How to Do the Holiday Season During the Revolution: A Guide

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The Holiday Season is upon us, and for most people in Lebanon (and the many other places in the midst of social unrest) it’s bittersweet. It’s sweet because there is a sense of hopefulness, excitement, connection, potential. Something intoxicating is happening. Something that has never happened before: a burgeoning feeling of unity and empowerment. Fervent waves of outrage, energy and optimism! But it’s also bitter because, well, like any real deep change, the process of this revolution is slow and painful. Everyone sits with the knowledge that it might get even more painful before it gets better. And all the while, imports and exports are plummeting, debt is ballooning, prices are skyrocketing, bank restrictions are suffocating, businesses are closing down everywhere you look, and meeting even basic needs when it comes to food, fuel and shelter is a daily struggle. Somewhere, inside everyone, is an icy whisper of fear. But ‘Tis the season to be jolly’, am I right?.

If that darkened the cloud over your head, bear with me. Things get brighter from here. Because here’s the thing: We’ve got to acknowledge the balance between hope and fear inside us. People’s hearts are both heavy and elevated right now. Life is full of contradictions! That stops the scales from swinging wildly, AND, it’s from this place of balance that we need to ‘do the holiday season’. ‘What does that mean’ you ask?. Let these 6 points guide you!

  1. Celebrate Respectfully:

Celebration is important. Maintaining closely held traditions that inspire joy, bonding, and increased doses of giving and gratitude is important. So I’m not about to say ‘do away with Christmas!’. On the contrary: celebrate this year, but do it with extra intention and mindfulness. The keyword this holiday season is respect. What is ‘respect’, exactly? Some definitions include ‘a positive feeling or action shown towards someone’, and ‘due regard for the feelings…of others’. Respect is synonymous with consideration, thoughtfulness, attentiveness, politeness, courtesy, civility, deference.

If it feels like I’m being patronizing, I’m sorry. The definition serves the purpose of illustrating more clearly what respectful celebration might look like. You would hope that your celebration is always respectful But why is it extra necessary this year? During this particular time of thawra, the impact of your behavior is magnified. Money is tight, resources are constrained, and people are in varied emotional states and places of restriction. So:

  • Tone down the decorations: If you want to get a bit festive, go ahead. But keeping it simple and sparse is recommended. Also, if you have extra decorations, donate them to add some cheer for families in need!
  • Waste Not, Want Not: This goes for everything and anything. If you’re lucky enough to have extra food, clothing, decorations and so on- use wisely, and donate whenever possible.
  • If you buy gifts, go local: In fact, go local full stop! Stimulate community and local economy in any way you can, whether it is through what you buy for daily needs or for your special days.
  • Consider non-consumerist gifts! Check out our previous blog for some suggestions right here.
  • Check out points 2-6 🙂

2. Respond to Community

The holiday season is a time that inspires people to be involved in their community- to give back when they can. Some of the best ways to do this is to ask what people need- if not directly, then through non-governmental organizations, informal activist groups, and established, reputable charities. Are there community centres near you who are organizing? Churches? Schools? Are there food drives happening? Are there protesters sleeping on sites that need supplies?. Consider what are the best ways for you, specifically, to give back. If you haven’t already read it, check out 7 Ways to Be Active in Your Community In Times of Social Change for some inspiration.

An added note: In times like these, people may be struggling invisibly. There may be people around you, people you know, or work with, or interact with in the world on a daily or weekly basis, that don’t have enough food right now, or fuel. They might not feel comfortable asking for help. You don’t want to pry. So just pay attention- perhaps you’d like to make someone dinner, or invite them to lunch.

3. Host a Conversation Circle

This might not seem super holiday-season-in-times-of-revolt-related but, let me make my case. Over the holidays, people get together. They often have parties. They buy stuff. The go places. This year- there will likely be a good deal less of that. As there should be. And so- how to contribute to the revolution, build new community ties, strengthen existing relationships, foster understanding across division, and feel festive in the process? Conversation circles! Haven’t heard of them? Check out this article  about Joseph and Rachad stimulating direct democracy in this exact way in recent protests. 

Your conversation circle doesn’t need to happen in the midst of a protest downtown. It can happen on the street corner in your neighborhood. Still doesn’t feel comfortable? It can happen at a community center, a coffee shop you like (just put up a little sign, or simply invite friends, colleagues, classmates, etc), or even in your own home. You can restrict it to your friends and family. Whatever feels like it works best for you. 

The important thing is that conversation circles are designed to be non-hierarchical. They stimulate open dialogue. They encourage curiosity and understanding. They are also fantastic models for creative thinking and generating new ideas. So pick some topics and themes, and let your inner problem-solvers work together to solve different social issues in this time of change! It’s radical, it’s fun, it’s timely, and it can be festive too with the inspirational and bonding energy it creates! Make it a potluck. Provide coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Maybe someone brings cookies? Here’s a video for extra information:

 

4. Coordinate a Skill Exchange 

Photo Credit: http://famousbloggers.net/quickhaggle.html

 

A skill exchange is a beautiful barter practice you can carry far beyond the holiday season! How does it work? Easy peasy: You’re amazing at cooking pies, and your friend knows how to change tires? They want pies and you want your tires changed? Perfect- that’s what you do! And this extends outwards to less intimate personal ties too. Are you an attorney who can offer free legal advice to protestors? Awesome! Do it! Don’t need anything back? Fabulous!. But perhaps someone wants to offer something back- a poem, a drawing they made, an IOU note for some little home reno project you need down the line? Why not! It creates a sense of balance- some giving and receiving between people.

Skill exchange is a way of bypassing money and pooling resources. We are a resource-rich population, we just need to share with each other! It can be as simple as offering to carpool every day, and receiving non-cash goods or services that you need and others want to provide instead of money for fuel. Whatever works for you. Share ideas about this with friends- you’ll be amazed what you come up with.

5. Cultivate Curiosity, Boundaries, & Breathe

During the revolution, emotions are heightened. During the holidays, emotions are heightened. Add them together: KABOOM. Inter-generational ideas about what’s happening right now can clash, on top of everything else. This can make festive lunches and dinners a bit more difficult. How do you manage them? With your breath, boundaries, and sense of curiosity. When you approach how someone thinks and feels with curiosity, it allows understanding rather than judgement to build, even if you don’t agree. When understanding builds, people actually listen to each other. And that’s always helpful in times of change! This tactic works well in conversation circles too, and in any other spaces you feel your blood starting to boil.

Take 1, 2, 3 deep breaths, then ask yourself ‘why do they think this way?’, ‘why do they feel this way?’, ‘how does the way they think and feel make sense in relation to their personal history and story?’, ‘what questions can I ask to understand them better’, ‘how can I help them understand me?’.

However, there’s only so much one can take. Know your limits, know when your patience is running thin, when you need to step away and take a time-out, or when you need to ask for some space. Boundaries! Because, last but not least:

6. Put On Your Oxygen Mask First

Audre Lorde, as quoted in our Our Self-Care for Activists blog, says it best: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”. Whether it’s the holidays, the revolution, other circumstances, or a combination of everything that is running you ragged right now- you need to take care of you FIRST. If you burnout, you’ll have nothing left to give anyone. This is true whether you consider yourself an ‘activist’ or not. We’re all in this for the long haul! So check out the 7 key points in our self-care blog linked above, and apply them however and whenever you need to.

And that’s all folks! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and #RiseUp!

Featured Photo Credit: Anonymous @GroupAnon Merry Christmas to All #Anonymous https://twitter.com/groupanon/status/680054564637282304

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