We are all focussed on the idea that Christmas should be perfect, says Lucy Beresford, psychotherapist, relationship expert and broadcaster.
Advertising and movies create the illusion that Christmas can be magical.
Yet the reality often falls far short, as we try to please everyone else, spend too much, or say yes to all the options.
However there are ways you can ensure that you have a really happy Christmas.
Decide where you’re going
Choosing where to spend Christmas can be delicate, as different expectations might need to be met. Announce your intentions in plenty of time.
If there are in-laws in the picture, make sure to see everyone in rotation so everyone gets some quality time. And remember to treat yourself too. So if that means you and your family would prefer a ‘year off’, set your boundary by giving people notice of your firm intentions.
Sing to banish solitude
If you are feeling alone or lonely, join a local choir for the carol singing coming up. These are usually very informal, and the rehearsals ahead of the event provide a cheerful purpose for the weeks ahead.
It’s an activity you can lose yourself in, and it might also help you meet new people.
If you have become single this year, or are grappling with divorce or bereavement, organise a special treat for yourself, something you might not have been able to do or have when in a couple. This will emphasise the positives in your new status.
Dish out jobs
If it’s you that always ends up preparing the food or buying gifts, announce ahead of time that you will be involving others.
Draw up a list of tasks, put them in a hat, and get the family to pick a task, to decide who’s in charge of peeling the spuds, making the Christmas cards, or entertaining Great Aunt Flossie.
If you have a tricky relationship with someone you can’t avoid, plan ahead to limit your exposure to them. Make a schedule for other friends and family, so that they can manage that person alongside you.
Eat what you like
When it comes to the food, remember that Christmas is meant to be a treat. So instead of feeling obliged to always have turkey and those vegetables no one wants, allocate a meal to every family member to organise so that they choose their favourite.
It might mean you end up with fish fingers or spaghetti bolognaise, but you will be eating these foods knowing they are the absolute favourite of at least one person round the table.
Set your gift boundaries
So that money doesn’t become a source of stress, inform people in advance
- whether or not you will be buying presents,
- whether this year you are going to set a price limit
- or whether you plan to make gifts at home.
These are all perfectly acceptable. Managing expectations is the key theme. So as long as people aren’t expecting lavish gifts, or trying to force you into other forms of competitive gift-giving, you are setting your boundary. This will remove the stress from the situation.
Schedule some fun!
Keep it light, by making your Christmas playful. Here are some ideas…
- Cover yourself in glitter (biodegradable types are now available)
- Hand out silly headgear – antlers, elf ears and so on
- Make your own Christmas cake – Nigella does a fabulous one, with chestnut puree which makes it very moist
- Play charades, so all ages can join in, or a board game
- Reminisce about Christmases past – you could have photo albums ready
- Set a family Quiz of the Year recalling any milestone events or funny moments – make up some humorous multiple choice options for added laughs.