Sunday, December 01, 2013

How to Survive Christmas

1. Realize that there is no "perfect" Christmas.  Perfection is an illusion. You don't have to be happy every minute to enjoy the day.

2. Don't worry about trivialities - spilled juice or a broken dish is a triviality, unless there's a cardiac arrest, broken bones, uncontrollable bleeding or the house is on fire everything else is a triviality.

3. Take the secure thought that the day will work out, even if it doesn't all go according to your carefully laid plans. Don't spend the days/weeks leading up to Christmas dreading what might happen.

4. Buying gifts for every member of a large family can be a financial burden. Drawing names so each child receives one gift is one solution. Adults can combine contributions and give them as a single gift to a charity or cause, or all can contribute to the cost of the meal if the budget is tight.

5. Don't work yourself to a frazzle or exhaust your finances trying to please everyone. If you are expected to host the traditional sit down dinner and it's too much work (or expense) for you, suggest a potluck, buy a prepared turkey roast and sides, or do something different. Since our adult children eat several turkey dinners with friends and neither of us like turkey we have breakfast together, and for the afternoon a cheese and deli meat tray, a fruit salad and several kinds of chocolate which we munch as we visit. 

6. Don't worry that what happened last year will "ruin" Christmas this year.  You can't control how Aunt Mimi, Uncle Frank, or your brother's kids behave. Short of flying dinnerware or firearms just accept that family will be family, and few are perfect. In fact it's a Christmas miracle if no one punches someone elses' lights out in a good many households.

7. The best family gifts are memories. Ask each adult to bring a pleasant memory from a past family gathering, or a loving/funny childhood memory about a grandparent or other family member. Video these to record them for posterity.

8.  Realize that it's not anyone's job to make you happy - at any time. The best antidote for unhappiness is to do something to make someone else happy. If you don't have family or friends to share the holidays with call the Salvation Army a couple of weeks ahead and ask if they could use a volunteer in the kitchen, and go do some good.  Or arrange to volunteer at the Animal Shelter on Christmas day and give a regular volunteer the day off.

9.  Schedule in some quiet time for reflection. One of my most memorable Christmases was one where snow was falling thickly and I walked in 18" deep powder snow under the haloed glow of street lamps to a candle-lit midnight mass in the Anglican Church a block away. Magical.

10. Realize that Christmas is just a day, like any other. Though we have artificially invested it with very high expectations the sun will come up and go down. Whether you are with family or alone, treat yourself kindly.

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