Nothing says “happy holidays” quite like queuing for two hours to get into Dundrum Town Centre. Amanda Cassidy shares her practical guide to decking the halls – without actually decking anyone…
Manage your expectations
Believe it or not, there are those who don’t enjoy watching The Sound of Music on repeat and eating their body weight in cheese during the holidays. That’s why gifts were invented. But when it comes to those you only see a handful of times during the year, don’t get carried away with notions of Jo Malone and Rixo prints.
Remember to maintain a gracious expression when you are presented with Christina Aguilera’s Dirty eau de parfum (for the third year in a row) by your mother-in-law. Relish the book tokens while sliding your Kindle down the side of the couch, and try not to grimace when your son is given a tin whistle.
Do what you've got to do
When all is said and done, Christmas is (mostly) about the children. They are also very useful when it comes to being cornered in the kitchen by your crazy cousin Louise who wants to update you on her guardian angels. Save your soul with a swift “Can you hear that? I think that’s Amelia screaming. So sorry, have to run...” and don’t feel too bad either – she’s only talking to you to escape the elderly neighbour in the next room who’s getting a bit risque? with Pictionary after a few too many eggnogs.
Food is love
Repeat this phrase as a mantra when you are hiding the cardboard turkey under your lumpy mash around someone else’s dining table.
Equally, don’t feel miffed if your own guests are discreetly ignoring your homemade sherry trifle – even though you have announced that it tastes better than it looks.
Remember, you are all there en famille to warm the cockles of your collective hearts. A little heartburn in the weeks after is a small price to pay for such genuine love, affection and unsolicited advice about soother usage for three-year-olds.
Love is love
Sometimes we all do things we regret, especially on Christmas Eve. For some, that may mean wearing matching jammies with your husband and parents-in-law. Yes, a piece of you might die a little inside, but remind yourself that it is a temporary madness that is making so many other people happy.
To survive this aspect of seasonal unsexiness, you must make sure everyone in the household participates; you must make a pact it never reaches social media, and you must remember that you are doing this out of pure love and festive cheer. Love. And. Festive. Cheer.
We can all play at being responsible grown-ups with jobs and bills and everything, but when it comes to hanging out with our siblings, everyone regresses into their stroppy teenage selves.
The youngest still gets teased about, well... everything. Older siblings still boss, well... everybody. And the funny one (that’s me, silly) continues to entertain the family masses. Old habits die hard.
But now, instead of giving a dead arm, we can punch with a little more sophistication: “Poor you, I heard you didn’t get that promotion at work?” “I thought you were trying to lose weight?” Ouch and double ouch.
As wonderful as it is to create new family units with fresh traditions, sometimes being reminded by those closest to us about the very unique Christmas magic we once experienced together is all the magic we need.
Here’s to old families and new, blended families, dysfunctional families, the jokers, the jammies (we love them, really), the stinky sprouts, Home Alone, girls’ lunches (that turn into dinners), Santa letters, chocolate for breakfast, granny hugs, freezing toes, happy faces, Lego-strewn floors, crackers (both kinds), and a whole lot of fun.
This article first appeared in the December 2018 issue of IMAGE magazine.