Christmas is on the horizon, so are you feeling your blood pressure rise as each door of the advent calendar gets opened? Is the festive cheer morphing more into festive F you with every yuletide wish bestowed benevolently upon you?
Don’t get us wrong, we love Christmas, of course, but it’s hard with the mounting tasks, high expectations and the enormous cost of it all, to maintain Mariah Carey levels of Christmas glee all season long. Especially as it seems to start right after the schools go back after Summer, these days.
But fret not, we have compiled some simple mind adjustments and family hacks that may help to set you back on the path to Christmas Zen.
- Lower your expectations. You know what? It doesn’t have to be ‘perfect’. What is perfect anyway? A Jamie Oliver Christmas dinner in a Grand Designs home? Nah, your Mum’s is fine. Don’t be getting notions. It’s about you and your people, nothing else. Don’t go hankering after a Kolour Ko-ordinated Kardashian Kristmas with all your clan looking great (fake?) on Instagram. Do yourself a favour and watch The Royle Family Christmas episode. In fact, watch it with all of your non-colour co-ordinated family and revel in it. It beautifully portrays people having a Christmas like yours and mine. Normal and wonderful. It’s a remarkable piece of television and perfect for re-setting any perspective gone awry.
- Shop Mindfully. Yes, it’s possible. We’re all becoming very aware that the boom is back and not in a good way. How easy it is to forget the hard(er) times when the pubs and restaurants are packed to the max and were buoyed by hot ports and shopping highs on pre-Christmas Saturday afternoons in town. But here’s the thing: does it really matter how much you spend on everyone when it’s supposed to be the thought that counts? Yep, a cliché, but seriously, give it some thought. The best presents are the ones where someone really considered what their loved one would like – it shows they paid attention. And attention is, in fact, is the greatest gift - not doing a high-roller sweep of the Brown Thomas beauty hall and doling out the spoils willy-nilly. And while we’re on it, buy in small businesses too, for that makes a massive difference to them. Mindful shopping leaves the warmest of fuzzy feelings.
- Stress less. Easier said than done, you cry! Not really. It’s a choice. To allow yourself to get wound up to ninety by Uncle Tom who consistently behaves abhorrently is just silly really, why should his tasteless take on the Christmas cracker jokes impact you. Throw up your filter, pour another drink and sharpen your wit. Getting offended or annoyed by family antics is something you can work on rising above. Because, really, who cares!
- Leave Them Off. Similar to above, when it comes to families, complications are rife. Some more serious than others and a day on a calendar where everyone is supposed to be happy can be far too much pressure for some. If there are truly broken hearts or feelings, don’t force their attendance and good humour if they simply can’t show up this time. Another year may reap what you wished for; time passes and wounds heal. But also, and most vitally, remember that if it’s not your war, it’s not your war. There’s no need or reason to weigh in on anyone else’s trouble unless asked to. Christmas or not, allow your people to be their warts and all selves. And hope they do the same for you when you bring your crazy to the table someday.
Don’t go to everything. We’ve all done it. Totally over committed ourselves in the run-up to Christmas, only to arrive at D-Day sick, tired and broke. Just don’t do it. There’s no need to see everyone you know for booze-based catch-ups in the month of December! They’ll all still be around in January, why not go for a walk and shoulder sobriety together, or meet for coffee, brunch or the cinema. No need to labour your liver just to re-connect with a kindergarten friend you haven’t seen in 32 years just because you bumped into each other in Tesco. And also, it’s worth pointing out that if we were better at keeping in touch all year round with our friends, we wouldn’t have this guilt-based call to arms come Christmas!
All that said, there is nothing like a great Christmas party where you’re dancing to Fairytale of New York and wearing tinsel and LED lights about your person either, so roll with it. Do what you actually want to do, not what you feel duty-bound to do, ‘cos why? Life’s too bloody short. These Christmas days are a gift, don’t be too wrecked to revel in it.
- Change the Routine. Does the same person do the turkey every year? Is dinner always in Auntie Mary’s? Maybe Auntie Mary would rather book a holiday to Thailand and avoid the whole thing, such is her fatigue at the whole palaver. Just because things have been a certain way since time immemorial, that’s not to say it can’t be shaken up a little to suit changing moods, circumstances and interest levels? How about a family chat to suggest some new divisions of tasks? Bread sauce goes to Johnny, stuffing is produced by Sarah and the carrots sliced/diced/whatever by Jennifer and all of a sudden Auntie Mary’s not en route to Thailand, she’s happy out at home on Christmas day, gin in hand and more chilled than she’s been in years as her nieces and nephews share the burden. Because, great as it is, Christmas dinner prep gets boring after 40 plus years.
- Be the CEO of Christmas. You know what CEO’s do well? They delegate. It’s up to them to ensure the smooth running of a large organisation with the end goal as their sole responsibility. You can do that too. There are so many Christmas martyrs, ‘I have to do it all, no-one else does it right’. Sound familiar? Yep, all of us have either said or heard that, on an annual basis. And it’s tiresome for both sides. But, yes! There’s a hack for that! Simply draw up a list of the things that need to be done and give out tasks to everyone who can take one. Five-year-olds and below get off on this one, but I’m thinking the ones who are six-plus are ripe to grasp a bit of festive responsibility – it might even be fun. But what makes it more fun (and ultimately less stressful) is if you – the CEO of Christmas at your households the reins less tightly. TRUST your family of elves. One quality that all good CEO’s have is that they trust their staff. Once they are directed, they will deliver. Let your elves feel the trust (and go pour an eggnog).
- Don’t Argue about God or Board Games. These two seem to be the hotbed of all debate once the post- Christmas dinner slump has worn off and the boozing picks up the pace again. And while some families might like to get deep down into a dirty argument, it kind of ruins the fuzzy, festive glow. So I’m going to suggest doing an Elsa, and just ‘Let it Go’. These are the people you love; don’t get nit-picky with them, apply some diplomacy and move straight along…
- Religious or Not, Go to a Carol Service. Because there is something sublime about all those voices singing together. Feel free to ignore the theology, but the fact that all those people are united and singing their hearts out with only community and goodwill at heart comes around but once a year. Don’t miss that vibe.
- Look in a Child’s Eyes. Because that’s where it is – the real Christmas. The wonder, the innocence, the excitement, the joy…We, as adults, begin to rein that in as soon as we hit our teens. And our lives are less for it. So, look at your kids -and really see them – don’t just view them as the human manifestation of a very expensive shopping list, see them as the purity and perfection in this whole mad circus we call Christmas. And at that moment, remember why we do it all… why we shop until we’re broke, why we want to get every element just right…because we love them. Because we love each other.