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The Power of Celebrating Holiday Months vs. Days in Life With Chronic Illness

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Flexibility around the holidays is something I learned growing up, and it’s a helpful practice when it comes to celebrating holidays with chronic illness. I’m sharing ideas for celebrating throughout the month so you don’t feel pressured to fit in everything on the day of an actual holiday.

When I was growing up, my dad was a 911 dispatcher, so he frequently had to work on holidays. For us, the important thing was celebrating together versus focusing on a specific day.

So how can we celebrate a holiday month?

It doesn’t mean feeling pressured to do something every day or making the month super busy. It means incorporating little bits of holiday spirit throughout the month. Spread out the days you do something festive as little or as much as you want, adjusting as your energy allows.

I have POTSfibromyalgia, ME/CFS and other conditions that leave me exhausted, and these tips are helping me conserve energy while still enjoying seasonal festivities.


Here’s an example of what I did for Halloween this year.

I set myself a challenge of wearing outfits inspired by autumn themes (for instance one outfit was inspired by my black cat accessories) or movie characters (like Disneybounding). I wore my actual Halloween costume for an early virtual party. My goal was to wear five to 10 outfits and I made it to eight!

It was so fun dressing up in a smaller way all month, not just October 31.

Good thing I did because I spent most of Halloween in PJs. My fibromyalgia was flared and every movement felt like it was tearing my muscles. My Raynaud’s also flared, so my fingers felt like they were frostbitten. I managed to shower despite seeing stars for a while after standing, then I changed into a cozy all-black outfit to feel festive. I would have been too uncomfortable and tired to wear a costume.

But I didn’t feel like I had missed out on Halloween. I didn’t feel pressured by my own expectations or stressed by fear of missing out.

I was able to chill and let the day be what it was. I’d gotten in my dose of Halloween fun.


Here are some ideas for November.

My mom will often cook a turkey earlier in November, which has been a special treat. This has worked especially well since I seem to have a big appointment each “Thanksgiving Eve” the last several years. The long drive and appointment both left me pretty wiped out on Thanksgiving.

Maybe celebrating Thanksgiving all month looks like having a thankfulness jar for November, or enjoying one special recipe a week vs. feeling the need to cook everything on one day.

I’m hoping to get together once or twice with friends over video calls for virtual game nights. I shared ideas for virtual get-togethers recently in my blog post How to Stay Connected From a Distance Holiday Edition.

I also start pacing myself and making some Christmas gifts in November.


I’m glad the advent season already has so many traditions that focus on the month leading up to Christmas.

I’m already looking forward to setting up my Harry Potter advent calendar I was gifted last year.

A friend and I are also going to do this advent Bible reading plan together.

You could also use the month of a holiday to raise awareness or funds for a cause. In the past, I’ve participated in Dressember by wearing a dress several days to raise awareness about human trafficking. The challenge is to participate every day, but it can be modified depending on your health.

You could also start a new tradition by opening a couple of presents early in December. My family has done that so I’m not as worn out on Christmas Day. (It’s pretty bad when opening gifts flares your fatigue!) The plus side is you can start enjoying those games or puzzles, etc. throughout the month.


My family celebrates birthday months too. In years past, this has looked like two or three smaller gatherings vs. one big one. (It makes for more relaxing get-togethers where you get to visit with everyone). This can be played out in small fun ways too. For instance, if my family is picking between movies to watch and can’t decide which to watch first, the person whose birthday month it is gets to pick.

I’d love to hear your ideas for celebrating holiday months vs. just the day! Have you done something similar? Do you plan to?

Getty image by Puhimec.

Originally published: November 29, 2020
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