4 Min. Read

4 Ways to Find that Holiday Feeling Wherever You Are 

A grandmother and adult grandson rekindle the feeling of home for the holidays with a warm welcome hug.|A fresh loaf of bread conjures the smells of the holidays|A grandma connects with her family over the phone at Christmas|A grandma and grandson enjoy lighting a family menorah together|Hands hold a treasured holiday ornament

When Jerry Kiesling moved away from family several years ago in the last weeks of the year, he wasn’t yet connected to a new community as the December holidays approached. Searching for the spirit of the season while shopping for gifts in his new surroundings, he happened upon the local senior center gift shop’s festive holiday open house. While deciding which baked treats to enjoy while browsing, Kiesling spotted lep cookies, a traditional German holiday treat. Surprised, he asked who made them and was quickly introduced to the cookies’ 80-something baker. She not only shared Kiesling’s cultural cookie tradition, but she was also from his hometown, too. Their conversation was just what he needed.  

“A lep cookie was all it took to take me home for the holidays,‘’ says Kiesling, a therapist who specializes in working with older adults.   

What Is “Home,” Anyway? 

Feeling that sense of “home” is an important part of the holidays for many. “Being home for the holidays is almost ritualistic—it seems like the climax of our needs as social beings,” says Nancy Mitchell, a registered geriatric nurse who writes for AssistedLivingCenter.com.  

But home often evolves over time, as retirees who have moved away from what they thought of as the family nest can attest. And, as Kiesling discovered, “home” doesn’t have to be a place. It’s often a feeling of belonging, comfort, control, and familiarity, adds Mitchell. “Home is a representation of who we are or, at least, who we remember being. For retirees, it’s the nostalgia that drives them to stay rooted to their sense of home,” she says. 

While Barbara Becker appreciates the tangibles she associates with home for the holidays—a holiday wreath and welcome mat at the front door, for example—she says that a sense of home comes from more than things. “It’s actually the intangibles of life—our memories, our sense of gratitude, the love we’ve shared with people here and departed—that make up our truest sense of home,” says the author of “Heartwood: The Art of Living with the End in Mind.” That feeling of home for the holidays, she adds, comes from our connection to something larger than ourselves, whether that’s a belief, family, or even nature.  

Kiesling agrees, adding, “The significance of traditions, connections to others, and connection to our memories give meaning to this time of year.” 

Whether friends and family are near or far during the holiday season, and even if you’ve long since stopped competing with Clark Griswold’s outdoor lights, you can still capture that home for the holidays feelings. Here are four ways to do it.

1. Decorate With Memories

Stacey Marmolejo’s family “decorated for Christmas like no other,” so when her mother moved into a senior care facility one November a few years ago, she wondered, “How in the world am I going to make her room feel anything like home at the holidays?”

Marmolejo found her answer in those decorations her mother treasured the most, a nativity scene, a few nutcrackers from her extensive collection, and a wreath on the door. She placed them around the room and added a decorated tabletop tree. “It wasn’t a lot, but it certainly brightened her spirits through the holidays,” she says.

Interior designer Rachel Waldron recommends placing a sentimental item everywhere you spend the most time. “Framed pictures are a fantastic reminder of the beautiful and dear faces we love so much” at the holidays, she says.

2. Conjure Sounds and Smells

Engage all of the senses when recapturing that feeling of home, suggests Becker. Listen to holiday music, bake or buy favorite holiday treats, simmer mulled cider on the stove or whatever holds some kind of meaning for you.

Interior designer Lindsey Walsh recommends a diffuser for filling the air with classic holiday scents. “It’s a great choice because it is pretty, smells great, and is safer than candles,” she says.

3. Add Tech to Traditions

Video technology that includes Zoom, FaceTime, and Facebook Messenger makes it possible to share traditional experiences from different locations. “Some people cook a recipe while FaceTiming with their grandchildren, who are also making the recipe,” says Kiesling.

Use video to talk to friends and family over appetizers or dessert, too. “It may not be as intimate as being in-person, but virtual gatherings can go a long way towards helping you feel close to those you care about,” says Becker.

4. Bring Home to Others

For many, the December holidays are about giving, which can take more than one form. If you’re downsizing, give items with favorite memories to others so they can appreciate yours while creating their own. Kiesling’s neighbor treasures noel angels from her parents’ decorations that they gave her while she was in her 30s along with a note. “Each year she pulls out that note that means so much to her,” he says.

As Kiesling learned when he bit into that lep cookie, no matter where home is now, it’s possible to recapture that “home for the holidays” feeling. All it takes is knowing what’s important to you and finding new ways to enjoy it.

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