You’re over-planning and getting worked up before it’s even here. Completely resigning from Christmas feels like the only option at this point.
Go on. Admit it. You’ll feel better.
I see more stressed-out people at this time of year than any other, no matter what their relationship, friend or family status.
Which is sad, when you think about it. We’ve normalised the ‘silly season’, but why?
This one time of the year when most of us get at least a few days work-free to gather with loved ones or chill quietly, and we’ve turned it into yet another thing to get worried about.
We’ve turned it into ‘work’.
Because we equate ‘work’ with ‘being a good person’ it’s almost like having a do-nothing Christmas has become something to feel guilty about. If we don’t plan it and buy lots of stuff and cook masses of food then we haven’t done it ‘right’. And it’s certainly not ok to spend it on your own.
We haven’t done enough.
‘I’m Not Enough’.
Boo to that.
Instead, I invite you to resign from Christmas as a chore this year (and maybe every year) and remember how to enjoy it.
Here are 10 ways to do that:
1) Return to the WHY of a ritual
Sometimes a thing that started as a simple ritual (like creating a dinner table centrepiece) gets blown out of proportion, and becomes a burden to the creator. If this is you, then STOP. Try and remember what drew you to creating a centrepiece in the first place. Reconnect with that joyful feeling and decide what to create from THAT place (unless it was always a burden. Then just don’t do it at all). Keep it simple and cheap. Here in Australia, some red and green native flowers in a vase or a loose wreath are perfect.
2) You don’t have to go to everyone’s house
This is how it starts. You agree to go to Christmas at Aunt Alice’s because she was first to ask, she’s close to home, and she has a big backyard for afternoon cricket and beers. Sounds relaxing! Then your partner’s mum drops hints about how Aunt Alice ‘stole’ Christmas off her. So you agree to ‘drop in’ on mum-in-law. Then your dad gets wind of this and starts going on about how no one ever includes him in the Christmas plans, how he’s stuck at home alone in his flat. So you agree to drop in on him too. Suddenly you’re spending all day driving around, and can’t wait for the day to be over. You know what? It’s just a holiday guys. A Holiday. Yes it can be hard and lonely for some, but ultimately if it doesn’t ‘feel’ like a break, then what’s the point? Put your foot down. You’re going to Alice’s. It doesn’t mean you love anyone less, you just do not want to spend the day driving around.
And if you’re the one who generally tries to enforce behaviour via emotional blackmail then please don’t. Put on your grown-up pants and let people do what they want without taking it too personally, or perhaps you can help them think of good solutions… maybe then you can get more of what you want too.
3) You don’t have to spend Christmas with your partner
Last year my partner went to his big family Christmas and I went to my tiny family Christmas. And you know what? We both had really good days. I enjoyed catching up with my parents, the quiet day, eating seafood, salads, reading books and watching telly. He enjoyed the boisterous day with his extended family, the big roast meal, drinking beers and yarning into the night. Sometimes it can even be better going it your own: no need to manage any awkward family moments. Both are fun though, why does it have to be either/or? Ask yourselves: What do YOU really want to do this year? Forget what’s ‘expected’ what’s ‘normal’: You Do You. There are no rules.
4) Say it via email
You want to resign from your role as ‘making Christmas good for everyone but not enjoying it myself’? There’s this awesome thing called the Internet, and let’s face it: some of these things are easier to say in writing. Send out a family FB message or group email and just tell people, briefly, how you feel. Here’s a handy script:
Hello my loved ones. As you know, I usually love hosting a massive Christmas Day bash for us all, but this year I’m resigning from doing all the work so I can have a little more fun and little less stress. I’m hoping you guys will jump in and give me a hand! Here’s a list of jobs that I usually do (starters, main meal, dessert, drinks, cleaning, decorations, games, table setting, arvo beach trip, clearing up, washing up, present opening time, setting up sleeping arrangements etc…). I’m gonna make the vegetarian loaf and my famous pork w/ crackling, but I think we can divvy up some of the other jobs? If everyone volunteers for something, then we can all get things done quickly and really go nuts this year. Pop your name next to a job or two and we’ll have it all planned in no time. I really appreciate your support, I love you all to pieces and can’t wait to see you again.
If no one replies, then I think that gives you FULL permission to resign from Christmas this year, put out a Woollies salad and be done with it. But usually it just takes someone to get the ball rolling, so let at least one person know beforehand what you’re doing, and ask them to pop their names on the list first up to encourage the others.
PS: This also requires you to relinquish control over everything. Which can be hard for some. So… breathe in, breathe out slowly, say X 3: ‘I Am Letting It Go” and enjoy seeing what others create, even if it’s different from what you’d do.
5) Don’t assume you know what people are thinking
Something you might not be aware of when you’re the ‘doer’ is that there are probably people who would LIKE to do more, but don’t really know how to help. It seems obvious to you- how can they not see that pile of dirty dishes, or how can they not realise how long that dinner took or how much work I put in? It’s easy to become resentful. But you would be surprised. Like I talk about in my video ‘I think they’re thinking’ you really don’t know. Most people actually prefer to be told what to do because having a job is easier than being expected to ‘know what to do’ when you’re in someone else’s house. This might also save people getting under your feet at all the wrong times: like when you’re in the kitchen and Uncle Barry or Aunt Jenny keep trying to ‘help’ and instead ruin your soufflé (and your day by telling you how you’re doing everything wrong).
6) Include young people
Give kids some genuine jobs prior to Christmas Day. They might be in charge of things like preparing decorations, planning games, telling stories about Christmas worldwide, putting on a show, and- yes- some of the clearing up (well, if you’re very lucky). I have worked with several parents who have gone the extra mile to get kids involved in researching and planning holidays too (and their success gave me this idea!). It’s more work at the beginning, but really pays off when the kids are more invested in ‘running’ events rather than expecting to be handed everything.
7) Don’t let bitterness get in the way
Recently someone told me they’d been invited to Christmas down the coast, but they didn’t want to go because ‘they never visit us, so why should we visit them?’ Now. If you genuinely don’t want to visit them, that’s totally fine, no obligation. But if your next sentence is ‘so it’s going to be a sad old Christmas for us this year’ (as it was in this conversation) then you need to Check. In. With. Your. Self.
Really? You’re going to be a curmudgeon and have a rubbish Christmas because people whom you quite like who live in a gorgeous place, who have grandchildren you would love to watch playing and opening their presents, and where you don’t have to do any of the cooking…. Because these people don’t come and visit you as often as you’d like you’re going to sit at home in front of the telly and complain that no one cares about you? Jump on the train and go to Christmas and no more whingeing.
8) Take a leaf from the Orphans Christmas!
I am a huge fan of orphans Christmas. I’ve been involved in quite a few, although admittedly the expat experience was not always 100% successful. You know, where you and some friends or expats or travellers chuck on a day in lieu of family gatherings. This is heaps of fun, especially if everyone is of different nationalities. It seems, in fact, that the orphans Christmas can be a lot easier to organise because there aren’t pre-conceived assumptions about who does what. Kris Kringle works easily, everyone cooks a dish, people muck in to tidy up, the booze cupboard is healthy, a game is played or a walk is taken, lots of fun/crazy photos are posed for, and after phone calls to family on the other side of the world people listen to the news from home and then give each other a hug before getting back to the fun times. Something missing from your ‘normal’ Christmas? Check in with expats or reflect on your backpacker memories and make it the day you actually want it to be.
9) On your own and don’t want to be?
Don’t email or text this one. Find your brave and call someone, even an old friend or family member you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Tell them you’re on your lonesome this year, that you’d rather not be, and ask what they’re doing. They will hopefully invite you to spend the day with them, or they may be visiting in-laws or going away (try not to take that to heart), but making yourself a little vulnerable to people, even those you haven’t spoken to in awhile, is a building block for a much richer and better friendship. Which is the real cure to loneliness- not just the solution to dealing with isolation on one tricky day.
10) On your own and DO want to be?
If you’re on your own and happy about it, but a bit worried about how you’ll feel, it’s best to plan the day. Line up some amazing television series you’ve been hankering to see, or a movie marathon. If you’re an Aussie it’ll probably be sunny so hit the beach or go driving to discover a favourite swimming hole. Go for a walk and discover old buildings in the quiet of a consumer-free day, or go bush and hike up a mountain. Get out the cook books and plan to dive into some tricky recipes you’ve been meaning to try out. If you’d prefer to be ‘alone amongst people’, there are usually a number of events in most cities. Book yourself a seat at one, or find a restaurant that does not celebrate Christmas and eat there. Another idea is to get on a plane! I’ve flown on Easter Sunday before because it was cheaper and it was a hassle-free airport experience, plus there were free chocolates on the flight.
The last tip for ANYONE on Christmas is to just give yourself permission to feel what you feel. We can get unexpectedly emotional on these kinds of holidays… childhood memories surface, loved ones who we’ve lost are remembered, futures that will never be visit our minds eye. If it turns out to be a hard day, well that’s ok. Have a cry, and be gentle with yourself.
And then get on with having a little fun in your own you-centred way!!!! There is no other pre-determined day of the year where you literally have nothing you ‘must’ do. Take advantage of the time, be good to you (and the animals), and speak your truth with firm kindness to the people you love.
Did you like this post? I write and make videos on a huge range of subjects about women and mental health, and it’s free to jump on the blog list. I also talk about lots of creative and interesting ways to use the Internet for our daily needs , you know, because I’m an online counsellor. I serve people globally, so don’t hesitate to contact me directly, i’m happy to answer any questions and can do short-term solution-focused counselling as well as long term therapy alongside you wherever and whenever you are.
Main Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash; 2 Philip Barrington; 3 by rawpixel.com on Unsplash; 4 by Jakob Owens on Unsplash