No matter what part of the world you’re reading this piece in, there’s a festive nip in the air from last month to the next month, and party season is in your face. But what if celebration doesn’t mean the same thing anymore? Let’s begin here: it’s not a bad thing
Circa 2008. Good old Orkut days. It was almost December, and 15-year-old me couldn’t wait. Christmas is coming — festive cheer et al. What about New Year? How to make this one really stand out?
Circa 2016. Instagram just introduced Stories. It was almost Diwali. 23-year-old me was a bit bummed. Living away from home, no one around, and even Domino’s isn’t delivering because festival of lights. This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, I’m bawling, alone. I should be celebrating — dressing up, eating a different kind of processed food than pizza. What is this life.
Come 2020. The world is silent. Festivals come and go, one after the other. 27-year-old me, and all of you reading this, are at home — some on Zoom parties, some dressing up just to feel something, some trying to find ways to trick curfews (judging you if you were one of them). Hopefully, next year we’ll be celebrating, everyone thinks. Sure, but maybe never in the same way.
Present moment. I’m 30. The pandemic’s urgency is over, we’ve all learnt the do’s and dont’s of living our lives with coronavirus. But, the last two years were no joke. From losing people to the virus or just from your life, work-from-home induced longer working hours, no sense of time and space, mental bandwidth reduction — we are not the same people that we were in 2019. And it’s not the worst thing to happen.
I was rewatching this episode from F.R.I.E.N.D.S, where they all have Thanksgiving plans that, for different reasons, get cancelled. They’re frustrated; everyone had these fabulous holiday plans with their families, skiing and whatnot. It’s Thanksgiving, they wail. But eventually, they come around, realising that it’s still the six of them, and they’d not have it any other way. It made me wonder if the pressure and definition of what celebrations should look like — intense, larger than life, glamorous — is just conditioning.
Let’s break it down. We’ve all had our own versions of what we do during the festive season from September to December, from, say, Navaratri to New Year while growing up but somewhere, they coincide. Card games, pujo plans, caroling, the ever- famous ‘biryani khila’ — were our touchpoints. Social media has made tradition cool again — we’re now the generation that’s hosting card parties night after night during ‘Diwali week’, planning Christmas brunches that are definitely going on the gram, and so on. It’s great if you are genuinely the person who likes their festivals to look like this, but if, like me, you have a nagging feeling that this doesn’t feel like you anymore, listen to it. I know I did, and the clarity is life-changing.
I was extremely big on almost all festivals. As the child of an inter-religion marriage, we’ve celebrated Hindu and Muslim festivals with jest, and American pop culture made me (like most 90s kids) fall in love with December. Celebrating the New Year was huge in my family — we’d go for elaborate AF parties, dinners, you name it. I know where I come from, but I don’t think I’m there anymore.
For starters, the people for whom we all were up in arms to make festivals exciting were my grandparents, and they’re gone. Then, my mental health has had quite the graph in the last four odd years — oscillating from high-functioning depressive days to feeling like everything is great, from changing cities again when I didn’t want to, to realising my toxic trait is biting off way more than I can chew. From my mental bandwidth to my boundaries outside my body to a new job to two years of being homebound with the folks after six years of living away, why am I even surprised that my idea of a ‘rager’ has evolved, and it is not bad at all?
For good mental health during the festive season and to adapt to your changing ways of looking at celebrations, the first step is to tune in. Grown out of card parties and drinking games? Stay back home, watch something you like. Hate the traffic, the noise, the need to please? Plan a trip with your closest ones, and travel. Want to meet your closest buddies without having to do the whole big, hectic, exhaustive party season? Host a close get-together with wine, some bites, and just hang in a comfortable setting. Take out a day for just yourself and do everything that you never have the time for, including going to that one restaurant you always wanted to, or the vintage bookshop, or just that curious corner with street food that you always cross. And, cliché but effective, don’t doom scroll your social media because that has a way of making you feel like shit even if you’re in the middle of exactly where you want to be.
Just because ‘it’s not the same anymore’, doesn’t mean it’s a bummer. Happy party season — however you define it.
Images: Shutterstock, Warner Bros. Television