Ideally, Christmas should be a celebration of, love and wonders, with gifts, annual bonus, and good wine. All of that, celebrated in good company. In reality, Christmas is quite a mess with endless family dinner where one member, at least, will get drunk and obnoxious; last minute gift shopping in an overcrowded mall, kids going hyper and uncontrollable, excess of food and beverage. It requires a good amount of zen and a few tricks to survive the festive period. Here is my Christmas guide to keep your cool this holidays:
You’ve planned it all. You’ve ordered your gifts month ago and got it delivered where you’ll be spending Christmas. It has been wrapped, labeled, and hidden from the little ones. But suddenly, you wake up in the middle of the night with cold sweats: you forgot Granny’s gift. No panic, you still have a few options.
- The kid(s) masterpiece: ask to do some drawings, choose the artsiest, pick the picture frame from your bedside table (you are redoing the decoration anyway), and stuff the piece of art inside
- The DIY: you’ve got no kids and no drawing talent, you can always cook something last minute, a jar of jam, done chocolate… and personalized the container
- The gateway: you’ve got no kids, no drawing or cooking skills and refuse to brave the traffic and the busy mall. Your last option is tricky but you’re sure to please granny. Because this year, for Christmas, you are gifting her with a family weekend to the destination of her choice. Too bad for you, there is a knitting fair she’s always wanted to go in two weeks, deep in the countryside.
The family reunion
The Christmas family dinner is always delicate. You are surrounded by family members, some of them you adore, and some you could live without. Think your new mother in law, judgmental and weird, who decided your kid should stay away from any form of screens until they are 10 years old. Or your cousin who only talked about the time you pooped yourself when you were 6… unless you decide to not showing at the last minute, claiming you had a pet emergency ( George, the clownfish suddenly jump into the toilet bowl), you will have to listen to that story again, and hide your kid’s iPads. Your best option is now to practice the positive attitude, meditate before you go and hope your newly found inner peace will last long enough. If meditation is not your thing, you can always get drunk quickly and decide to not give a fuck.
Your Instagramable Christmas
This year you are hosting and you want everything to be perfect. Your Christmas game is strong: your wrapping paper is matching your Christmas tree decoration, the wreath is homemade with flowers from the garden, the turkey is from a local producer. Your set up is going to look like a fairy tale. The perfect occasion for an Instagram story of your perfect life #lovemyfamily #happytime #christmasspirit. But nothing goes as planned: the turkey is burned, your cousin is telling the same story again, the children have gone nuts and your father is already drunk… there is not much to Instagram. Don’t be surprised, things are meant to go wrong, so stop focusing on how it should be and enjoy the moment. The Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh was saying we are giving too much importance to the end result ( a perfect Christmas) and not enough to the intermediary steps. Yet, the intermediary steps are the ones which should focus one. To quote him “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way”. So memorize the quote, and whenever something goes wrong, repeat it to yourself.
The crappy gift
John, your annoying uncle offered to your child the noisiest toy, once again. Yes, he has no kid; yes, he was trying to please; test, he should know, noisy toys are a big no-no. While your family is trying the gift with amusement, testing all the noise options, you are already thinking about a way to get rid of it, and consider smashing it right now – no offense. Keep your cool. While you can’t smash it in front of your kid, you can always, inadvertently, forget it at the back of the car while you load it with all the presents and run over it as you go home. The message should be clear.
Your kids are monsters
You were dreaming of a perfect Christmas, with your kids singing Christmas carols before the dinner and behaving at the table. Instead, your little one is fighting with his big sister over who is getting the most gifts. And your oldest is grumpy since she knows she isn’t getting the latest iPhone. They are overexcited, capricious, gluttons and make you ashamed in front of your entire family with their awful behaviors. But to you Christmas is sacred and you don’t believe punishment is in the Christmas spirit. You are wrong. Punishment can be a part of it, and Christmas the perfect time to teach them a life lesson. So no, you won’t listen to your pedo-psychologist and let your children express their anger as it pleases them in front of everyone. Instead, you will teach them to postpone their immediate desire, learn to accept frustration and be grateful for what they receive. An oh so important lesson for them, and a peaceful dinner for everyone.
You’ve got too many dinners
It’s unfortunate but your parents are divorced and so are you. This year it is not one Christmas dinner but five you must attend: at your mother’s, at your father’s, at your new in-laws’, at your former in-laws’. And all you can think about is the year you just spend being careful about food, eating Goji berries and organically grown vegetables instead of your usual Mac Do and Snickers. The thought of eating so many turkeys is insurmountable. Especially since you’ve finally reached your weight target, and became a PETA member in March.
What will you do? Apply the principles of “The subtle art of not giving a fuck” from Mark Manson. His idea: ” the more you are trying to feel better, the less you are actually feeling good”. So stop being so hard on yourself. Do eat too much, drink too much, have that second piece of log, and don’t feel guilty about it. A Christmas family is a feast and should be enjoyed as such. You can keep the resolution for the new year, it’s only in a week from now.