Forget peace on earth and goodwill to all men: Christmas can be a nightmare. Here’s how to rise above the pressure:
- Resist the temptation to spend, spend, spend. Do-it-yourself gifts, like a framed photo or homemade jam, not only save you money, they mean more than shop-bought items. Other money-saving ideas include having the family agree that you’ll only buy presents for children and giving ‘time vouchers’ instead, such as one hour’s babysitting, an afternoon’s weed-pulling).
- Aim for relative peace
One reason Christmas is so tense is that it’s often one of the few times the family gets together. The solution is to think through all the potential difficulties and challenges ahead of time. For example, if a ‘problem’ person is coming to visit, work out a coping strategy, such as doing safe things, like playing board games or cards, or going for a walk after lunch or dinner.
- Lower your expectations
Don’t try to make Christmas perfect — it won’t be. Decide that you’ll be happy if you have a nice day with good food and a few laughs. If things end up better than you expected, that’s a bonus. Keep it simple — you don’t need to have a huge tree, design your own greeting cards, and bake your own mince pies. Settle for a big bunch of flowers, some scented candles and a sentimental favourite like Nat King Cole on the CD player.
- Pamper your partner
Any problems bubbling under the surface of your relationship will inevitably come to a head at Christmas — your partner still won’t help around the house and you still won’t get on with your in-laws. Make the most of the holidays by setting aside time for activities to do together as a couple.
There’s no reason why everyone in the house shouldn’t help out. Decide in advance whose job it is to wrap presents or set the table. If everyone knows what their task is, there will be fewer arguments. If you’re hosting Christmas dinner, ask guests to bring the starter and/or a salad or dessert, so you only have to tackle the main course. If you just can’t cope with cooking, organise to eat out.
- Run away
Not spending the day with parents or relatives can be interpreted as not loving them enough, but if you really want to escape, don’t feel guilty: reassure them that you’ll see them before you go and when you get back. If you are separated from family and friends through work or distance, helping out in a shelter for the homeless or delivering meals for the elderly can be very rewarding when everything seems so commercial.