This post is brought to you in collaboration with UNICEF
‘Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!’ Cheerful cherubic children and harmonious adults delighting in each other’s company, while partaking of the most perfect meal in the most beautifully decked halls, where everything happens according to plan and everyone receives the gift of his or her dreams… Teehee… My Christmases have always been like that, haven’t yours? Although, I suspect I’d be a bit bored in all that perfection.
A real Christmas can be fun, but we just have to remember a few things to take the stress out of Christmas. Here is a list of ways to help enjoy Christmas more. I’d love to know what helps you guys enjoy Christmas!
P.S. How cute is the gingerbread house my brother made!
1. Christmas checklist
√ Drink lots of water
√ Eat well (ahem, well kind of!)
√ Get lots of sleep
√ Laugh whenever possible
√ Remember to breathe
Eight years ago, we stopped giving presents to the adults in our family and put in for a charity instead and haven’t looked back. At the time it reduced the gifts I had to buy from 18 to 3. It reduced the pre-Christmas fizz buzzing by half and we’ve donated a considerable amount to charity over the years.
We still have the fun of giving gifts to the kids, which to me is where the real joy of Christmas is. It also helps shift the focus of Christmas from things to people. This year I love the idea of buying a UNICEF water pump, $428, to provide clean water for a whole community and sharing the love and #givegood message. Photo credit: UNICEF/DRCA2011-00205/Asselin
This approach probably works so well, because we have one of those rambling families, extending on for miles and trying to choose the right present for everyone is nearly impossible. I remember feeling a horrible angst giving a gift that just wasn’t right, but hey, I didn’t have time or money to get the ‘one’ or when great aunt Bertha gave me a gift, but I’d forgotten her present. All that is a thing of the past.
It also cuts back on the post Christmas stress of what to do with all those unwanted gifts. I mean how much stuff do we really need?
It’s not the answer for every family. Gordon’s family is a neater, nuclear family and are lovers of giving considered gifts. The idea of cutting the presents would be sacrilegious, but I know some members of his family would enjoy a UNICEF story book pack, $22, knowing how much joy it’d bring to some children in need.
Did you know giving to charity makes us happier than spending the same money on ourselves? Researchers at the US National Institutes of Health found, ‘When people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect.’
It’s tempting to build up Christmas as ‘the happiest time of the year’, but tension can mount when fantasy doesn’t match reality. Social media and particularly Instagram and Pinterest can be dangerous comparison traps, as much as fun as they are. If we worry about what everyone else is doing and overwhelm ourselves with so many projects and activities that we don’t enjoy them or feel lacking because we ‘fail’ to do them, it defeats the purpose.
Instead, we can write a list of what we want to do and take great joy in, scratching half the things off the list, because are we really going to send ALL those cards? If not, we can accept it and move on.
I’d love to pretend I make everything from scratch every year. No, I want to enjoy making the things I do, so I choose one, maybe two decorations to make with the boys and be done with it.
Yup, it’s funny how challenging it is to keep things simple and focus on what we enjoy. Delegating can make it easier. This year, we’ll be doing a mezze platter, some oysters, pate and soda bread, which I can make beforehand. I’d do this roast chicken with pomegranate, because I’ve made it a gazillion times and I find it easy (but Gordon loves to get a bit fancy and he’ll do the duck version). My brothers will do salads and mum loves to do the desserts. She does a mean pavlova, and Christmas pudding. Otherwise, if I didn’t have so much help, I’d be using one of those clever companies that provides fully prepped meals and all you need to do is heat and serve.
If there has been a big change in the year, perhaps a death or divorce, then it’s worth having a conversation with the people closest to ask how they would like to deal with it. In the past, we’ve lit a candle or said a few words to acknowledge the person no longer with us, but some people prefer to not talk about it and that’s their right.
If there are family tensions to manage it can be easier to invite a lovely random person or two, who don’t have family nearby, as it seems to take the pressure out of intense situations, plus it’s lovely to really embrace that aspect of sharing Christmas.
The post meal slump can be the best or worst of times. We often try to distract everyone with a game of cricket, kite flying, swimming, watching a comedy or dancing to some tunes.
We can choose to appreciate what we have and what we are able to do or focus on what we don’t have and what we’re not able to do. There is a lot of scientific evidence that suggests focusing on what we’re grateful for can dramatically reduce stress, but, hey, it’s not always easy, so…
When something stressful happens…
Take a deep breath or twenty,
Laugh (ahem, not always appropriate!)
Dance like a crazy chicken (has it’s drawbacks, especially if you’re carrying a hot bird),
Or quickly think of five things to be grateful for (even if it is that you only have to do this whole Christmas malarkey once a year).
I’d love to hear how you are going to give gifts that matter this Christmas in the comments below. Your comment will help children in need and every comment helps! Because we’re giving the best four comments the opportunity to give 120 Sachets of Therapeutic Food worht $64, 6 Footballs worth $43, 3 Story Books worth $22 or 500 Pencils worth $16 all by UNICEF and will receive a gift card with an explanation of how you have helped some kiddies this Christmas.