If you are in a part of the world that has upcoming holidays, you may be noticing a whole mix of emotions. You may be happily anticipating time off work to do special things for yourself and others. Or, you may be tightening with a list of holiday "have to's". Most likely though, you are toggling back and forth between joyful anticipation and anxious tensing.
Conditioning is a powerful thing, and holiday times tend to have a high "conditioning load." That is, there tends to be strong associations with strong stimuli. It's difficult to go to a grocery store without seeing some holiday decoration and in an instant your childhood associations arise. This is a place to be gentle and kind with yourself. You can't control these kinds of instantaneous associations. You can't talk yourself out of or into a particular reaction to the holidays. You are, inevitably, affected. Simply acknowledging this level of affectedness is a first step towards equanimity with the holidays.
When you can acknowledge that you are affected, you can begin to get curious about that. Simple curiosity about what you are feeling and thinking in a given moment opens the door to choice.
You might be able to opt out of classical rants on materialism. You might be able to welcome in a very old sort of longing for the family you didn't have. And, when there is genuine joy and celebration, you might be able to relax more fully into that.
Allowing your experience and making discerning choices in the moment, can also mean reclaiming the holidays for what is truly authentic and alive for you. While you are not an unaffected island, you are also not at the whim of calendars and holiday traditions. Given some basic physical and psychological resources, a materialistic gift exchange can be transformed into a day of planting trees. A grumpy day of isolation in your home can be transformed into a day of passing out balloons at a nursing home.
Regardless of what the calendar says, you don't have to feel some certain way. Feelings will continue to come and go as they always do. Whether it's a holiday or not; just returning to mindfulness again and again, and standing in your center, allows you to live the day from what you care about the most.
Here is a resource that may help you with practice:
How to Have a Conversation With Your Angry Uncle Over Thanksgiving