A Truly Positive Christmas?

Is it actually possible to have a truly positive Christmas? If there’s one time of year calculated to bring out the best, or worst in us, it’s Christmas. So, what comes to mind when you think about Christmas? Do you dread the looming prospect of the expense, family feuds, additional work and the endless effort of trying to keep everyone happy? Or, is it what you’ve been waiting for all year? A time to meet up with family and friends, share stories, play games, go out for walks, feast and make merry? Realistically many of our experiences will fall somewhere between these extremes. A Truly Positive Christmas Let’s break it down. How and why does Christmas go wrong and how can you turn things to your advantage? High Expectations Some say that Christmas, as we know it, only took hold after Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol. It established a yardstick about the expectations of family fun, charity and tolerance. Scrooge, later modernized as The Grinch, became the one to avoid. He typified the worst in people yet, despite his misery, there was always a spark of hope which, as we know, burst out on Christmas morning and his personality was transformed. Despite a raft of feel-good movies and Christmas TV, there’s actually no such thing as a standard Christmas. Some will see in the season alone, others as a couple, and others as a family and friends reunion. However, there’s a general view, expectation and perhaps even pressure, that a ‘proper’ Christmas is a time to be enjoyed in a certain way. If you don’t, or can’t, that’s where the problems start. You’re worried that you’ll be viewed as the Grinch and that something is lacking in you. If this sounds familiar it may help to know that you’re not alone. Plenty of people dislike Christmas but for a host of different reasons. For some, it’s the commercialisation, the costs, and the pressure to conform to other people’s expectations of what constitutes a ‘good time.’ Not everyone relishes travelling great distances to end up sleeping on the floor because there’s not enough space. It can also be a time that triggers painful memories. Perspective is helpful. A truly positive Christmas, so far as you’d like it, may not always be possible. Accepting that fact may help to reduce resentment. Christmas will pass. It always has and always will. Up to a point you can fake it and let’s face it, we’ve all been to events where we’ve smiled, ‘circulated’ and done the chit-chat. Sometimes it’s simpler and easier on the mind, to go with the flow. Mixed with this, there will be times you can afford to be assertive. If you’ve shown willingness nobody will begrudge the fact that there’s a line you won’t cross. Only you can choose what that is. Maybe it’s the big family quiz, the conga dance, the karaoke – you get the picture. Give and take and you’ll find things easier. Events Christmas typically comprises a number of events. One of the most common is the night out with the people you work with. For some people, this is a real low point. They are expected to contribute both their free time and money in order to spend even more time with people they see every working day, and may not even like. Be strategic. If the idea of a full evening out with fellow workers fills you will dismay but you can’t say no, you’ll have to come up with something else. Maybe join them for drinks but say that you’ve got another event later that evening. As I say, Christmas is full of different activities, so nobody is really going to notice, especially if you get in a round of drinks! Anticipation Remember Christmas when you were a child? For me, the build-up was better than the day itself. The lights, the time away from school, the songs, the tree and decorations, Santa’s visit and the gifts. Then, as you get older, reality kicks in. It may still be an enjoyable season but the magic quickly fades. As adults, we tend to say Christmas is for children. Why? Well, one reason is that magic is replaced by cold hard facts. Christmas is expensive, disruptive, stressful and hard work. The American Psychological Association say that almost 40 per cent of adults state their stress levels increase during the holidays. Gatherings, even family gatherings, can throw everyone out. The anticipation of being surrounded by loved ones and having fun or relaxing times may be replaced by squabbles and fighting children. Change the agenda. Taking control of events may seem overwhelming but if you’ve reached the point where you’re actively saying “I hate Christmas” you’ve nothing to lose. Anticipation can actually be useful. If you have a sense of what’s coming and you dread it, use to opportunity to change things around. Maybe list the things that press your buttons and determine what needs to change. For example, if people show up to your house expecting to be fed and entertained at your expense, get others to contribute. Get them to bring things to the house. Give plenty of advance notice that this year it

A Truly Positive Christmas?

Is it actually possible to have a truly positive Christmas? If there’s one time of year calculated to bring out the best, or worst in us, it’s Christmas.

So, what comes to mind when you think about Christmas? Do you dread the looming prospect of the expense, family feuds, additional work and the endless effort of trying to keep everyone happy? Or, is it what you’ve been waiting for all year? A time to meet up with family and friends, share stories, play games, go out for walks, feast and make merry? Realistically many of our experiences will fall somewhere between these extremes.

A Truly Positive Christmas

Let’s break it down. How and why does Christmas go wrong and how can you turn things to your advantage?

High Expectations

Some say that Christmas, as we know it, only took hold after Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol. It established a yardstick about the expectations of family fun, charity and tolerance. Scrooge, later modernized as The Grinch, became the one to avoid. He typified the worst in people yet, despite his misery, there was always a spark of hope which, as we know, burst out on Christmas morning and his personality was transformed.

Despite a raft of feel-good movies and Christmas TV, there’s actually no such thing as a standard Christmas. Some will see in the season alone, others as a couple, and others as a family and friends reunion. However, there’s a general view, expectation and perhaps even pressure, that a ‘proper’ Christmas is a time to be enjoyed in a certain way. If you don’t, or can’t, that’s where the problems start. You’re worried that you’ll be viewed as the Grinch and that something is lacking in you.

If this sounds familiar it may help to know that you’re not alone. Plenty of people dislike Christmas but for a host of different reasons. For some, it’s the commercialisation, the costs, and the pressure to conform to other people’s expectations of what constitutes a ‘good time.’ Not everyone relishes travelling great distances to end up sleeping on the floor because there’s not enough space. It can also be a time that triggers painful memories.

Perspective is helpful. A truly positive Christmas, so far as you’d like it, may not always be possible. Accepting that fact may help to reduce resentment. Christmas will pass. It always has and always will. Up to a point you can fake it and let’s face it, we’ve all been to events where we’ve smiled, ‘circulated’ and done the chit-chat. Sometimes it’s simpler and easier on the mind, to go with the flow. Mixed with this, there will be times you can afford to be assertive. If you’ve shown willingness nobody will begrudge the fact that there’s a line you won’t cross. Only you can choose what that is. Maybe it’s the big family quiz, the conga dance, the karaoke – you get the picture. Give and take and you’ll find things easier.

Events

Christmas typically comprises a number of events. One of the most common is the night out with the people you work with. For some people, this is a real low point. They are expected to contribute both their free time and money in order to spend even more time with people they see every working day, and may not even like.

Be strategic. If the idea of a full evening out with fellow workers fills you will dismay but you can’t say no, you’ll have to come up with something else. Maybe join them for drinks but say that you’ve got another event later that evening. As I say, Christmas is full of different activities, so nobody is really going to notice, especially if you get in a round of drinks!

Anticipation

Remember Christmas when you were a child? For me, the build-up was better than the day itself. The lights, the time away from school, the songs, the tree and decorations, Santa’s visit and the gifts. Then, as you get older, reality kicks in. It may still be an enjoyable season but the magic quickly fades. As adults, we tend to say Christmas is for children. Why? Well, one reason is that magic is replaced by cold hard facts. Christmas is expensive, disruptive, stressful and hard work. The American Psychological Association say that almost 40 per cent of adults state their stress levels increase during the holidays. Gatherings, even family gatherings, can throw everyone out. The anticipation of being surrounded by loved ones and having fun or relaxing times may be replaced by squabbles and fighting children.

Change the agenda. Taking control of events may seem overwhelming but if you’ve reached the point where you’re actively saying “I hate Christmas” you’ve nothing to lose. Anticipation can actually be useful. If you have a sense of what’s coming and you dread it, use to opportunity to change things around. Maybe list the things that press your buttons and determine what needs to change. For example, if people show up to your house expecting to be fed and entertained at your expense, get others to contribute. Get them to bring things to the house. Give plenty of advance notice that this year it would be nice for everyone to chip in. You’ll be looking for people who can peel veg, those prepared to wash dishes, and those who can run the vacuum cleaner around or walk the dogs. There’s no rule stating you do it all whilst others sit back and allow it to happen. If too much happens in too short a time, grab the calendar and split things up. Arrange to visit friends or family members at different times if it helps.

Memories

Christmas is a time that evokes emotions and memories and not all of these are pleasant. A truly positive Christmas is likely to be off the cards where the passing of close friends or relatives is involved. Loss is traumatic and when associated with the holiday season there’s an intensity to the associated memories and emotions. Get-togethers can feel hollow and big personalities aren’t necessarily loud.

Get away. If your Christmases start to feel hollowed out through loss, then it’s time to consider a change. You’ll never forget the people you love but if everything you do like putting up the tree, listening to certain music, and eating certain foods is bringing tears to your eyes then it’s time to consider something a little different. The person you miss would probably be one of the first to say your memories of them shouldn’t be funereal. Even if you do it just once, getting away for Christmas may be helpful. A change in environment and different activities may help. The following year you may find you’ll be able to smile more at your memories.

Editor

How to enjoy a rule-free positive Christmas