How to Have a Harmonious Family Christmas
We all look forward to Christmas, to the chance to catch up with friends and family, to share good food, to sit beside warm fires, and to enjoy a well-deserved break from our hectic schedules. Often, however, the longed for harmony and bonhomie doesn’t last.
The lack of light in December means many of us suffer bouts of low mood, and the demands made on us socially and at work mean that, by the time we get to Christmas itself, we’re feeling tired and grumpy—and often anything but sociable! So how can you rescue this situation? What can you do to ensure that this year, your Christmas celebrations really will be as relaxing and enjoyable as you hope? Whether you are planning to be a host or a guest this Christmas, here are seven tips to help you truly enjoy your family Christmas this year.
1. Double your estimated travel time.
If you’re spending this Christmas away from home, be generous when estimating how long you think it will take you to get to your destination. No matter when you decide to travel during the Christmas period, you’re sure to meet crowds. If you’re driving, double the time you think it will take you to make the journey. Then if you’re early, if you like you can stop at a nearby café and relax and freshen up before your actual arrival. If you’re taking public transport, allow plenty of time between connections, especially if you’re bringing heavy luggage with you, so you don’t have to exhaust yourself trying to meet connections.
2. Be clear about the length of your stay (guests) and the timing of fixed events (host).
If you’re visiting others, it’s a courtesy to your hosts to let them know well in advance when you’ll arrive (and now, with Step 1 in mind, you’ll be able to do that fairly accurately!) and when you plan to leave--and make sure your plans fit in well with your host. If you’re the host, make sure that all your guests are aware of the approximate times of fixed events such as Christmas dinner and when gifts will be opened. That way, your guests will be able to accommodate your schedule, and at the same time, to plan outings or other visits they may wish to make.
3. Give everyone some responsibility.
As a host, you may think your guests will want only to relax and let you take care of them. In truth, however, this often makes guests uncomfortable, because they may feel the need to keep asking you if they can ‘help’. You can eliminate this problem—and make life a lot easier for yourself—by sharing out holiday duties. Make a list of all the jobs that will need doing—loading the dishwasher, setting the table, etc.. Write each job on a slip of paper, put them all in a hat, and as they arrive, ask guests to draw out a job. That way, not only will everyone feel useful and, therefore, relieved of the need to offer their help randomly, but you as the host will have time to join in some of the conversations and share relaxing moments with your loved ones.
4. Try to avoid overcrowding.
This is never easy! However, it’s important to try to make sure that each person has some space to call his or her own, however small it might be. That way, everyone has somewhere to retreat when feeling tired, or if tempers are flaring. If you’re a guest and you can possibly afford to do so, you might consider staying in a nearby bed and breakfast. This is ideal, because you can spend as much time with your hosts as you like, but at the same time you’ll have a place of your own where you can spread out your own things, and if necessary, where you can retreat for a nap or some ‘down time’.
5. Make use of power naps.
It’s almost inevitable that you’ll stay up late talking and catching up with others—and that’s sometimes the best part of Christmas, so it’s not to be missed. At the same time, however, you won’t want to miss any of the daytime festivities. The secret is to make use of power naps. Here’s how. Find somewhere (relatively) quiet and turn off your phones and any other devices that might disturb you. Lie down on your back, bend your knees comfortably with legs hip width apart. Place your hands on your chest, then allow your arms to ‘flop’ to your sides. Close your eyes and breathe, as slowly as you can, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this for ten minutes—ask someone to let you know when the ten minutes are up, so you don’t have to check the time. You needn’t fall asleep—just relax and breathe comfortably and slowly. Each power nap is the equivalent of one and a half hours of sleep at night, and you can take up to two power naps a day for maximum benefit.
6. Get out and move.
Power naps are not the only way to restore your sense of calm and wellbeing. Everyone who is capable of doing so is well advised to go outside in natural light, for a walk or perhaps to play some games with the kids, every day for at least 20 minutes. This provides a chance to release pent up energy and regain a sense of perspective. The natural light will also lift your spirits, even if the sky is cloudy.
7. Don’t let money dominate.
Christmas is about being with loved ones, not about how much money you ‘should’ spend on gifts. If there are lots of you, you might consider a Secret Santa draw, so each individual buys a gift for just one person. Or you could set an upper limit that can be spent on any one gift. Or best of all, why not stipulate both? Always remember that the things we love most are rarely treasured merely because of their cost. It’s the care and thought you put into the gifts you give, not the price tag, that counts most. Enjoy your Christmas!