We are hurtling fast towards the time of preparing for the festive season and for my friends in America that of course begins with Thanksgiving. I previously wrote this Thanksgiving Wishes post, not only in celebration of the day for you but also with a belief the UK could benefit from adopting this celebration. For long term readers of the blog, this post combines the information from two separate older ones, but then, of course, I’ve included some new suggestions.
Festive Season, but it’s 2020!
Being 2020 the level of celebration is going to be greatly affected by the Covid 19 level where you live. Here in the UK, we are once again in lockdown until at least the 3rd of December. So there is a possibility that people will not be able to travel or enter each other’s homes. My personal thought is that a large percentage of the population who are prepared to follow the rules in normal time will not be at Christmas so I imagine Christmas Eve to Boxing Day at the very least will be relaxed, time will tell!
Living with a Chronic Illness
When you live with a chronic illness, your life is organised by a combination of compromises and sacrifices and unfortunately, the festive season is no different. Let’s be honest, anyone who comes from a tradition of big celebrations, or like me, loves Christmas and the festive season. This time of year is one where having a debilitating health condition really sucks! However, we make the best of things, don’t we!
Festive Season Preparations
Here are some thoughts about things you can do early, delegate or adapt to help you have the celebration you are hoping for without completely burning out, triggering a massive flare-up, becoming over-anxious or missing out too much. In fact, if you are someone who likes to plan, and trust me, be it an app, a planner or a basic piece of paper with a calendar printed on it… I recommend making a plan. As a Spoonie when creating your seasonal preparations plan, plan for at least one week of a flare-up of symptoms. If you don’t need it you will be ready enviably soon. If you don’t allow for it and need it disaster could strike!As a Spoonie when creating your seasonal preparations plan, plan for at least one week of a flare-up of symptoms. If you don't need it you will be ready enviably soon. If you don't allow for it and need it disaster could strike! Click To Tweet
Christmas cardmaking for spoonie Crafters
As a crafter, I naturally make all my Christmas cards so when do you think I start this? October? June? No, I find the best time to start making Christmas cards is between 27th December and 6th January. The decorations are all up I’m feeling festive and all of the pre-Christmas business is out of the way. It is great to make a good head start and depending on the available time (and my health) I can get quite a few made.
I then pick things up again, in terms of planning or purchasing, in June when the next years Christmas crafting products are launched. I then start making cards again somewhere between October and November depending on what I am doing and how many cards I made in my first batch. Now I have the online shop I need to be much more methodical and on the ball going forward
Cardmaking for the Immediate Household
Pre Fibro I tended to leave making my immediate families cards (who I live with) until the week leading up to Christmas. These days I can’t take the risk that I will be relatively well, or have that unexpected flare-up and I create them in early December.
Writing your Christmas Cards
For the majority of you who probably don’t make your own cards, I really suggest trying to have them all written by the end of November. If you are a last minute type person because you are not feeling the vibe in November, trust me, it is worth getting these sort of tasks (that are not based around perishable food) done as soon as possible.
Do you want ecards?
As you know I create traditional cards which I sell to those in the UK, you can see my website here. But I have decided as my blog readership is so international it would be a nice idea to design some affordable digital “cards” that people can email out or share on social media as they see fit. So keep your eyes out in the coming week or two for the digital section to arrive – of course, there will be some specific spoonie style festive season designs amongst them.
Festive Season Decorations
Are you the type of person who likes everything to look perfect or you go all out and decorate everything that doesn’t move?
My best advice If you are a bit of a perfectionist is to delegate and let other members of the family have a go, even the kids if you have them. It may not match your usual presentation but I bet they’ll have a great time joining in and love you for allowing them. If they don’t do as good a job as you hoped for, subtle tweaks when they have gone to bed is far easier than doing the whole job yourself.
Decorate everything that doesn’t move?
If this is a better description of you, well you have two options, either scale back or why not get some friends and family around (covid dependant) and have a decorating working group! Lay on some music and nibbles and make a party of it. Rather than spending multiple days on it and breaking your back, you could have a fab time, playing hostess and directing the operation.
Christmas Shopping for Spoonies
Before I developed Fibromyalgia, other than making cards I didn’t use to do any preparations for the festive season until I started opening the doors on the Advent Calendar. Now that is just not an option. You simply don’t know when a Flare-Up could cause you to lose a week. Remember what I said at the beginning of this post about planning…?
Shop Ahead and Online Where Possible
I recommend you try and have all the gifts bought by the end of November (or the 1st week of December if waiting for new releases like tech gadgets or multimedia). I used to do most of my shopping in the stores because I liked browsing. Now I shop online. What’s not to like?! I can trawl through lots of different shops looking for bargains with no legwork. Of course, with the benefit of Amazon Prime, I get next day delivery with many items. So there is no panic if I have a Fibro Fog moment and forget anything.
Shop Small & Local where possible
As much as I use Amazon an awful lot, and even more since March when Michael began working from home every day and no longer driving into the large city we used to live in. I really support the ethos of shopping local. As a new online shop I rely on people shopping local and I’m keen to support other home businesses, many of whom could be spoonies in the same situation as me. Facebook is a great place to find out about local small businesses.
Don’t Miss Out on the Festive Season Atmosphere
My (if covid allows) compromise suggestion is to go Christmas Shopping once, to see all the lights and soak up the atmosphere. But with no pressure to need to do any shopping other than the odd stocking filler you may spot. Back in 2017, I managed to go to a large retail park on 24th November so I can see the iconic Christmas Coca-Cola truck (even though I drink Pepsi Max sorry…). You can read all about my one normal day in this post.
Christmas Caroling & Other Traditions
This is a difficult one for me. Before the Fibro arrived, the festive season meant I was busy with my Church Choir, singing Carols out in the community throughout December. In 2016 I managed to attend the church for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, which was lovely, but I really missed singing with the choir.
For the next two years, I was not well enough to attend this. Emotionally I feel such a connection to the choir still but the reality was that I could no longer fulfil any sort of commitment (I’m just not a hit and miss person, it is not in me). In 2019 things looked up considerably. Having moved to the village. There is no church choir but there is a community choir with a much easier schedule, so I was able to sing at the switching on of the village Christmas lights and again for two days of the concert.
Of course, it is 2020. I had a long flare-up in the New Year and was not well enough to go to choir practices for the first couple of months and then lockdown came in March and I haven’t sung since. But one day when it is safe I can go back. Hopefully, Christmas 2021 will bring some of the musical joy to the festive season that 2019 did.
New Festive Season Traditions
If there is a traditional activity that is meaningful to you that you simply can not do anymore, or as things stand at the moment. Give yourself permission to be sad about this, but try and find a new activity to do when you would have been doing whatever it was. Create a new tradition. I am blessed to be a bit of a glass half full person anyway but why ruin your whole festive season by regretting what can’t be.
We now enjoy watching Christmas movies, from the epic to the most cheesy and sometimes indulging in a hot chocolate or a naughty snack while we watch them. Before I had Fibromyalgia, I was not only busy with my choir commitments each December but also rehearsing pantomimes to be performed in the new year. I was lucky if I saw five festive films over the whole of the holiday. Some years we watch a festive movie pretty much every day in December, as well as some at the end of November!
I love wrapping Christmas presents and making them look special, even if it is a £1 stocking filler. I used to enjoy wrapping all the presents up for everyone in the house on Christmas Eve it was one of the biggest highlights of the day, the final preparations. Once again I wouldn’t risk leaving things this late, what if I have a chronic, sickly headache am not up to it? Also, all that wrapping up in one go would be a push, I need to pace myself.
Pace Yourself and Enjoy it for Longer!
We have dramatically downsized in terms of gift-giving, so I could possibly wrap everything in one session. However, I won’t do it. I really recommend wrapping things as you buy/make them, then you can spread out of the pleasure (or stress if you don’t enjoy wrapping). I especially recommend this for parents of young children, because I used to be one! I still remember going for a little nosy around possible hiding places when I was too young to understand the delayed gratification of Christmas morning, but probably old enough to have been taught better…
Preparing Festive Fayre
I am fortunate that I am not principally responsible for the Christmas Dinner. Up until 2018, it was prepared by my father with some assistance from my brother and/or myself. 2019 was the first Christmas in the new house with just the two of us. I am the primary baker and Michael is the cook and thankfully all the festive season baking I do can be done by Christmas Eve at the latest. Naturally, I will help with the big meal though.
What if you are the Main Cook?
There is so much pressure put on you to provide the perfect meal but realistically pick your battles. There are those parts of the meal that are family favourites but other bits can be compromised on, swap something fresh for frozen. Buy something ready prepared like the pigs in blankets or forcemeat stuffing. If you are expecting company (covid depending) don’t feel you have to be responsible for everything. The majority of guests will be more than happy to contribute to the meal if asked, especially if they know you suffer from a chronic health condition.
Memories of Christmas Dinners
When it comes to the festive meals, here are some of my favourite memories. The year the serving dish caught fire as we were finishing the main course! It was one of those serving dishes that have tea light candles underneath to keep it warm. It was really old, my parents got it as a wedding present over fifty years before. Somehow the plastic on the handle which was nowhere near the candles caught fire.
It was rushed out of the house by my brother in oven gloves and luckily no damage was done to the table or anything else. Amazingly the dish was repaired and given some new handles and is still in use, but we still talk and laugh about it.
The second event was less dramatic, whilst the New Year’s Day (repeat Christmas Dinner) was being prepared my Dad suddenly realised the Parsnips from Christmas Day were still in the fryer. No one had even missed them. After all of that, the point is when things go “wrong” often the best memories are made. Give yourself a break!
Medication for the Holidays
If you take regular prescription medication and/or supplements (in other words the majority of spoonies) make sure you won’t run out over the festive season. It is easy to forget about routine tasks when you get busy with festive preparations. Michael and I have these pillboxes from Amazon. Every six days I sit down and fill them both up for the week ahead, at the same time checking there will be enough for the next fill up. If not it gets ordered. Since I have done this, we have had no “I’ve run out of pills” crisis. Before we used pillboxes it was another matter!
Can you get ahead?
Here in the UK they are usually happy for you to order repeat prescriptions a little early if you are due to run out over the festive season. So as it approaches the bank holidays, don’t just think about the coming week. Bear in mind if the week after is affected by closures and see if you can order items early.
Prepare your body for the Festive Food!
We have talked about the food in terms of preparation but I wanted to touch on preparation to eat during the festive season. This is just a little tip for anyone who usually eats small, simple meals for most of the year but likes to indulge at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Think of your stomach as a muscle. If a (non-spoonie) person who never exercises goes to the gym and does a serious workout, they will hurt the next day. In the same way, if you go from a sensible restricted diet to a blowout, you may regret it afterwards. I like to treat the week or two before Christmas as a warming-up period.
Surviving the Festive Season with a Chronic Illness
You really don’t have to sacrifice your enjoyment of the big day(s), it is really all about starting early and pacing yourself. At any one time just be aware that you may have a flare-up, in the run-up or even over the Festive Season. So, remember that plan we talked about and allow for it.
Do any prep as soon as possible but equally don’t rush to do it early or that could be counterproductive and trigger a flare-up itself. A slow steady pace is all that is needed and grab every opportunity to enjoy the whole build-up. Watch festive movies with the family. If you have children you could enjoy doing little craft activities with them, equally with elderly relatives. Create plenty of memories in advance of the big day(s) in case you do get ill on the day itself then you will not have completely missed out.
I wish you all a happy run-up to the festive season, don’t allow yourself to become stressed and enjoy all the little moments as they happen. My heart is with those who have been severely financially impacted by Covid, or even worse their family numbers have been reduced by it. 2020 was the year the majority of us never saw coming and may never forget. However impossible it may feel, you can find joy in the festive season and your loved ones would want you to. Love, joy, gratitude and optimism are all free and equally priceless.
If you have found any of this useful I would appreciate you sharing it on any of the social media platforms you use. Why not drop me a comment too, to let me know what was the most useful bit?