Do you love this time of year? You’re just all about the carol tunes and falalalaaaing, as well as the first among your family to get out those Christmas decorations and start gathering the gang together to put up the tree. For many of us we’ve done so even in November….! We’ve grasped onto any semblance of sparkly celebrations with the unimaginable year many of us have had dealing with Covid 19 blasting into our lives as we know it! Or do you really dread this time of year? Maybe not the whole month, but just those times where you gather with family or people you see just one time in the year.
When Christmas isn’t easy
Christmas and the Festive season can be a joyful time of year or it can be downright crappy and challenging. Uncles Pete’s food in his Mo, Auntie Bev’s rant every year about the state of politics, Grandpa Joe’s must-have tomato sauce with every meal and your Cousin Owen’s pet ferret that travels with him everywhere. Maybe it’s just hard because it’s not the same anymore since Mum and Dad split or Gran passed away three years ago. Then again, many of us haven’t seen family or friends for a while, months even! No matter what you are experiencing or feeling, there are a few things that can help bring some enjoyment to your Festive celebrations, and a big one, is avoiding ending up in the middle of one of those massive and awkward family fights.
Appreciate differences and watching limits (staying sober)
Always be reminded that no family is perfect (and neither is any person), we all don’t match those cheesy picture-perfect Christmas bonbon paper hat wearing photos. We’re all a mix of dreams, desires, brains, brash, hurts, laughs, loves, passions, quirks, idiosyncrasies and levels of what we can tolerate. Being family, there has to be a lot of similarities too, which can help as well as hurt at times. Appreciating everyone’s similarities as well as differences can go a long way towards getting along when feelings are hurt, or something just gets annoying. Always aim to look for the best in every situation……we’ve all had to do this a lot more this year for sure!
It most likely would be good to apply that famous old principle, if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it at all. Though your family may not always have the same approach, changing the topic can be a good tactic when things start to get tense. We all want to say and do the right things, but often perception can be a bit warped if you become fixed on doing things one and only one way. When Grandpa Joe starts talking about how constipated he is, don’t huff and puff and wish you were anywhere else but here, instead get him a bevy and another of mum’s high fibre lower sugar mince pies she made this year. We all don’t have a Grandpa Joe but being mindful of your loved ones and attentive to their ways can go a long way to keeping the peace……and maybe even enjoying all the quirkiness!
Watching the alcohol intake can be a wise move. Alcohol is well known to be the root and fuel for many family arguments. Controlling or suppressing underlying resentment is so much harder when you have a drink or two on board. Things bubble to the surface, what is more easily kept in check is just blurted out without a thought, and things can get blown out of proportion. Keep yourself in check and help your family members know their limits.
If comments made have been hurtful or said out of spite, just take a moment. Walking (not stamping) out of the room for a few deep breaths can help you gather yourself and your thoughts and give you time to remind yourself to be patient, as well as respectful.
Help your family also stay under control and try not to bite if they throw the odd alcohol-fuelled piece of ‘wisdom’ your way. Top them up with alternatives to the beer and wine that may have been flowing all arvo. Having the water, teas, coffees, smoothies, juices and soft drinks available as alternatives and in-betweeners to keep everybody hydrated is always a good move. So, keep your own actions in check and try to have a goodwill approach towards everyone else.
Sharing is caring
Try and share the load. It’s often the mum’s and aunties who take on the huge workload load of food-prep and gift-getting (though props to those families who have worked out how to do a little bit each!).
Time is often tight for trying to do all these things, with a lot of rushing around unnecessarily. Helping out wherever you can as well as encouraging your other family members to do the same can go a long way to making sure everyone feels like they’re taking part, and that it is not a few that feel like they’re carrying a massive task. No one should have to feel exhausted; we’re meant to respect and care for each other at this time especially.
Do the dishes, clear the plates away, clean up. Divide what must be done between you. Get creative and get involved with the food prep and take a dish that mum or Auntie Bev normally command. Have fun and create a sweet pudding or something that goes down like a delish dish that it is. Better yet, try out some of our great recipes, we have a killer healthy ice-cream recipe to go with your Christmas pudding or even by itself available this month!
Sharing the load is great in caring for everybody that’s involved. It helps everybody take their eyes off themselves and really think about one another……we’ve hopefully learnt a lot about that this year!
Respect and understanding
How about you break the mould, go against the flow and make or do something entirely different this Christmas? You might start a new tradition? Inject a little adventure and diversity into this special time.
Before throwing out the green and gold deco’s and introducing black and silver, gauge if it will ruffle some feathers and just upset people, or if it will be accepted by your crew.
Different flavours and diversity, whether that be in foods or practices, are often introduced when a new person joins the family, like a new husband or wife. Some family members may have a hard time changing the way things are done, and this can cause a lot of tension.
Be mindful to respect both sides and remember a change can be a good thing, especially in tough times that many to us have gone through this year.
Christmas can be one of the hardest times for many families, especially if they’ve lost someone during the year. Doing something new may help many families deal with the grief that goes with losing a loved one or if there has been divorce. Keeping things fresh and different, along with keeping sentimental family traditions in the mix can be fun and add to the enjoyment.
Don’t let gift-giving create stress
Strangely, gift-giving can be super stressful. It’s supposed to be fun, but regardless of what your financial position is, when money comes into play, things can start to feel a bit too much.
If you’ve actually hit hard times during Covid lockdowns and even lost your job, it’s important to remember that no one expects you have the type of money that some full-time worker does to buy gifts, so don’t put that sort of pressure on yourself! Likewise, if mum or dad lost their job this year or got divorced, money can be tight, and Grandma is on a pension, so don’t guilt them into spending their last cent just because you want the latest gadget. Instead, remember Christmas is about banding together, having a laugh and knowing how important family really is. We think this is appreciated more now than ever before because of the iso times many of us have been through.
On the point of gift-getting and giving, how about making something? Something to eat, like your trademark Anzac biscuits or giving some easy grow succulents in pretty pots that are cheap but personal and special gifts. These are not budget breakers.
Remember, you may not be the only one in your family with budget challenges. So why not Kris Kringle it, or just have a realistic limit spend for each gift? Reducing the potential of feeling burdened this Festival season goes a long way to refocusing on the simple gift of really appreciating one another’s company.
Buying a goat for a family in need in a developing nation by donating money to a reputable aid organisation, has grown in popularity lately. Deciding as a family unit to remember those who are in more need than ourselves can also help bring any hype or angst at this time down to reality. Getting real and just being thankful for each other’s company is really the best present you can give. We really can appreciate that more than ever now!
Remember no family is perfect, and no family has perfect Christmas celebrations each year. So, make a call to set a standard that will hopefully rub off on the rest of your family. Enjoy being together this year, even if that’s still virtually for some of us depending where you are in the World. Patience, love and understanding can go a long way to curbing any argument that might try and steal your jingle bell joy!
Merry Christmas and happy festive season from the GATF team!
Reminder: There are things we don’t have to put up with.