We all love Christmas. Or at least most of us do; the house full of beautiful smells, the magical midnight mass, a joyous gathering of family and friends and little children with excited faces eagerly awaiting presents. But how many of us do actually get to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas, without ending up feeling dazed, exhausted and monumentally skint come January?
For all the hype, most of us, especially as we grow older start dreading the festive season as soon as it approaches (which strangely enough is getting earlier every year). The stress of decorating the house, buying endless lists of presents, a nightmare inducing number of invitations all waiting for a reply, organising Christmas lunch, a few‘get-togethers’ at home… Sometimes Christmas feels like such a daunting task,after which on January 1 we wake up in an anti-climatic fog and ask ourselves, ‘Is Christmas all it’s cracked up to be?’
Maybe not, but besides experience and cynicism which might have clouded our perspective, there could be a lot of other things which along the years could have compelled us into wrongly believing that we could magic up the perfect Christmas for us and those we love. Truth is that through this insane drive for perfection during the holiday season, we are inevitably setting ourselves up for disappointment as we set too many high expectations for what is supposed to be one of the most festive and joyful seasons of the year. The lethal combination of stretched finances, an unlimited alcohol intake, gargantuan amounts of rich food and metre long lists of things to do are simply an accident waiting to happen but rediscovering the simple and true joy of Christmas might not be as impossible as it might seem.
It might sound like a well-used cliché but planning ahead is probably the only way to stay in control and ultimately sane about the whole Christmas shebang; actual written down lists of things which need to be done, giving priority to the most important items and ticking off chores as you go along are a huge help (nothing is quite as satisfying as a ticked off list –or perhaps it could be just me and my OCD).With so many things to do and so little time (in a blink of an eye, it’s already the 20th of the month!) exhaustion is unavoidable, which is why we need to set a little time for ourselves, every day, even if it’s just a short walk or a few minutes of peace and quiet sat with a cup of tea and a favourite book. This will go a long way in restoring our coping mechanisms when we’re feeling overwhelmed and wound up.
Delegate chores to family members – yes, you’d rather decorate the Christmas tree yourself to get it just right, you’d rather make the gravy, but let’s be honest here, Christmas is not about having the best dressed tree or a memorable gourmet lunch on the table, but it’s all about celebrating this beautiful time. Avoid unnecessary anxiety – Set a spending budget and stick to it; a guilt trip due to overspending on top of everything else that’s going on will only leave you frazzled. Plan ahead for present buying, as last-minute shopping will inevitably wreak havoc with your good intentions and your finances. Knowing exactly who you’re buying for and what you can spend will keep you on the straight and narrow and does wonders for your peace of mind.
Most of all, through the whirlwind that is the holiday season, make sure you leave enough time to spend quality time with family at home. Socialising is all well and good, but children especially, appreciate the down time between getting carted from one party to the next. Sadly, Christmas is possibly also a time for familial tensions which have been simmering over the previous months or even years; sibling rivalry, diverging political views, clashing personalities – they all seem to get a good airing during the jolly season.This is a sad reality which most families must endure; too many people sat in a confined space for a long stretch of time and Christmas lunch is suddenly a ticking bomb.
If you are the unfortunate owner of the relative from hell, don’t expect the impossible, after all, if he or she is sarcastic,offensive or simply mean throughout t he rest of the year, they won’t morph into benevolent elves overnight. Bear in mind that you cannot control other people’s behaviour, but you sure can react differently – accept that this is the way he or she is, so stop dreading what’s ahead and simply rise above their jibes or atrocious behaviour.
Do find time this Christmas to be charitable, not just be writing the annual cheque to your favourite institution… Look properly around you, Christmas can be a lonely and sad time for a lot of people; the recently bereaved, old neighbours, young families who are in need of the most basic things. A kind word, a short visit or small gift could make someone’s Christmas. The joy of this special day is not in the gifts, the food or the glittering decorations but the things family, friends and neighbours are going to remember– the love, smiles, the laughter and the happiness of simply being together.
So, whatever you do, love, laugh and be kind to yourself and all others this holiday season! Merry Christmas!