The 2020 holiday season is going to be unlike any we’ve ever experienced. And yet I still have the familiar feelings that arise for me every year around this time – the Yin and Yang of the holiday season.

On the one hand, there is the beautiful music, church services, nighttime ambience with house lights and decorations. These are the peaceful elements.

On the other hand, there are large to-do lists, with gifts to buy, parties to plan (maybe Zoom get togethers this year), cookies to bake, food to prepare and cards to send. While these are good things, it is the volume of it all, and the short time span to jam it in, that causes my anxiety to rise.

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang are terms that come from ancient Chinese philosophy, which describe the idea of duality and opposing forces that fit together to make the whole. Yin is the more passive, receptive principle, while Yang is the more active energy. We can see Yin and Yang in everything in life (winter and summer, light and dark, water and fire). The key in life is to find the balance. The Tao is the Chinese philosophy that emphasizes the concept of living in balanced harmony with these two forces.

Back to Western holiday traditions and how to balance the peaceful aspects (Yin) with the bustling activity (Yang) of the season. For me, while some engagements have fallen away this year, there is a lot going on with a busy work schedule (I’m working longer hours being at home-is it just me??) and preparing for my book to be published (hopefully by Christmas!!). Too much Yin will lead to boredom and too much Yang will lead to stress. This is why balance is important. As with everything, I begin with mindfulness and focus on the moment I’m in right now. Then, I remind myself of my purpose – what do I want out of the holidays?

What is my purpose?

Is it having the most beautiful tree and decorations to display on social media? Is it taking the perfect family picture for our Christmas cards? Is it giving the best or most expensive gifts? Is it baking the most festive cookies to share with friends and neighbours?

The answer to all of these questions is ‘no.’ Of course, they are fun traditions and an outward act of celebrating, but they are not my purpose.

The purpose for me is to remember and pass along the message of peace, joy and love that I heard as a young girl sitting in a church pew on Christmas eve. Jesus treated everyone with love, no matter their background or status in life. He gave selflessly, taught what he knew, and forgave his enemies.

If I’m mindful throughout the holidays, I can ask myself in everything I do, is this contributing to the love and joy that I want to feel, and that I want others to feel?

I give gifts to experience the joy of giving and to show the love I feel for those around me. But if I were to lose my patience with a store clerk because the store ran out of something I just drove an hour to buy – is this contributing to my purpose?

If I stay up all night baking cookies but I’m exhausted the next day and lose my temper with my kids – is this contributing to my purpose?

If I’m so consumed with online shopping that I barely notice my husband for days on end – is this contributing to my purpose?

Find the balance

With balance and purpose in mind, I’ll try to simplify the things I can. Maybe instead of sending Christmas cards, I’ll send virtual good wishes to my loved ones. We have our tree up, and a few wreaths outside, but we’ve kept the decorations simple. The busy activities of the holidays (the Yang) can be fun. But I need to balance them with quiet evenings listening to music in the glow of the Christmas tree (the Yin).

Enjoy the beauty and the Yin and Yang of the holidays with presence, purpose, balance and love.


I’d love to hear how you are experiencing the 2020 holidays so far. Leave a comment on whether they feel much different to you. How are you finding your balance?

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  1. Awesome Barb, I enjoyed your reflection and am eager to explore the philosopher you are becoming, along with your perspectives. 2020 for me (as for others I’m sure) has offered an even greater opportunity to prioritize what is truly important. I’ve really appreciated the increased time with the kids and my parents and look forward to the same during the holidays. It was also fun to be amused that our entire high school and university class celebrated the turning 50 milestone Covid-style, and I’m happy to join them with that same spirit at the end of the month. And finally, we’ll gladly and universally bid adieu to 2020 on New Year’s Eve, but keeping your outlook in mind, I’m sure we’ll also marvel at the year and this new age. Happy holidays and Merry Christmas Barb – take care! 😊

    1. It’s wonderful you’ve been able to spend more time with your parents and the kids! 2020 has offered some precious gifts, such as time with loved ones, along with everything else. Wishing you a special milestone birthday, Ashwin!! And a very Merry Christmas and happy holiday season!

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