Christmas Crackers

The calendar is clogging up, the wish lists expanding, numbers crunched and plans made. Yes – Christmas is just around the corner.

But for many adults, the almost unbearable anticipation enjoyed as children has possibly succumbed to a sense of anxiety at the extra tasks to be completed in the next six weeks.

It seems a shame that what should be a joyous time of year has become a stressful time for many.  When a couple of action-packed weeks can threaten the sense of well being you’ve worked hard to achieve all year.

Blame advertising, rampant consumerism driven by unbridled capitalism but the attainment of the perfect Martha Stewart styled Christmas is about as obtainable for many working Mums as the “perfect” body shape.

Of course, these things are only an issue if you allow them to be. I’m noticing trends to increasingly pared back Christmas celebrations where the focus has returned to fun and family rather than matching serviettes, tableware and theme-decorated trees.

Personally I love Christmas. I love it because I get to hang out with people I love, enjoy delicious food prepared and shared together and treat my loved ones. But that doesn’t mean spending thousands of dollars and hours preparing for the big day.

If you have children, you’ll know the month leading up to Christmas can also be more hectic than usual. There’s sports breakups, club breakups, school concerts, prize givings, Secret Santas, work functions and catch ups galore. It almost seems a shame that we try to squish these singularly fun events into a couple of weeks.

To retain your well being and make the most of the season, I’d suggest the following approach:

  • Social functions – do you want or need to attend them? Are they celebratory or clicky? If they’re not your scene and if they add to financial pressure, then there is no shame in politely passing. If you’re more a social moth than a social butterfly, a quiet coffee somewhere nice in January might be more beneficial in the long run.
  • Retail spending –  I posted recently about considered giving and have made it my mantra this year. Rather than rushing out and buying indiscriminately off sales tables (for the “bargain”) then trying to match items to people later, buy one great thing for those you love. Shop locally, personalise the gift, and make the most of in store gift wrapping.
  • Sprucing things up – some people love decorations, some hate them. If putting up decorations and then taking them down has become just another thing to do, then scale it back. Go to Christmas sales and buy one or two really lovely items you can pop out each year. I’ve been building up a collection of angels I scatter around the place – simple. Same with the tree. Buy from local Christmas markets and use all the cute things made by the kids at school. These are the true treasures.
  • Traditions – these don’t have to be based around 19th century England. Make your own special family traditions that your kids can carry on. We have an album with pics with Santa “through the years.” It’s got to the stage the boys are too big for Santa’s knee but they still pose for a pic each year – much to the mirth of other parents in the queue.
  • Food glorious food – in the Southern Hemisphere, we’re increasingly ditching the Sunday roast approach to Christmas lunch in favour of something more appropriate for the season. Traditional can be fun but if you’re the one sweating in the kitchen on a hot summer’s day, you might want to opt for a more Kiwi inspired menu – go gourmet barbecue, smoked salmon, venison kebabs, and lamb patties then get everyone to bring a special salad. Desert can be berry cheesecakes, sundaes and sorbets. Would anyone miss the fruit cake?
  • Brokering deals – if you have a blended family AND your own parents have new partners, Christmas can be fraught. Instead of getting pulled in several directions OR even worse, trying to spend time with 2-3 groups in one day, do what’s practical for your family. Otherwise you’ll get stretched too thin and that’s no way to spend a holiday.

Most of all remember Christmas is supposed to be fun. And for Christians, it’s about a far bigger message than your kids will get from a chocolate filled advent calendar. If the build up has become simply too stressful, you need to review who and what you are doing it for. Many middle aged women tend to be people pleasers so it can be challenging to make changes. If you don’t, the danger is you’ll end up keeping everyone except yourself happy.

And after all, family is about more than one day of the year.

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