If you often have many people over for Christmas, then you probably face Christmas with an air of trepidation, fear and dread. As far back as you can remember, the holiday period has always ended with disappointment, arguments and bitterness. Although you always put in so much effort, making sure everything is just right, creating a happy and harmonious atmosphere, arguments and grumbling amongst your relatives is something you simply cannot avoid.
Your mother is whinging about the Christmas turkey, your partner is letting off steam by slamming the front door, the kids don’t want to go to Christmas mass, your nephew is whining because you didn’t get him the right computer game and your niece is crying because nobody wants to play with her and her new dolls house. Perhaps we should think about how we can de-stress Christmas?
Why does Christmas end in tantrums?
Apparently most people suffer at Christmas because they are too stressed. This all begins in the run up to the festive season. Men become stressed because they struggle with the Christmas shopping, women put themselves under pressure to get everything right – they want to be super organised and have everything planned to achieve the ‘perfect Christmas’. Many different factors contribute to conflicts, rage and disappointment:
1. We associate Christmas with huge romantic expectations: It’s snowing, we are all sitting cosy in the candlelight with our loved ones around us. When this dream-scene doesn’t materialise, we are disappointed, either doubting ourselves or blaming relatives.
2. The days in the run up to Christmas are really hectic. There are biscuits to bake, presents to buy and wrap, Christmas cards to write… There is the food shopping to do, the Christmas tree to decorate and the house to clean. So by the time Christmas actually arrives, we’re exhausted and nerves are strung out to dry. Needless to say, we all feel irritable and the smallest of suggestions sounds like harsh criticism.
3. As a sense of duty, we invite every family member under the sun over for Christmas. Along the course of the evening, difficult issues always raise their ugly heads – your mother-in-law won’t stop jabbering on about the neighbours, your brother-in-law starts smoking even though he knows it’s not tolerated and your sister-in-law keeps crowing on and on about her wonderfully clever children…
4. At Christmas, we are suddenly forced out of our daily routine and are forced to spend every living moment with family members. We just aren’t used to spending a whole evening with people we don’t see very often.
5. We have a very precise vision of exactly what our relatives want and regularly overlook what they actually need. A classic example of this takes place at the dinner table – “Have another plateful! I’ve made extra helpings for you!”
6. At large family gatherings, we want to feel a sense of togetherness and that usually means prying too far into our relatives’ private lives… (Why is it private? We’re all family!) We broach thorny topics, thinking we can solve family problems – “Why did you and John break up?”, “When are you getting married?”, “Why do you leave it so long to get in touch?”, “When can we expect to hear the pitter-patter of little feet?” Questions like these will only create silence or shouting matches. Best to avoid both.
7. At Christmas time, alcohol is flowing abundantly. Curiously, tongues are always a little looser after a drink or two…
7 tips to avoid Christmas stress and to create a happy festive atmosphere
1. Long before Christmas has even pounced, agree with your relatives, who is going to do what, in terms of preparation. Who is going to buy and decorate the Christmas tree? Who is responsible for the starter course? Who is responsible for the dessert? Who will bring the drinks?
2. Don’t be afraid to break with tradition. If nobody is willing to help you with Christmas preparations, don’t feel like you should have to be responsible for everything! Instead of handling the entire Christmas dinner, serve a cold buffet and tell everybody to contribute a dish.
3. Be calm and cool. If someone doesn’t want to join in the Christmas festivities this year, let them be. It’s better they aren’t present, then to have them there, sitting sulkily in the corner, watching the Christmas tree lights flash incessantly…
4. Think about whether you actually want all of your relatives at your house at the same time. If two people really don’t get on, perhaps inviting them both to the same party isn’t such a good idea?
5. Don’t use Christmas as an excuse to debate of principles. If such a discussion arises, exercise tolerance. Don’t rise to the occasion and threaten to ruin the atmosphere you have worked hard to create. Just let it be!
6. Consider the different activities you could all get up to after dinner. Board games, a walk, films… All will combat the boredom that will undoubtedly set in, if people have nothing to keep them busy.
7. Allow your guests to skive off any activities they don’t want to do. If someone doesn’t want to walk off Christmas dinner, let them stay at home. That way everyone will be happy. You get to go on a lovely walk without having a grouchy person lagging along behind who doesn’t really want to be there and there is someone to stick the kettle on for a nice cup of tea before you get home!