebration into a time of sadness.

Rather than mourn what used to be, you can choose to spend the holidays in a new way. In fact, you may want change things up for the year no matter what your family situation is. Here are a few ideas.

Start a new tradition

Continuing long-held family traditions without relatives may feel comforting, or it may cause melancholy to take hold. Be honest with yourself and evaluate which activities truly bring you joy. Continue those and set the others aside.

Then try something new that may turn into your new favorite holiday ritual:

  • Sign up for a festively themed 5K
  • Bring home-baked cookies to the staff at a hospital, police or fire station or a neighborhood business that is open on Christmas
  • Try a new, elaborate recipe from a different culture
  • Spend the entire day performing random, anonymous acts of kindness

Go solo

You have two choices if you find yourself alone during the holidays:

  1. Relax in quiet solitude or
  2. Find somebody who would appreciate some company.

Shari Loik Goodman, director of FiftyForward Meals on Wheels in Nashville, has seen how much the simple act of delivering a traditional holiday dinner to a homebound senior can mean to everyone involved. While volunteers deliver meals year-round, on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day the organization looks for new recruits to call on seniors.

“It’s not just a matter of dropping off food and leaving,” Goodman says. “Volunteers strike up conversations with the recipients. One woman told me that she did not get one visitor or one invitation to celebrate Christmas, and now all of a sudden she had this invitation to have people deliver a meal to her home. I always say, this is not about delivering meals — it is about delivering hope, so our seniors know that someone cares enough to bring a little bit of celebration to them.”

The volunteers get just as much out of the visits, seeing immediately how simply being there for someone makes their day a bit brighter.

Local Meals on Wheels throughout the state are always looking for volunteers.

Find other holiday volunteer opportunities by visiting:

Hit the road

Get out of town and let someone else provide the food and entertainment.

These three Tennessee spots are great for indulging in Christmas spirit, whether you want to take a day trip or are considering an overnight stay:

  • Christmas at Opryland
    The Opryland Hotel in Nashville does everything in the grandest way, and that definitely applies to the holidays. Start with the 3 million Christmas lights draping every inch of greenery on the grounds, add in ice sculptures, horse-drawn carriage rides, ice skating, gingerbread house decorating, a holiday concert and more.
  • The Inn at Christmas Place
    With a name like that, this Pigeon Forge hotel has some big yuletide expectations to meet. Its December calendar is filled with events like Sing Santa, Christmas karaoke, popcorn stringing, caroling, cookie decorating, storytelling, music and more. There’s even a “Santa Suite” hotel room with a fireplace and a whirlpool bath.
  • Christmas at Graceland
    It will not be a Blue Christmas for any visitor to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s Memphis mansion. The outdoor displays include a life-size Nativity scene and Santa in his sleigh and of course lots of lights. Step inside for a tour of the mansion in all its Christmas-decoration glory, laid out just the way it was back when the Presley family celebrated there. Stay at The Guest House at Graceland, a beautiful new addition just steps away from the mansion, for total Elvis-at-Christmas immersion.

If you’re looking for a completely non-traditional turn, book a trip to someplace warm and sunny. The Hotel del Coronado in San Diego sets up an ice skating rink by the beach for the best of both worlds.

For more tips on how to enjoy the holidays more fully, click here.

Nancy Henderson

Nancy Henderson, a writer and editor originally from New York, moved to Nashville more than 25 years ago and considers herself more Tennessean than Yankee these days. She has written about health care and wellness for a variety of publications.

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