Oracle Of Ybor: Holiday Stresses

Dec 12, 2023 at 12:24 pm
Welcome to the Oracle of Ybor.
Welcome to the Oracle of Ybor. Photo via Adobe Stock.

Dear Oracle, 

My favorite holiday celebrations were the ones that happened during COVID. They were small, intimate, and very casual. This year, things are going back to their old ways (big, fancy, noisy.) How do I prepare for this readjustment? 

--Small-scale celebrator 

Cards: Ace of Pentacles, The Star (rev.), Six of Cups, New Moon 

Dear Small,

You have set up a false dichotomy: things must go back to exactly as they were pre-COVID or stay as cozy as they were for the past three years. But every year can be different, my dear. You don’t have to go back to the big noise. Traditions can be cast aside and made a new! But first, take stock of what you want to keep and what makes sense for you/your family.

Both the New Moon and the Ace of Pentacles are cards of new opportunities and beginnings, with the New Moon being a bit more intentional (what do you actually want to do instead of the big gathering) and the Ace of Pentacles more practical (how are you going to do this?)  

I will not pretend that bucking tradition is easy. I imagine many families have some version of the game “Who ruined Christmas?” for any and all holiday gatherings, with the sins of this season ranging from trying something “fun” with the brisket to wearing jeans to your grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner to getting into a drunk fight with your uncle about politics. Holidays and traditions are ceremonial and ritualistic and thus carry a much higher emotional price tag. People can forgive a faux pas on a Tuesday but have trouble doing so on a high holy day. Harmony is the dream, even if it’s rarely achieved.

With the nostalgic heavy Six of Cups, what traditions really mean a lot to you and your family? Is there something from childhood that carried over? Is there a way to scale back on seeing, maybe, the WHOLE family? Can you shave down your time so you’re there for some traditions but get to catch a break before/after?

With The Star, the goal is to find a balance between what is nurturing to you and what creates harmony with the outside world—in this case, those you celebrate with. Again, we go back to that New Moon energy of intention. Instead of just showing up to a large gathering and being miserable or cutting everyone off and spending the holidays alone, how can you navigate this and keep your balance?

I do think you can navigate and negotiate a better holiday experience for yourself, though it might take some time to get it right. (With The Star reversed, it might be a multi-year process of figuring things out.) Be graceful with yourself and with others. And if things get really overwhelming and out of hand, remember: it’s still cold and flu season. You can always come down with a fever six hours into Christmas and go to bed early.

Best of luck, my dear. 

Dear Oracle, 

My mother-in-law is very “generous” with the gifts she gives my two very young children. The gifts are incredibly expensive, fairly impractical, and absolutely not appreciated by the toddler recipients. (Think: sterling silver sippy cups and bone-china piggy banks.) I don’t want to come across as ungrateful, but it seems like such a waste of money. I want to tell her that a stuffed animal at 1/20th of the price would be much more loved and used. How can I have this conversation?  

--Litteral Sliver Spoon 

Cards: Four of Pentacle, King of Pentacles, Waxing Crescent, The Emperor 

Dear Silver Spoon,

I don’t know if babies can tell the difference between Armani bottles that retail at $89 a pop or the ones they sell at Target, but I imagine they cannot. It is surprising that your mother-in-law, who had at least one child, would opt for the beautiful-impractical gifts (ones usually doled out by rich, childless aunts and uncles) over the useful ones, but again, I believe this speaks more to your mother-in-law’s nature than it does to you.

With the Four of Pentacles and the King of Pentacles, I think your mother-in-law likes to be viewed as the provider and a wealthy individual. The Queen of Pentacles tends to represent true generosity, whereas the king is wealth—and the vanity that can come with that.

I don’t know if she grew up wealthy, made her own fortune, or married into it, but the Four of Pentacles does speak to a worry about not having enough.

The Four of Pentacles often comes up if one is worried about security and stability, though in this case, I think she might be worried that her grandchildren will not “have enough.” She wants them to possess these beautiful, useless things. It doesn’t matter if that bone-china piggy bank sits high on a shelf gathering dust. It belongs to them. They will have these symbols of status and wealth, symbols that are important to her identity.

Now, Emily Post says that in the case of awful gifts, you simply say “thank you!” and deal with it later to avoid hurting the gift-givers feelings. You could go that route, quietly collecting a trunk of silver for your children to hawk when they turn 18, or you could talk to her.

The Waxing crescent asks us to think about our intentions and what knowledge we’ve gathered, and the diplomatic Emperor is wise in choosing words. If you do talk to her, do so with intention. She has a much bigger emotional investment in giving these gifts than your children currently do in receiving them. Perhaps you can talk to her into the toy direction, and she can start buying them baby Mercedes or Lamborghinis as status symbols. If you talk to her, be diplomatic. There’s a good chance you’ll be dealing with her for decades to come and will probably be setting more boundaries down the road.