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Getting the Most Out of the Holidays

Getting the Most Out of the Holidays

Family visiting? Too many snickerdoodles? Faculty in our holiday package advise on finding the season's joy

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Durham, NC - For some of us, the holiday season presents a mixed bag of emotions -- from financial worries, family strife and overeating to gratitude, joy and remembering the true reason for the season.  And that's before we start in on the snickerdoodles and all the calories that come with them.

Duke faculty experts are not immune to these issues, but their scholarship is helpful in advising people how to make the most of the holiday season.

Even with the joy the season brings, sociologist Linda George said it is not unusual to experience stress at this time of year for myriad reasons including loss of income, divorced families, mourning the loss of a loved one and the burden of hosting guests. In addition, many place undue pressure on themselves to create the "perfect" holiday, she said. She suggested countering stress by managing expectations, adjusting for financial constraints, and realizing this time will pass.

"There is a common belief in American culture that the holidays, especially Christmas for Christians, should be the most wonderful time of the year," George said. "In other cases, individuals are dealing with recent losses or chronic loneliness."

Associate Professor Amy Laura Hall of Duke's Divinity School finds solace and meaning in the act of grace.  "Grace should serve to remind us of the labor that produced the food on our tables," she said.

Food and the environment also present issues for the holidays.  Charlotte Clark, the director of sustainability at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment, has ideas to help people "green" their holiday feasts, such as using local, sustainably produced vegetables, poultry and livestock.

But sometimes there is simply too much food, and we feel the urge to take advantage of the seasonal goodies on our tables. Nutritionist Beth Reardon said hidden calories in our favorite foods can add up and make us sluggish, even susceptible to illness.

"It is important to get proper nutrition to support our immune systems while celebrating with family and friends," Reardon said. 

But the holidays are also a time to look forward and start a new year with a positive outlook. In a new video -- one of four companion stories here exploring holiday issues -- five campus faith leaders shared their hopes and wishes for the new year. Among them: peace, kindness, a bountiful harvest and a fifth Duke basketball NCAA championship.

Wishes for the New Year

Wishes for the New Year


Five campus faith leaders shared their hopes and wishes for the new year. Among them: peace, kindness, a bountiful harvest and a fifth Duke basketball NCAA championship.

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