Getting the Most Out of the Holidays

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

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.