Christmas has just gone and very soon New Year’s Eve will be out of the way, too. After that, we can breathe a sigh of relief and resume our lives as normal – until next year. No, I am not a bah-humbug Christmas hater, quite to the contrary. I just find Christmas a bit difficult to keep up with at times, and somewhat exhausting.
How was Christmas?
We are likely to hear this question quite a lot over the next week or so.
Christmas is supposed to be a wonderful time, full of joy, when families get together and everyone is happy. It’s enough to watch a few Christmas family films to become convinced that this is the only acceptable way for Christmas to be: picture-postcard perfect. In most people’s minds it becomes nearly obligatory to have a wonderful, happy Christmas – that’s a heck of a lot of pressure, if you ask me. From there, it may take only a small step to arrive at a sense of failure if one’s Christmas is not exactly perfect…
Why do we expect Christmas to be so special?
Well, it would be nice if it were. Imagine children not bickering for once, uncle George not arguing with aunt Georgia, the in-laws not trying to explain to you why you should live your life differently, a spouse helping with the preparations in more than a token manner, and all those lovely dishes actually turning out as intended. How many people can claim to be able to tick all these boxes? Probably not many. And even those who can, they probably have other problems they’d rather avoid.
A short-lived gingerbread house…
My own Christmas wasn’t too bad, thank you – just a small family affair, with me, my husband and the children. By staying at home and not having anyone over, we avoided a lot of stress inevitably generated by larger family gatherings.
The children tried to be nice to each other and although they did not always succeed, there was less arguing than usual and we even managed to build and decorate a gingerbread house together without a war breaking out. That was quite an achievement, I thought, despite the fact that the gingerbread house collapsed within minutes from completion.
… and a few stressful things.
My main source of stress was pre-Christmas shopping – I don’t like shopping at best of times, never mind when shops are full of people running around with crazed expressions in their eyes, trying to hunt down the best bargains and not blow their budgets. I completely ignored Black Friday and Boxing Day sales – all Christmas sales for that matter. I just can’t stand crowded shopping centers, they leave me completely exhausted.
I couldn’t quite boycott shopping for food, though, and despite trying to be good and disciplined, I bought too much stuff, as usual. Too much ham and other meat, too much chocolate, too many Christmas puddings. Come on, how difficult is it to remember I only have a family of four, not forty? We are now facing a choice between eating it all up and piling on the weight, or throwing food away. Since I feel really guilty about wasting food, I will be watching my waist-line expand, I’m afraid!
The last few days before Christmas were stressful for other reasons, too. My mother had caught a bad chest infection in early December, which was refusing to get better. Two weeks ago, my mother-in-law slipped, fell over and broke her right arm. A few days later, my father-in-law suffered a minor heart attack and had a heart operation. Thankfully, all went well and he was allowed to go home on Christmas Eve.
I’m pretty sure our situation is not unusual, loads of people get unwell all the time – holidays or not. In fact, yesterday someone sent me a text message, in error, saying how unlucky she and her husband were, catching a stomach bug over Christmas.
I’m not saying that news of other people’s misfortunes make me feel better, but it just proves that normal life carries on regardless of what expectations we may have for this festive season.
I suppose I should consider myself lucky for not celebrating Thanksgiving. Not that I hold anything against this particular holiday, but it is just about a month before Christmas and I’m not sure I could cope with both of them without losing my sanity – it just seems like a bit too much pressure to have to organise two celebrations within such a short period of time!
I’d rather relax than pursue perfection.
So, how was your Christmas? Did you get stressed out trying to make it perfect?
Do you think that the general, reinforced by media, expectation for Christmas to be extra-special creates pressure resulting in us enjoying it less?
And a question for those of my readers who celebrate Thanksgiving as well as Christmas – how do you manage with all the organising, shopping and cooking and avoid getting completely stressed out? I’d be very interested to know, maybe I could learn a thing or two…
If you feel somewhat worn out by the latest Christmas celebrations, perhaps try to take it a bit easier next year. If you feel guilty for not having made it perfect, don’t. Christmas does not have to be perfect, whatever it may mean, but I think we would all enjoy it more if it were a bit more relaxed.