Beating the January Mid-Winter Melancholy


In November, I love that short resting period between Halloween and Thanksgiving, just before the Christmas holiday rush, but when the craziness stops in January I can’t help but feel a little melancholy.

We go from a fall and early winter filled with holiday activities from the spooky to the sparkly, then into a cold and empty bleak mid-winter of discontent. Maybe that’s just me, but I have to think there are others out there, especially parents who are constantly on the go, who feel similarly.

This is why I try to find little ways to make my first month into the new year a time to keep just busy enough not to feel let down after the end-of-the-year festivities.

Here are a few things I try to do each January that help make it less of a “post-holiday” downtime and more of a refresh and reboot period for the year ahead.

Give the Holidays a Proper Sendoff

Sometimes the urge to get back to normal is so strong, we might be compelled to just yank down the decorations, toss them in a box, and call it good. I’ve recently figured out (and I might be late to this game) that making the taking down of the holiday decorations a happening makes it go by faster and gives us a chance to enjoy one last look at the lights and tree, order a pizza, and make a day of it.

We always plan the day after Epiphany (January 7) to do this.

Another activity I usually enjoy on my own is going through the holiday greetings of the season, keeping photos that are meaningful keeping card images I like for next year’s decorating or projects, and recycling or tossing the rest.

Spring Clean in Winter

I need to preface, we do clean our house throughout the year, but January is the time when we take advantage of the “empty house” to really get in there and go through drawers, cupboards, and shelves, clean out that fridge and pantry, and purge ourselves of the things we had been neglecting to get rid or give to charity the previous year. It can be a pain thinking about it, but it always feels great to start the year off with an absence of clutter (well, mostly).

Take Advantage of Smaller Celebrations

The big fall and winter holidays are over, and it seems there is a big gap between spring break, Easter season, and summer fun. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy small ways to make the days special. Look at the calendar and find ways to turn observances like Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, or Mardi Gras. Heck, even sports events like the Super Bowl can give you an excuse to do something just a little different from the norm. Even if it is just a simple meal.

There are also a couple of three-day weekends with some federal holidays. Take advantage of a day drive or outing where you can connect and talk as a family, provided everyone has the time off.

Lunar NY tree
Some Lunar New Year-inspired ornaments stay through January to keep the house feeling a little festive after the winter holidays. Images: Lisa Tate

Plan Something Special

The beginning of the year affords an opportunity to look ahead to the upcoming months. Is there a big birthday, graduation, or other event someone is looking forward to? This is a good time to think about what type of celebration time and budget will allow. It is also a good time to order some travel brochures or follow some tourism sites, even if you don’t have concrete plans to head anywhere.

You’re going to need some getaway time in the upcoming year—we all do. Start the armchair adventures early.


I know this sounds incidental. I mean, when isn’t a good time to read? When you’re planning, wrapping, cleaning, shopping, arranging, decorating, and constantly juggling everything that takes place during the holiday season, making time to sit down with a book is nearly nonexistent.

It will get busy again soon. The luxury of getting to do nothing but escape into a book will once again be harder to acquire. Use those cold and lonely winter nights for curling up with a book, and encourage your kids to as well. This simple escape will be much appreciated in the future months.

I know as well as anyone how easy it is to get moody and down and January. It can be cold, dark, and lonely if I don’t find a way to make it special. Yet, when you have special enjoyable activities planned, the “bleak mid-winter” can be something calm, cozy, and refreshing.

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