Christmas can be a challenging time of year for many people at the best of times. I think I don’t need to explain any further when I say that 2020 has not been the best of times for a lot of people!
On top of the usual issues, here are some specific ways that some people may be finding Christmas more challenging than ever:
Feeling overwhelmed – with working from home, facilitating home learning, picking up chores for those isolating or a myriad of other issues there are many of us who have less time and less mental capacity for dealing with the increase in demand that Christmas can bring.
Being lonely – not just on Christmas day itself, but all around the season. Isolating, being unable to mix households, working longer hours or having lost loved ones may all be factors in people feeling more lonely than usual.
Feeling under-resourced – furlough, redundancies, lower business revenue. There are many people really feeling the pinch this year or feeling less inclined to spend money because jobs don’t feel as secure.
You, or people in your family, may be feeling a combination of all of these factors that could lead you to feeling that Christmas is a season to get through rather than embrace and enjoy. This post will hopefully help you to find ways to shake off the overwhelm, enjoy some parts of the season and get rid of those that cause you stress and unnecessary hassle. (I'll deal with the other two points in posts over the next week or so).
The first thing to point out is however you choose to do Christmas is fine. I’m outright saying this because I keep seeing posts on social media from people saying 'Am I the only one not doing this......?' I absolutely 100% guarantee that not only are you NOT the only person not doing it, but that it also would not matter a single, teeny, tiny iota if you were the only person on the planet not partaking of that trend.
Because that’s not what celebrating something is about. Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas for its Christian meanings, the deeper and older more pagan origins or as a cultural holiday, you celebrate it for reasons that have particular meanings for you/your family/your community. For generations we have all celebrated Christmas differently. For me growing up, I can only remember two differences between us and some other families. 1) Other kids had chocolate advent calendars and we had one where you donated money. I was quite jealous of the chocolate, but when we started to do that I kind of missed the picture and donation one. 2) Some kids didn’t open their Christmas presents until after lunch, which I thought was the absolute epitome of being posh and I was very glad that we didn’t do that in our house. That’s it. I really don’t remember being aware of other differences.
With social media, people now seem to be much more aware of the differences in the ways that we celebrate. Sometimes this is good (hello hot chocolate stations which I never knew existed until this year! This will be a theme at every Christmas party we throw when we’re back in winter Christmases!) and sometimes bad (hello anyone thinking just because it’s appeared on Pinterest 8 times that there must be some sort of festive judgemental police out there enforcing Elves on the Shelves, hot chocolate stations and Christmas Eve boxes).
The saying Comparison is the Thief of Joy (attributed to Theodore Roosevelt amongst others) really goes to the heart of the problem here. If you use social media to get ideas, to connect with others, it can be a thing of joy and beauty. If you use it to compare yourself with others, to judge either yourself or others against some kind of mythical standard, then it takes away joy. If you really can’t find a way to turn off the comparison and judgement, here’s the thing. Step. Away. From. Social. Media. You staying on it and criticising that other people’s posts ‘make’ you feel bad isn’t making anyone feel any better. Instead focus on what you are doing and how you feel about it. You can’t change what other people do (and if you could, why put your energy there instead of into your own life?), but you can focus on making yourself happier.
The biggest step to this is to work out what brings you joy and do that. Don’t go looking for further ideas, don’t do stuff for the sake of it. Just do what makes you feel happy.
For each category pick 1-3 things that it just wouldn’t be Christmas without. You can also get everyone in the family to pick some too. This way you know what is really important to you and your family without having to do everything just because you feel that you have to.
My personal answers
Decorations Tree, lit wreath, wooden advent tree.
Food Turkey or goose, pigs in blankets, Christmas cake.
Activities Decorating a gingerbread house (even if it falls down),
baking mince pies, donating to Shelter.
Drink Christmas coffee, bucks fizz.
Movies Home Alone, Die Hard (don’t @ me, it’s a Christmas movie!)
Christmas Eve traditions Finger warming presents, mince pie and drink for Father
Christmas morning traditions Stockings before breakfast, bucks fizz with breakfast, family
Anything new (I suggest keeping this one to a single suggestion per family member)
Your answers give you a good blueprint for what makes Christmas special for you/your family. You could go further by writing down a couple of things that you do that are not worth the effort or that you do because they are a left over from your family of birth, inherited from a family you’ve joined or were introduced when times were different. It’s ok to ditch traditions that no longer serve you or have a place in your life. If you don’t do it this year, then when are you going to?
Take note of what doesn’t come up on your list. How much effort do you really want or need to put into those things that don’t feature? Some of them you may still want to do, others you may choose not to. You could delegate some, you could team up with similar families (COVID permitting) and do one family supervising gingerbread houses (for example, if that one isn’t up your street) and another family doing a walk around to look at Christmas lights. If you choose to view this as the year to do Christmas differently (collaboratively, uniquely, mindfully and joyfully), it could be a really joyous Noel.
Next week I’m going to do a quick round up of things that would be useful if you’re feeling under-resourced. You may not know this, but I’m a really keen crafter, baker and cook and I used to run my own sewing business. I have some ideas for easy, inexpensive (but great), homemade gifts and self-gifts. This upcoming post is TOTALLY not there to give you other things to look at and think shit, that’s something else I have to do. Nope, it’s for inspiration only so if you’re feeling that comparison really hitting home this year, skip the next post!