It’s now one month until Christmas Day.
So have you prepared your plans?
I don’t mean the food and the presents, but your plans on how to manage Christmas expectations and emotions.
After last year’s Christmas Day, how did you answer the popular question, “How was your Christmas?”
Did you smile sweetly and say, “Oh, lovely thanks! The 57 of us in our extended family had a marvellous time!”
Or did you open the family closet and explain that it would have been a wonderful family Christmas except that Grandpa, who has dementia, was home from the hostel for Christmas but he disappeared late Christmas morning, so you spent an hour walking the streets looking for him?
And add that your brother-in-law Jack arrived well-primed already for Christmas lunch, imbibed a few more glasses and decided to tell his mother-in-law what he really thought of her? And that your youngest sister turned up with her new boyfriend who has multiple body piercings and a groovy No. 1 buzz cut, and introduced him as her fiancé?
While the above picture is a work of fiction, there are bound to be elements you can identify with, and it’s always easier to laugh at things that haven’t quite gone as planned once the day is over.
Many families experience difficult issues around Christmas, because it might be the one time in the year when the family gets together, and they have spent the past 11 months avoiding dealing with issues that might surface on the big day.
If this strikes a chord, then you have a month to plan how you can make Christmas Day work for everyone.
Think about what it is that makes you feel concerned when you all get together. There are often a couple of people who tend to be stirrers, who put everyone on edge. Explain to them that you get rather anxious and distressed about whether Christmas is going to be smooth sailing, because history tells you something might go wrong.
Ask them what you can all do better, because that is a way of sharing the responsibility for making the best of the day, rather than blaming someone for it going wrong.
If you have someone in the family whose behaviour is unusual and disruptive through no fault of their own (such as the grandpa above) you can’t really get them to change their behaviour, but discuss with the family some possible strategies to cope with the unexpected.
Talk to the responsible members of the family and agree that Christmas Day is only for a few hours, so could you all try to make the day as calm and happy as possible? On Boxing Day you can all relax and do what you want.
If Christmas lunch takes the whole afternoon, plan some activities that will help the day pass. A walk around the block between main course and pudding, or a game of backyard cricket afterwards for the younger family members while the seniors are having a little power nap over tea and Christmas cake, are great ways to defuse tension.
If you don’t build up the day into an impossible fantasy, you will find that you can enjoy it much more. And don’t forget the reason we have Christmas, to celebrate the marvellous gift God gave us with the birth of Jesus.
So start planning now for a happy 2017 Christmas Day—you have 29 sleeps to do it!