It has come to my attention that we are firmly, if temporarily, ensconced in that weird, limbo-esque time that exists between Christmas and New Year's Eve. It is Boxing Day, which means relatively little to many people in the United States, given that it's really more of a British holiday. And whether we're anglophiles or not, we are all doing different things today: We are scattered about, some of us working and some of us still vacationing, some of us with family and some of us having returned to our own peaceful individual abodes. We are a nation awaiting something new, that being the year 2013, which will be ours in just five days, give or take a few hours and depending on when you read this post. As we wait, there are plenty of things to do in this strange shelf-time that I will call the Great Barrier Holiday Reef. Far from being doldrum-ish, though, this is a great moment in our annual history! Take advantage, because you will never get this year back (we don't think, but what do we know?).
1. Make peace with where you are this very moment. Not to get all spiritual or whatever, but this time — this strange, snail-like slog through the last red-and-green piney-fresh gasps of the holidays — only comes around once a year. And while the days may be slow and snail-like, perhaps, there is also something soothing and more relaxing than usual about them. The gifts have been given, that tension is past. We're all sated on eggnog and cookies and maybe a little bit slower than usual; stakes are lower, it's not about "success," it's about getting through the day, whether it's at work or with family. We can put off our great ambitions and aspirations until the new year, and just get through this time in the state in which we currently reside, comfortably and pleasantly, knowing new things are just around the corner. That's kind of nice, isn't it? Also: naps.
2. Return unwanted holiday gifts. If you can't just sit back and watch a Law & Order marathon or drink coffee after coffee while reading the newspaper, you are the type of person who must do things. If you must do things, and you feel better doing "productive" things, we suggest you take a moment over the next five days to return the gifts you didn't like or appreciate and replace them with something a bit better. Sales are on! The time is now! And if you wait too long, things will get busy and hectic and you'll forget about those boring Banana Republic sweaters from Aunt Bernice you've stashed in the back of your closet and then one day you'll pull one out and wear it because you have nothing else clean and then it will be too late to exchange it. So, do it now.
3. Take down the tree. This is a matter of some debate — some people leave their arboreal holiday masterpieces up through the first week in January, others even later (we cannot stand by such behavior, but we also cannot judge it outright). Still, if you do have a tree up, now might be the best time to take it down, because, mark our words, things are going to get hectic come January 2, when we're all back at work and busy with school and doing the regular old things we do. Plus, there's a little bit of leeway this week, and also, maybe you've got some hardy family members around to help you out. Then again, if you want to keep your tree up, if you insist on it, even, you should at the very least sit and look at it and feel cheery for a few minutes each day.
4. Be nice to your family. Maybe it's been a longish bit of togetherness time for you all, and not everyone is in the best of moods, given that the presents have been opened and the guests have stayed at just about past the point of welcome. This is when you need to dig in and find extra resources and grin and bear it, people! Trust me, no one wants to start 2013 guilty, or in a fight with a close family member (and those are the ones who are bound to bug you the most, trust me again!). So, grin and bear it. Grin and bear it. Take long walks when the need arises. Go to bed early and get up late. It's the holidays, you're on vacation! Smile and hug and know that you'll be back to your regular life soon enough, and then you'll rather miss these people who are getting on your nerves so much (or so we hear, having never experienced even a whit of annoyance among our kin ourselves).
5. It's your last chance to get something on the 2012 tax-write-off list. It's a double-whammy for folks who like to plan ahead. If you, say, spill coffee on your laptop today and buy a new one before the start of the year, that deduction goes on your 2012 taxes! Not that we're saying to spill coffee on your laptop, but the point is, if you're the type who cares about such things, you've got five days to make the purchases you need to for your write-off purposes. Also, you should probably go ahead and make your tax appointment, too, especially if your guy or girl tends to get booked up fast. April is fast approaching. And while you're at it, why not get your free credit score rating, too? It's a great jumpstart for your social life.
6. Go do something "cultural" (experience your city)! Ah, the holidays in the city, any city! — think museums, think movies, think markets, think walking around and holding mittened hands and catching little wafers of snow upon your tongues as you look in shop windows and feel rosy-cheeked and vital. Check the weather, put on some warm socks and waterproof boots if you need to, and tromp around in the out of doors before things get wet and unpredictable. Head inside to look at art or something pretty, or to drink hot chocolate, warming your cold hands around the mug, before you go back outside to skate on ponds or try delicious hot crepes at outdoor food festivals or look at the amazing architecture and sky and trees or just, again, walk around and see the lights and other humans, all of you hopefully a little more smiley than usual, because walking around is nice in a town, especially at this time of year.
7. Finish that thing you meant to finish! What was it this year? A book? A puzzle? A piece of art you were making, a sweater you were knitting, a TV-miniseries you were watching? Take this moment and finish it, so you can start 2013 fresh and ready for new and exciting adventures.
8. Resolutions? We guess. I'm not a huge fan of old-school resolution making, like that one needs to quit smoking or stop drinking so much or be a better student this year, but there is something about saying what you want to do, setting a date to start, and then doing it. So if there are these lingering goals hanging out in your brain, things you really want to accomplish or stop accomplishing, it doesn't hurt to write 'em down and get a big boost on January 1 in terms of getting them done, too.
9. Make New Year's plans. Yep, get on that. Which is not to say stress out about it. New Year's Eve is a holiday that divides the pros from the amateurs, and the amateurs tend to go out and spend big bucks at crowded places, or hang out in Times Square or other hectic environs filled with boisterous intoxicated types, while the pros sip their prosecco in a civilized fashion and wonder why. Neither of these behaviors is wrong, exactly; like all things, you need only admit which type you are and act accordingly. If you are the "amateur" and you don't yet have plans, make them! Anything goes, as long as it comes with the words "prix fixe" or "confetti" or "house party" or "ball drop." If you are the "pro" and you don't have plans, that is your plan. Set in some snacks and a good stock of booze and you'll be just fine.
10. Be briefly thankful that the world didn't end! Was it just a week ago we were worried about the supposed end of the world as we knew it via the Mayan calendar? Well, thank goodness that didn't happen. While you're at it, try something new in the few days left before we put on our 2013 glasses and ring in the new year in whichever way you see fit.
Insets via Flickr/writingortyping; Flickr/Simon Greig. Image via Shutterstock by altafulla.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.